Before a decision was made on head coach Steve Masiello, there was a serious possibility that Manhattan’s basketball program would not only be in search of a new head coach, but in search of new recruits as well.
However, with the announcement that Masiello will be returning as head coach, recruits Calvin Crawford, Samson Usilo, Samson Akilo, and Zane Waterman have all breathed a sigh of relief and have confirmed that they will come to Manhattan after all.
Reports surfaced on March 29 that Usilo and Akilo were still weighing their options.
Joseph Staszewski, a journalist for Community Newspaper Group spoke with both of them at the 2014 NYC Mayor’s Cup and later tweeted: “Both Samson Usilo and Samson Akilo said they will wait and see what happens with Steve Masiello at Manhattan before deciding on their future.”
In a statement from Waterman’s head coach Justin McClendon on March 27, he said, “At this time, we are waiting patiently for all of the facts to be collected before we proceed. As of now, Zane remains committed to attend Manhattan College.”
According to a tweet by Kurt Semder from News 12 in the Bronx, Jayvian Delacruz, a potential recruit for Manhattan was also waiting for a decision on Masiello before determining whether to commit.
Delacruz has yet to do so and under NCAA rule, will have until May 21 to sign his national letter of intent, which will bind him to Manhattan College.
The rumors have been put to rest and all that is left to question is how the recruits will help Manhattan next season.
The athletic department denied a request by The Quadrangle for interviews with the recruits and instead presented an article with the recruits’ bios and reaction from Masiello.
Crawford, who attended St. Thomas More Prep in Connecticut, is a 6-foot-8-inch wing who is a jack-of-all-trades type of player.
“Calvin Crawford is an extremely skilled player,” said Masiello in the article. “He can play multiple positions and can come in and give us great length at the wing spot at 6’8”. Coming in, he’ll be ready to play college basketball.”
Waterman, a 6-foot-9-inch wing out of Fayetteville Academy in North Carolina, will remind Manhattan fans of current Jasper Shane Richards. A lethal shooter from three-point range, Waterman is essentially a bigger, stronger version of Richards.
But Waterman is much more than just a three-point shooter in Masiello’s mind.
“He takes charges, rebounds and puts his body on the line,” Masiello said. “He will really help us with his skill set and ability to shoot the basketball.”
Samson Akilo, a 6-foot-8-inch forward, who played center at Nazareth High School in Brooklyn, carved his niche as a rebounder and shot blocker. Perhaps this will immediately draw comparisons with former Jasper Rhamel Brown, but Akilo might not be ready yet.
His stature might make him undersized for the center position. Instead, Akilo will have to move over to the power forward spot where he’ll have to guard quicker forwards who will stretch the floor and get him outside of the paint, where it’ll be tougher for him to grab rebounds and block shots—his biggest strengths as a player.
However, with some coaching, Akilo can become a key contributor to the team.
“Samson Akilo is a very coachable young man,” Masiello said. “He’s a true gym rat and a terrific student who will represent the program in the right way. Our fans will be impressed with how hard he plays.”
Perhaps the biggest addition to the team next season is 6-foot-4-inch wing Samson Usilo.
A teammate of Akilo at Nazareth high school, Usilo is widely regarded as one of the best recruits in New York City. His highflying ability and above average defense earned him a three star recruit rating from ESPN.
“Samson Usilo is one of the elite high school athletes in the country,” Masiello said. “He’s a high riser, a lockdown defender. Samson is a humble young man who is all about the team, making people better and winning.”
The upcoming recruiting class will have some tough shoes to fill with the departure of one of the best senior classes in Manhattan history.
“It’s a very important class, losing three seniors in Michael Alvarado, George Beamon and Rhamel Brown, who mean a great deal to this program,” Masiello said.