Shane Richards and RaShawn Stores come to MAAC Tournament seeking one more stand atop the mountain to conclude their four-year journey. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
Through four years, they have embodied Manhattan basketball, representing their program on and off the court through the highs and lows, ups and downs, championship wins and blowout losses.
But Shane Richards and RaShawn Stores are not done yet. In fact, the two stalwarts of the Jasper roster are seeking to add one more triumph to cap off their careers, entering the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in search of a third consecutive championship to culminate a run that has left an indelible mark on the history of Manhattan basketball.
"I think this is, and I want to make sure I explain this properly: This is the last era of the rebuild," head coach Steve Masiello said of Richards and Stores, who committed to Manhattan in the wake of a coaching change from a team who had won six games the year before Masiello arrived. "What I mean by that is, those two guys came here when there really wasn't much accomplished, and they came in with the mindset of 'we're going to build Manhattan back up.' They were coming in to rebuild the building, and they did that."
In the case of Richards, who walked through the Draddy Gymnasium doors with no major scholarship offers, his maturation process saw him evolve from a dead-eye shooter to a complete player by the time he was through. When Masiello nearly left for South Florida two years ago, several schools tried to poach Richards, but he never thought twice about departing.
"It's crazy," said Richards, recollecting his four-year odyssey, one that saw him recognized among the All-MAAC first team this season. "When I first came in here, I didn't think I could catch a basketball in workouts. I never thought I'd be where I am today. The thing Coach Mas has really helped me with was mental toughness, 100 percent. That's not a debate. He's really taught me a lot with that aspect of my game."
His running mate in the backcourt has had a similar evolution during his stint in a Manhattan uniform. Initially joining the Jaspers as a walk-on, Stores grew from a seldom-used point guard to a calm floor general, one whose game plan against Iona last season was essential to Manhattan repeating as MAAC champions.
"I feel like he saw a hungry kid who loved the game of basketball," he said when asked what Masiello may have seen in him upon his recruitment. "Over the years, he helped me become more of a man. I didn't really have much of a father figure growing up, but he helped me become more of a man and gave me more of an outlook on life. He helped me get to where I am, and I thank God for putting him in my life, honestly."
Both Richards and Stores admit they will miss everything about their experiences over the past four years, but neither is ready to ride off into the sunset just yet, highlighting their primary goal of adding an extra trophy to the case back in Riverdale.
"It's just something fun," Stores offered. "A lot of guys don't win one title, a lot of guys don't win two. To just go on this journey when everyone's doubting you, especially this year, we've been through a lot of ups and downs. It's been a journey, but if we win this thing, it'll be the best one yet."