Manhattan College understands there are big shoes to fill if it is going to repeat as MAAC tournament champions and reach a second straight NCAA tournament.
The Jaspers graduated cornerstone players George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Michael Alvarado. Manhattan coach Steve Masiello put them on the program’s Mount Rushmore of players over the last 15 years. He wants a similar ending to their careers for this year’s seniors, who were part of Masiello’s first recruiting class. Emmy Andujar is a preseason All-MAAC second team selection. Donovan Kates and RaShawn Stores both played key roles last season and will continue to be contributors this season.
“You want your seniors to go out on top and in the right way, unfortunately only one [MAAC] team can get that,” Masiello said on a conference call. “I want this group to go out the way they envision when they first came to and committed to Manhattan. That’s very important to me.”
In order to do so the Jasper will rely heavily on the size and skill of 6-foot-10 junior forward Ashton Pankey, an All-MAAC third team selection and 6-foot-10 Arizona transfer Jermaine Lawrence. Andujar is 6-foot-6 and freshman forward Zane Waterman is 6-foot-9. It gives Manhattan formidable size. Point guard Tyler Wilson and shooter Shane Richard’s will also be key components of a squad that was picked to finish third in the MAAC by the conference’s coaches in the preseason.
“We want to keep the momentum going and try to build off that,” Masiello said. “The MAAC race is going to be very competitive this year.”
In order for the Jaspers to raise the trophy again and dace their way into the NCAA tournament they will have to win three MAAC tournament games at the Times Union Center, Sienna College’s home court. The tournament moved from the MassMutial Center in Springfield, Mass. Masiello hasn’t won a game there during his three season on the bench. He believes if you are good enough it can be done, even at an area known for its home court advantage.
“Three, I’ve just trying to win one game there, never mind three,” he said.
The Jaspers opened the season with an 81-66 round loss to Florida State last Saturday. The Seminoles went on a 19-0 over the first and second quarters to grab a 14-point advantage and control of the game. Richards led the way with 17 points and Pankey chipped 14 points and seven rebounds. Manhattan plays eight of its first nine games on the road.