Monday, January 23, 2023

MAAC Monday: Manhattan’s maturation, quick hits, stat leaders, power rankings

RaShawn Stores and Manhattan continue to silence external critics and doubters, simply trusting one another to grow as a unit, and Jaspers have done just that halfway through MAAC play. (Photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

MAAC Monday returns today with a spotlight on the team who entered the season with perhaps the largest amount of uncertainty, albeit beyond its control, yet has managed to turn the doubt and naysayers away with a firm commitment to one another and a common goal. From there, this week’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference recap will segue as it traditionally does into a smattering of quotes from this past weekend’s action in the latest batch of quick hits, before refreshing the MAAC’s stat leaders and power rankings.

Manhattan College became a topic of conversation at the national level before the season started, but not for the reasons one would have hoped or even expected after athletic director Marianne Reilly’s stunning decision to part ways with longtime head coach Steve Masiello on October 25, just 13 days before Masiello was to begin his 12th season at the helm of the Jaspers. In his stead, RaShawn Stores — a former Manhattan point guard who joined the coaching staff upon his graduation and rose up the ranks to associate head coach — was elevated to the interim head coach position at just 31 years old, making him the nation’s second-youngest skipper of a Division I program. Shortly after Masiello was jettisoned, senior swingman Jose Perez — the MAAC’s Preseason Player of the Year and a potential conference scoring leader — entered the transfer portal and committed to West Virginia shortly thereafter, with Omar Silverio and Samba Diallo following him out of Riverdale. Neither player has played this season, with Perez’s hardship waiver and subsequent appeal denied by the NCAA while Silverio intends to sit out and return next year at UMKC, with Diallo not finding a destination as of yet.

But what Stores has done with what remains in the Jasper program is a credit to his ability to remain grounded but also be visionary in where he has grown the players he now oversees. After a mass exodus was rumored before Manhattan began its season at VCU on November 7, Stores kept the entire team together minus the aforementioned trio who departed, and despite a 4-5 beginning to MAAC play and 6-12 record on the year, already has his alma mater trending in a positive direction and swimming upstream with the current in waters that some thought the program would drown in.

“I’m very impressed with them,” Stores said of his team shortly after an overtime loss Friday against Iona, but a game in which Manhattan erased a 15-point deficit against the preseason MAAC favorite Gaels and battled perhaps more valiantly than they had in any other league game this season. “It’s a team full of guys who are blessed and grateful for their moment. When nobody believed in most of them, we started seeing these young men shine in their moment, and that’s the best thing about it.”

“You see James Jewell go out and get his 10 points, Razi (Hayun), you’ve got guys who haven’t played, man. I’m just so proud of them, just to see everybody just come together and support these young men, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about anything else but those young men.”

Stores and his staff, comprised of former teammates Tyler Wilson and Rhamel Brown, plus incumbent assistant coach Anthony Doran and director of basketball operations Josh Pittman, have stayed the course and turned role players now seeing major minutes for the first time in their careers into prime contributors alongside the established upperclassman core of Anthony Nelson, Josh Roberts and Samir Stewart. And in Jewell, a 6-foot-6 wing who had only played three games and scored four total points before breaking out against Iona, Stores’ recruiting and development prowess earned plaudits in a potential future star in the conference over the years to come. Tony Johnson, Jr., a transfer from Central Florida, is also on the roster, and is projected to be an integral piece of the puzzle once he regains his eligibility.

“You guys don’t know what to expect out of him,” he said of Jewell. “We know what we have in that locker room. I’m just proud of him, he’s a high school kid coming in mid-year, he’s got to get strong and stuff, but look. He’s doing a great job, and his teammates love him.”

“Ant, Samir, and Josh Roberts, their heart, their leadership, it’s a blessing to have. Those guys played in big moments, and they’re leading these young men to show them what it’s about. And you saw (Stewart’s) character (Friday). He takes big shots and he makes them for the most part, and when he doesn’t, we still live with him.”

Stores was asked Friday about how he has navigated the turmoil of the offseason and the peculiar timing of Masiello’s dismissal in what many felt was an obstacle to Manhattan’s short-term success. But, much like his mentor, he remains committed to the process of developing his players over the course of a season, shutting out the outside noise from the walls of the locker room and focusing on his own group, creating and fostering a brotherhood that resembles the close-knit nature of the teams Stores won two MAAC championships on as a student-athlete in 2014 and 2015.

“I try to control what we can control,” he reiterated. “The people that’s in the locker room, our staff, these young men, that’s all we can control. We get them to get going and believe in each other, and that’s what you’re starting to see. Basketball’s a game of mistakes. In life, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s about how you respond, and you’re seeing these young men continue to respond.”

