Manhattan College had a rather brief stay at the Metro Atlantic Athletic tournament in Albany last week, going down 72-60 to Iona College in the quarterfinals. And with that loss, the curtain dropped on their season.
It wasn’t the ending Manhattan was hoping for after winning the tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament in two of the past five seasons. The Jaspers finished 14-17 overall, 9-9 in the MAAC, finishing in fifth place in the 11-team conference.
“Would I have liked our record to be better? Of course,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said. “Would I have liked to be in the NCAA Tournament? Of course I would. But I’ll say this, every time we laced them up, we went out and we gave max effort. We played with big hearts, we were prepared and we performed.
“It didn’t always translate into the results we wanted but I feel really good about the product we put out.”
There were positives for sure — and a couple of firsts — for the senior-laden team.
“We had four great seniors in Rich Williams, Zane Waterman, Zavier Turner and Calvin Crawford,” Masiello said.
“And I thought we had a very competitive team. I thought we had some good wins this year, starting the year off on a great note and beating a team like Harvard.”
After that, the Jaspers traveled to Florida to compete in the Gulf Coast Classic tournament, and was the first Division I team to ever win a game in Europe when Manhattan beat Holy Cross in Ireland.
“And we finished in the top half of the league,” Masiello said. “We also won at Fairfield this year, which was something we hadn’t in a while.”
A while is an understatement — the Jaspers’ last victory at Fairfield came 11 seasons ago.
But there were some negatives as well. The Jaspers lost three times to archrival Iona, and came up short in seven games decided by six points or less.
“The unfortunate side of it was we had those seven games that were decided by two possessions that didn’t go our way,” Masiello said. “You don’t like to see that, especially with what was an experienced team. But the thing I liked about us was our resolve. I thought we had great grit and great fight, and the team was very indicative of the personnel in that sense.”
Masiello is now faced with losing a senior class that boasted three 1,000-point scorers, and who provided leadership to the program for the past two seasons.
“A great group. Four guys who you could count on,” Masiello said. “They were competitors, they were selfless. They sacrificed, they carried out the missions, so to speak. They represented the college and the program and the community in the way you would want.
“Going out every night, you knew what you had and you knew what you were getting, and that’s what you want from your seniors. They took great pride in that.”
So who will become the leaders of the 2018-19 edition of the Manhattan Jaspers? That’s the next order of business for Masiello, who has had to deal with large turnover in the past, as he really begins to groom the next generation of a team that includes Thomas Capuano, Nehemiah Mack and Pauley Paulicap.
“With change comes opportunity, and there is going to be change,” Masiello said.
“I think you’re going to see guys like Pauley, like (Mack), like (Capuano) really go into roles that will be good for them. You also look at a guy like Warren Williams, who is sitting out this year and no one know about, who is going to be a very similar player to Pauley for us. You look at opportunity, but you don’t know how it’s going to play out. It’s what guys are going to make of it.”
The 6-foot-8 Paulicap, by the way, was named MAAC’s defensive player of the year last week in his first season at Manhattan, averaging 10 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds while logging a team-leading 78 blocks.
Masiello already has signed a versatile big man, Daniel Fryer, and recently received a verbal commitment from a top area high school player in his recruiting class, Mount Saint Michael’s Elijah Buchanan. Fryer is not only 6-foot-9, but he can shoot, the coach said. Buchanan, a 6-foot-4 guard, was named First Team All-New York City last year.”
“I’m excited about the potential,” Masiello said.
“But I know it doesn’t translate to 25 wins. I understand that we have a lot of work to do.”