By Jon Rothstein
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1. EMMY AWARD WORTHY
If opposing coaches don’t know of Manhattan freshman forward Emmy Andjuar, they’d better become aware quickly. The former Rice star is flawless at the high post and an underrated offensive rebounder. A more than capable ball handler, Andujar looks like a lock to start for the Jaspers at power forward.
2. BEAMON COULD BE STEAMIN
Fresh off a breakout sophomore year, George Beamon figures to take a major step as a junior. Manhattan’s leading scorer from a season ago spent countless hours in the summer refining his outside shot and should be one of the better scorers in the New York area. “We’re looking for him to be our Terrence Williams,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said of Beamon. “We want him to fill the box score.”
3. BRUTUS BEEFCAKE
Kidani Brutus looks like an Adonis. That isn’t a misprint. The combo guard has dropped 34 pounds since the end of last season and has completely transformed his body. Look for the burly senior to compete for a starting spot and share plenty of minutes in the back court with both Beamon and sophomore point guard Mike Alvarado.
4. LOCK UP
Finally healthy after two years of battling multiple injuries, Mohamed Koita looks primed and ready for what everyone hopes is his first full season of college basketball. The 6-foot-4 wing has all the attributes to be a lock down perimeter — an asset that could invaluable in the MAAC against the likes of Iona, Fairfield, and Rider. The France native had interest out of high school from both USC and UCLA before winding up in Riverdale.
5. “MASS” IMPLEMENTATION
A long time assistant to Rick Pitino, Masiello isn’t going to alter the philosophy he learned from his mentor — and it’s obvious during a practice. In addition a high level of intensity and accountability, Manhattan’s full-court pressure and aggressive half court zone defense eerily resembles what you’ll see at Louisville. When asked how much conceptually he’ll take from Pitino, Masiello responded, “I’d say 99.7 percent”.
There are no great players on this Manhattan team but there’s a plethora of very good ones. The Jaspers depth was solid coming into the season and they’ve added three freshmen that should immediately contribute in Andujar, Ryan McCoy, and Donovan Kates. This team may not challenge Iona, Fairfield, or Rider in the top portion of the MAAC but there’s no way this team should have been picked eighth in the league’s preseason poll. Don’t be surprised if this squad plays its best basketball in February and March while cracking the top half of the conference.
THIS AND THAT:
– Vanderbilt suffered a big blow by losing big man Festus Ezeli for six to eight weeks with a knee sprain. The burgeoning Ezeli looked prime to entrench himself as the best big man in the SEC and will now hope to be back in time for the start of conference play. Without Ezeli, look for Commodores coach Kevin Stallings to lean heavily on Josh Henderson, a 6-foot-11 post player who red shirted last season. Also, don’t be surprised if Stallings opts to play smaller and use the versatile Jeffery Taylor at power forward.
– Many SEC coaches think Mississippi State is a potential Top 15 team mostly due to veteran point guard Dee Bost and talented forward Renardo Sidney but the Bulldogs could have a solid back court piece that no one knows about in Jalen Steele. The 6-foot-3 sophomore had moments last year as a freshman, including a 17 point scoring performance against Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Had he not been sidelined by a late season knee injury, Steele would be one of the more talked about second-year players in the SEC coming into this season.
– He didn’t come to St. John’s with the pedigree of some his first-year classmates but Phil Greene looks more than capable of being a solid program guy for Steve Lavin and the Red Storm. Playing at a steady pace and sporting a sturdy frame, the burly guard resembles former NBA floor general Earl Watson, who played for Lavin at UCLA.
– Speaking the St. John’s, they will have quite the season opener against William and Mary on November 7th at Carnesecca Arena. Many CAA coaches privately believe that the Tribe are the conference’s sleeper team as they return their top scorers in Quinn McDowell and Brandon Britt.
– Ohio State coach Thad Matta raved about Jared Sullinger’s conditioning and improved skill level last week, saying he’s a different player than we saw a season ago. “Jared has totally resurrected his body,” Matta said in a phone interview. “He’s down 25 pounds and he’s bouncing all over the place. He’s going to be able to create for himself much more than he did last season.”
– Don’t be surprised if Rider coach Tommy Dempsey opts to start Anthony Myles at point guard next to Virginia transfer Jeff Jones in the Broncs back court. The 6-foot-5 Myles would add even more length to a team that could be the longest group in the MAAC. I’ll continue to say it all season long — make sure you mention this team in the same breath as Iona and Fairfield.
– Word out of Cincinnati is that Bearcats freshman guard Ge’lawn Guyn has been a major surprise early practice with his physicality and athleticism. Look for the feisty Guyn to earn plenty of back up minutes at point guard behind incumbent starter Cashmere Wright. Senior Dion Dixon will also see some time at the “one” for Mick Cronin’s squad.
– David Wear played every minute of UCLA’s scrimmage last week at small forward and looks to be the favorite to start next to Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith in the Bruins front court. With that trio, Ben Howland could start three players over 6-foot-9 and bring three more off the bench with David’s brother Travis, Brendan Lane, and Anthony Stover, who will miss the next few weeks with a shoulder injury.
Your thoughts on Masiello’s new-look Jaspers? Let Rothstein know in the comments below!