As the Jaspers traverse the second half of the league slate, they do so in a higher position than most envisioned they would be when the season began, a credit to Stores’ contagious positive energy and his undying trust and faith in his team finding a newer and better version of itself each night, cultivating a competitor that will soon become a winner.

“Continue to believe,” he said of his message to his staff and players. “Believe, believe, believe. That’s all we can do, is to continue to believe in each other, one another and accept the moment for what it is so when we get back into another big moment, we know how to respond.”

Quick Hits Around the MAAC
“I feel like that right there, what we just did, showed maturity. We’re young right now, so when we’re up like that and we’re losing leads, we’re not trying to do that, but it happens. It’s basketball, everybody has their runs, but right there just showed that we’re growing and we’ll learn from that. We have to learn from that.”
— Berrick JeanLouis on Iona fighting back to defeat Manhattan in overtime after the Jaspers erased a 15-point deficit in regulation

“That was for Masiello.”
— JeanLouis on motivation for Iona against Manhattan in director of basketball operations Steve Masiello’s return to Draddy Gymnasium

“The emphasis in the locker room is we need to come out with the fast pace in the first half and stop coming out slow, but this year, the team has showed me that once we just stick together, we can come back from anything.”
— Mervin James on Rider's second-half comeback Friday to defeat Niagara

“When you’re adjusting to a different program, different coach, it takes time. He’s comfortable and one of our leaders. We know what he’s going to give us every day, and he’s pretty consistent in practice, the game, and off the court as well.”
— Kevin Baggett on James’ acclimation to Rider’s program and his potential all-MAAC season

“It’s not that we can’t shoot. We’re streaky, let’s put it that way. I think there’s big-time value to the 3-point line, but if you’re not great at 3-point shooting, what else do you do? You’ve got to defend, you’ve got to execute, and you’ve got to make those shots inside the 3-point line (that) you’re supposed to make.”
— Baggett on Rider’s perceived shooting woes and 3-point defense

“I thought (in) the first half, we dug ourselves a hole. We climbed out of it, we fought hard, but when you dig yourself a hole like that, you can’t have mistakes, you can’t lose concentration defensively. We didn’t complete that. I thought we did some good things, but (it was) a tale of two halves.”
— Reggie Witherspoon’s assessment of Canisius’ effort Sunday at Quinnipiac

“I didn’t know his father passed away until the introductions, and I obviously don’t know his dad, but I’m sure his dad would have been proud of him. I lost my dad (at) the same age, so I know what he’s going through and I just said, ‘I know your dad would be proud of how hard you played today.’”
— Fairfield head coach Jay Young on his postgame remarks to Siena's Michael Baer, who played Sunday after his father, John, passed away from bladder cancer Sunday morning, just hours before Siena and Fairfield took the floor

“I went in with the boxscore at halftime and I ripped it up. And I just said everybody’s 0-0. I don’t even know what to say. I didn’t think our shot selection was awful, a couple I wanted back, but we were just having one of these horrific nights and credit Siena for a lot of that. I just said, ‘let’s just defend the way we are, we’ll make some shots and we’ll be right in this thing.’ And fortunately, we were.”
— Young after Fairfield’s 1-for-22 start from the floor was followed by a 17-for-26 second half

Scoring Leaders
1) Patrick Gardner, Marist (18.4 PPG)
2) Noah Thomasson, Niagara (18.3)
3) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (16.6)
4) Daniss Jenkins, Iona (16.3)
5) Javian McCollum, Siena (15.8)
6) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (15.6)
7) Walter Clayton, Jr., Iona (15.6)
8) Anthony Nelson, Manhattan (14.8)
9) Jalen Benjamin, Mount St. Mary’s (14.3)
10) Isiah Dasher, Saint Peter’s (14.1)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Josh Roberts, Manhattan (9.3 RPG)
2) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (8.7)
3) Supreme Cook, Fairfield (8.5)
4) Paul Otieno, Quinnipiac (7.6)
5) Mervin James, Rider (7.0)
6) Malik Jefferson, Mount St. Mary’s (6.9)
7) Jared Billups, Siena (6.7)
8) Patrick Gardner, Marist (6.3)
9) George Tinsley, Mount St. Mary’s (6.2)
10) Ike Nweke, Quinnipiac (6.1)

