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The Road to the NCAA Tournament: The Long Road

 

Cirillo_Manhattan Holding Trophy

After 3,654 days, 159 losses, and three different head coaches, the Manhattan Jaspers are finally champions again. Photo by Chris Cirillo.

When Steve Masiello took the job over as head coach, Manhattan basketball was bad news.

They just finished ninth in the MAAC at 6-25 in 2010-2011, making it their worst season in 11 years.

Three years later, they cut down the nets at the MassMutual Center. The Jaspers are champions, but the road has been a long one for the team both on the court and off. Masiello walked into a tough situation and transformed a struggling group of kids into champions.

Mike Alvarado, who was a freshman at the time, was thought to be a big reason why the team struggled in 2010-2011. He took 10 shots per game on only 34 percent and had some injury issues.

Cirillo_Alvarado Trophy Zoom

Mike Alvarado kisses the doubts away. He is a champion. Photo by Chris Cirillo.

“Mike Alvarado I was told not to keep,” Masiello said about when he took the Manhattan job in 2011. “He’s just a kid who wasn’t doing well socially, academically. People said he was selfish.”

Masiello also had to worry about Beamon, who was thought to be doing well because the rest of the team was playing so bad. Beamon came to Manhattan because he had no choice. Manhattan was the only school to offer him a scholarship.

Rhamel Brown also never had it easy coming to Manhattan. Brown grew up in a rough neighborhood in Brownsville, N.Y., where the “good” kids just sold drugs. The bad ones committed murder.

Brown was even homeless for a week when his family was evicted from their home while Brown was in high school.

There were hundreds of problems. But Athletic Director Bob Byrnes found the solution: Steve Masiello.

Masiello took over for Barry Rohrssen – who was fired – and Manhattan had the biggest win-loss turnaround in the nation in 2011-2012.

Beamon also had his best season as a junior, where he was a First-Team All-MAAC selection.

“I just believed in him,” Beamon said. “Coming from 3-15, you got to put your trust somewhere so we trusted him, and I got my guys together and we believed in him. And now we’re here. We made it.”

But the troubles didn’t stop for the Jaspers that year. When Emmy Andujar was a freshman in 2011-2012, his brother Jose Andujar, 22, was shot and killed.

O'Connor_Andujar

It’s been a tough year and a half after Emmy Andujar’s brother was shot, but he now rejoices. Andujar is a champion. Photo by James O’Connor.

The day it happened, Masiello arrived on the scene to be with Andujar through it all.

Nearly two years later, Andujar is a champion.

“We’ve been through so much,” Masiello said then took a long pause. “We’ve seen so much. We’ve had so many downs, so many ups. They just believed in me like it was meant to be.”

Beamon, whose only scholarship offer was from Manhattan, is now a tournament MVP and a champion. Alvarado, who was thought to be selfish, led the team in assists and is now a champion. Brown, who was homeless, is now the three time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, and a champion.

Shane Richards, who also didn’t get offered any scholarships other than Manhattan, scored 14 points and made two late free-throws in the biggest game of his life. He is now a champion too.

O'Connor_Brown Trophy

Rhamel Brown, Manhattan’s all-time leading shot blocker, can now add to his resume: he is a champion. Photo by James O’Connor.

And Andujar, who lost a brother, was able to win a ring in his honor. He scored 12 points including a late layup to put the Jaspers up four.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling to have accomplished so much with great people,” Masiello said. “That’s what makes this an amazing run. It’s storybook like.”

“At the end of the day, that’s all we have: each other,” Brown said. “That’s what got us this far, and that’s what’s going to keep taking us to where we have to go.”

 

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