Monday, December 16, 2013

A Scouting Report of Manhattan for South Carolina Fans by Jaden Daly

As has become custom here at The College Hardwood,  Jaden Daly of "A Daly Dose of Hoops" and I will be doing guest blog articles on each other's site this season for a game that involves teams we each cover on a regular basis.  Today, Jaden gives a scouting report on Manhattan, who will be playing South Carolina tomorrow night at Colonial Life Arena.

Hello again, everyone, this is Jaden Daly from A Daly Dose Of Hoops, previewing the Manhattan College Jaspers before they come to Colonial Life Arena this Tuesday to take on South Carolina. Through my work covering many of the programs in the New York metropolitan area, I have been fortunate to cover Manhattan since Steve Masiello started his tenure on the bench in Riverdale in 2011, and am in the midst of my third season covering the Jaspers, who I have already seen six times during this young season.
Game Reviews
Enclosed are game stories for four of the six Manhattan games I have covered this season, as well as a preseason feature on senior guard George Beamon:

Starting Guards
The Manhattan offense begins and ends with George Beamon, the Jaspers' fifth-year senior from Long Island who has returned to the form that made him a first team all-MAAC honoree before a severely sprained ankle cost him all but four games last season. With an average of 20.7 points per game, Beamon had only scored 29 points in his previous three games before his game at UNCW yesterday.  Beamon responded with 23 points in the victory over the Seahawks, which makes it six games already this season where he has scored at least 23 points.

Alongside Beamon, who needs just three points to move into seventh place on Manhattan's all-time scoring list, fellow senior Michael Alvarado has experienced an uptick in productivity by virtue of playing off the ball more frequently despite still leading Manhattan in assists, with an average of over four helpers per game. Alvarado will still run the point when the game matters most, but do not be surprised to see him off the ball to start, with either CJ Jones or Tyler Wilson getting the start alongside the two seniors in the backcourt. Speaking of Jones and Wilson, the pair of underclassmen bring two different styles of play to the court. Jones, a sophomore from Chicago, is a tough on-ball defender who is the perfect fit for Masiello's system, which places suffocating defense at a premium, whereas Wilson; a homegrown freshman talent from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, the alma mater of Regis Philbin, (GOOGLE IT!) is a gifted floor general who sees the court better than some NBA players do, and is coming off a career-high 15-point effort against Monmouth.

Starting Forwards
You can't mention Manhattan's front line without first bringing up the name of Rhamel Brown, the Jaspers' senior big man and shot blocking sensation. With all due respect to Chris Obekpa, Brown is among the best shot blockers in the nation, already Manhattan's all-time leader and second on the same list in MAAC history. At only 6-7, Brown will not intimidate you with his size, but rather his muscle and physicality, coupled with his hard-nosed ability to grab a rebound out of seemingly nowhere. Simply put, Brown is the mid-major version of DeJuan Blair, the former Pittsburgh Panthers forward who has moved on to success in the NBA ranks with the San Antonio Spurs.

Accompanying Brown would normally be junior Emmy Andujar, but he has come off the bench in recent games to give freshman Rich Williams some more exposure. Williams, a former Hofstra commitment who opened his recruitment after the firing of Mo Cassara, is among the most efficient Jaspers in his limited action, shooting 64 percent from the field to back up the claims by both his teammates and coaches that he could be more than just an integral piece of the puzzle in Riverdale.

Leading the charge for Manhattan's reserves is sophomore sharpshooter Shane Richards, the reigning MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year who shoots 42 percent from three-point range and is a lethal weapon when left unprotected. Expect Richards to get a couple of open looks from one of the corners in the opening minutes, especially from Andujar, whose passing skills for a small forward do not get anywhere near enough credit. In addition, Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey is being used brilliantly as a reserve to protect against both he and Brown getting into foul trouble simultaneously. In his first sason of eligibility since leaving College Park, Pankey is averaging 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in just 16 minutes, numbers that equate to 14 points and over eight rebounds when averaged out over 40 minutes. He also shoots 54 percent from the field, one of four Jaspers with a clip of 50 percent or greater. Guards RaShawn Stores and Donovan Kates only add to the mounds of backcourt depth, with Stores capable of knocking down a three-point shot to supplement his point guard abilities, while the junior swingman Kates is Manhattan's best free-throw shooter, with a lethal mid-range jumper and knack for grabbing offensive rebounds to boot. Big men Adam Lacey and Carlton Allen have also seen action, albeit sparingly.

Much like South Carolina, Manhattan's depth keeps the Jaspers fresh throughout the game, as Steve Masiello also maintains an eleven-man rotation that he admittedly looks to refine leading into the resumption of MAAC play next month. The Jaspers' rebounding is also very beneficial to their success, and even more so given their lack of dominant size after the 6-10 Pankey. Manhattan averages 39 rebounds per game, 14 of which are on the offensive end, a key to their dominance in the paint on putbacks and second chance opportunities, not to mention their willingness to take mid-range jumpers at will when the ball is in George Beamon's hands.

On the contrary, Manhattan can be a little too trigger-happy from outside, as evidenced by their 6-of-32 showing from beyond the arc against Fordham last month. However, when the Jaspers are clicking from long range, they are as good as anyone in the nation. The key is taking shots in moderation, something this team is still trying to do.

Now in his third season, Steve Masiello is finally starting to get the respect he deserves for turning the program around since replacing Barry Rohrssen in 2011, and has transformed Manhattan into a scrappy team that takes no prisoners on defense with their Rick Pitino-inspired press, coupled with a frenetic pace offensively that seeks to push the ball up as fast as possible and catch their opponents off guard on both ends of the ball, which he learned as an assistant to Bobby Gonzalez during the Jaspers' first taste of glory in Riverdale. Manhattan is a team that will keep attacking their opponents until they are methodically worn down, and even then will continue to work until the final buzzer. This team does not quit, a credit to the unbridled intensity and competitive fire of their coach, which will be fun to watch against Frank Martin after the two put on quite the show at the Barclays Center last season in a game that South Carolina emerged victorious from after a Masiello technical in the second half turned the momentum in the Gamecocks' favor.

Manhattan will be playing its second game in three days for the second time this season, having done it last week to open MAAC play, first traveling to Marist on December 6th before defeating Monmouth at Draddy Gym two days later. Coupled with the UNC Wilmington game prior to this one, the trip was something Masiello admittedly scheduled to prepare his team for MAAC play when I asked him about it during the offseason after Manhattan's schedule was released. The Jaspers are also 5-0 (again, feel free to update this after the UNC Wilmington game) on the road this season, and are off to their best start since the 2001-02 season, when Bobby Gonzalez's team started 7-1.

Keys To Victory
Manhattan will have to match South Carolina's backcourt, and also limit the touches of newcomers Tyrone Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell, who were not around for the meeting between these two schools in Brooklyn last December. It will, however, be interesting to see what Michael Carrera does against Rhamel Brown, who will likely be his matchup at some point during the game. If Carrera, who had one of his many breakout games in the win over Manhattan last season, is neutralized and forced to rely on his backcourt for support, Manhattan has the game playing right into their hands. All in all, it should be another defensive battle, with the first team to reach 60 points likely walking away the winner.

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