CHRIS CIRILLO & DANIEL YNFANTE
SPORTS EDITOR & STAFF WRITER
1. Jermaine Lawrence is the real deal
Head coach Steve Masiello was ecstatic when Lawrence not only transferred, but was eligible to play right away. In Lawrence’s first game in a Manhattan uniform, it’s easy to why Masiello was so happy.
If the game against LIU Post serves as any indication, it seems like Lawrence is closer to his five-star, ESPN Top 100 recruit tab than ever.
Lawrence, who did not attempt a single 3-pointer his entire freshman year for Cincinnati, made 3 of 4 attempts against LIU Post. He showed his ability to shoot the ball scoring on two pull up mid-range jumpers, and finished the night with 15 points and three steals in just 18 minutes.
“I mean it’s great being back home, everything is great,” Lawrence said about his first game in a Manhattan uniform. “I love the system. I feel like I’m in the right position right now, so I just have to make the best out of it.”
Lawrence cracked into the starting lineup against LIU Post at small forward, and at 6-feet-10 playing that position, Lawrence has the potential of becoming a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
2. Emmy Andujar at the point?
Andujar, who was a forward last season, started as a point guard. He finished with six turnovers and just two assists as he adjusted to his new position. He made bad passes on two straight possessions in the second half, one of which was a no-look pass that was stolen away on a fast break.
With point guards Rashawn Stores – who played just six minutes – and Sampson Usilo – who didn’t play – banged up, Andujar may have just been filling in the role due to a lack of depth. Regardless, it is something to keep an eye on this season.
“He had 12 and nine, and I say this – I love him – but I didn’t like him tonight,” Masiello said.
Although Andujar only scored one field goal, he finished with 12 points thanks to a perfect 10 for 10 shooting from the free-throw line. Andujar may take on a similar role that Mike Alvarado had last year as the attacking guard.
“I’m just trying to be more aggressive,” Andujar said. “Obviously, I had a lot of turnovers so that’s something I got to fix, and basically, I have to be more aggressive and get to the line more than I did in previous years.”
3. Ashton Pankey continued right where he left off
After a strong performance against Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, Pankey came back and flashed more signs of brilliance. He finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. While a preseason Third Team All-MAAC selection by the MAAC coaches may seem to be an honor, Pankey wasn’t content with it. Look for Pankey to have a breakout season this year.
“I want to dominate,” Pankey said. “I want to take over the league, and I want to come in to every game as the best player on the court. That’s my mindset every game. As long as I continue to do that, good things will happen.”
4. Freshman Zane Waterman may have a prominent role in the rotation
Waterman got the start in his first collegiate game, and he made the most of it. He finished with six points – both 3-pointers from the top of the key – and five rebounds in just 16 minutes. He also showed he’d be a nice fit for the Jaspers the way he dove after several loose balls.
His 6-foot-9-inch stature will give him the flexibility to play different positions.
“I thought Zane Waterman was great,” Masiello said. “I thought he did some great things for a freshman.”
Waterman is coming off foot surgery he had over the summer, so it might take some games for him to get the rust off.
“Zane had a tough surgery this offseason and when he came back from it, as emotional people do, he tried too much and it slowed him down a little bit,” Masiello said. “He’s not himself. He won’t be himself until early December.”
5. Lineup flexibility will be an advantage
No one in Manhattan’s starting lineup of Andujar, Shane Richards, Lawrence, Waterman and Pankey was under 6-feet-5. It is quite obvious that’s a huge lineup.
However, Masiello is no stranger to switching up lineups from a game-to-game basis.
If he wants to go with a more traditional look, he could start point guard RaShawn Stores, who started 25 games last season. Stores was limited to just six minutes against LIU Post as he recovers from a nagging injury, but when he is healthy, he will push for a starting job.
“I like all our looks,” Masiello said in reference to potential lineups. “I think this team can pose a lot of problems from a matchup standpoint.”
Masiello also highlighted the probability of going super big with Carlton Allen at center or going with a smaller lineup, once Waterman is fully healed.
“I think once we get Zane and Carlton really understanding the five spot, we can go two ways,” Masiello said. “We can go very big or we could also have a five-man that can step out and shoot the basketball and really cause you some matchup problems.”