Assist Leaders
1) Daniss Jenkins, Iona (4.8 APG)
2) Anthony Nelson, Manhattan (4.5)
3) Luis Kortright, Quinnipiac (3.9)
4) Latrell Reid, Saint Peter’s (3.8)
5) Javian McCollum, Siena (3.8)
6) Dezi Jones, Quinnipiac (3.6)
7) Jalen Benjamin, Mount St. Mary’s (3.6)
8) Noah Thomasson, Niagara (3.3)
9) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (3.2)
10) Savion Lewis, Quinnipiac (3.0)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
T-1) Josh Roberts, Manhattan (.750)
T-1) Corey Washington, Saint Peter’s (.750)
3) Paul Otieno, Quinnipiac (.616)
4) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (.557)
5) Supreme Cook, Fairfield (.547)
6) Malik Jefferson, Mount St. Mary’s (.547)
7) Jackson Stormo, Siena (.543)
8) Berrick JeanLouis, Iona (.527)
9) Patrick Gardner, Marist (.512)
10) Ike Nweke, Quinnipiac (.492)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Walter Clayton, Jr., Iona (.979)
2) Mervin James, Rider (.889)
3) Dezi Jones, Quinnipiac (.855)
4) Javian McCollum, Siena (.848)
5) Caleb Fields, Fairfield (.828)
6) Jalen Benjamin, Mount St. Mary’s (.803)
7) Jackson Stormo, Siena (.803)
8) Isiah Dasher, Saint Peter’s (.771)
9) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (.767)
10) Daniss Jenkins, Iona (.746)

3-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Andrew Platek, Siena (.459)
2) Jalen Benjamin, Mount St. Mary’s (.410)
3) Bryce Moore, Niagara (.409)
4) Jamir Moultrie, Canisius (.408)
5) Nick Brennen, Manhattan (.403)
6) Deandre Thomas, Mount St. Mary’s (.397)
7) Walter Clayton, Jr., Iona (.395)
8) Dezi Jones, Quinnipiac (.388)
9) Dakota Leffew, Mount St. Mary’s (.385)
10) Noah Thomasson, Niagara (.383)

Steal Leaders
1) Anthony Nelson, Manhattan (2.1 SPG)
2) Walter Clayton, Jr., Iona (1.6)
3) Luis Kortright, Quinnipiac (1.5)
4) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (1.4)
5) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (1.4)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) Josh Roberts, Manhattan (2.1 BPG)
2) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (1.6)
3) Osborn Shema, Iona (1.5)
4) Jackson Stormo, Siena (1.5)
5) Berrick JeanLouis, Iona (1.3)

Power Rankings
1) Siena (13-7, 7-2 MAAC)
Last Week: 1
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 vs. Fairfield (L 62-52)
Next Game: Friday 1/27 vs. Iona, 7 p.m.

2) Iona (13-6, 6-2 MAAC)
Last Week: 2
Last Game: Friday 1/20 vs. Manhattan (W 84-76)
Next Game: Friday 1/27 at Siena, 7 p.m.

3) Quinnipiac (15-5, 6-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 3
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 vs. Canisius (W 87-82)
Next Game: Sunday 1/29 at Iona, 1 p.m.

4) Rider (9-9, 6-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 4
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 vs. Manhattan (W 67-65)
Next Game: Friday 1/27 at Marist, 7 p.m.

5) Fairfield (9-10, 5-4 MAAC)
Last Week: 7
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 at Siena (W 62-52)
Next Game: Thursday 1/26 at Mount St. Mary’s, 7 p.m.

6) Manhattan (6-12, 4-5 MAAC)
Last Week: 5
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 at Rider (L 67-65)
Next Game: Friday 1/27 at Niagara, 7 p.m.

7) Niagara (10-9, 5-5 MAAC)
Last Week: 6
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 at Saint Peter’s (W 59-57)
Next Game: Friday 1/27 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

8) Mount St. Mary’s (7-13, 3-6 MAAC)
Last Week: 10
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 vs. Marist (W 59-55)
Next Game: Thursday 1/26 vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m.

9) Marist (7-11, 3-6 MAAC)
Last Week: 8
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 at Mount St. Mary’s (L 59-55)
Next Game: Friday 1/27 vs. Rider, 7 p.m.

10) Canisius (5-14, 3-7 MAAC)
Last Week: 9
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 at Quinnipiac (L 87-82)
Next Game: Sunday 1/29 vs. Manhattan, 1 p.m.

11) Saint Peter’s (8-12, 3-8 MAAC)
Last Week: 11
Last Game: Sunday 1/22 vs. Niagara (L 59-57)
Next Game: Saturday 1/28 at Mount St. Mary’s, 5 p.m.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.