There was much speculation during the offseason as to who would step up and replace the productivity Manhattan lost in seniors Michael Alvarado, George Beamon and Rhamel Brown.
The consensus seemed to be Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey, who as upperclassmen on the team, were expected to lead on the court.
The Jaspers have gotten solid production from Andujar and Pankey through the first three games of the season, but a third member of the team has stolen the spotlight.
Shane Richards, often overlooked in the discussion for Jaspers who were poised for a breakout season, is currently on the best stretch of his collegiate career. Richards, known for his lethal 3-point shot, has shown an expansion in other parts of his game so far this season. The junior capped off a red-hot first week of the season, going off for a career-high in points—24—and assists—five—in the victory against Binghamton.
“Definitely it was a point in the offseason to expand my game, and I knew I could do it,” Richards said in a postgame interview with ESPN’s Rob Kennedy. “It was just a matter of putting in the time and the work, and I think I did that for the most part.”
The work Richards has put in during the offseason seems to be paying off for the sharpshooter, who through the first three games of the season, is putting up career numbers all across the stat sheet. His 18 points per game lead the team and are a career-high so far. His 2.7 assists per game place him in a tie for second on the team and are almost four times as many as his previous career-high of .7 assists.
But what is impressive about Richards’ hot start to the season is the fashion in which he’s scoring his points. Richards has debuted an arsenal of offensive weapons, scoring on floaters, layups in transition and pull up mid-range jump shots.
Prior to this season, Richards’ entire game revolved around coming off screens and shooting 3-pointers. If the defense closed out on him, he was in trouble. He would rarely put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket because of his poor ball handling skills, so his options were limited to passing the ball or forcing up a bad shot.
But this season, Richards has added a new facet to his game. Through three contests, he has already matched the number of 2-point field goals scored last season with seven. The most 2-point field goals Richards has scored in one season was 12, a number he looks poised to shatter at his current pace.
Richards showed glimpses of his evolving game even before the regular season started, scoring from inside the 3-point arc four times in an exhibition game against LIU Post. That performance stood out to head coach Steve Masiello, who pointed out that it was a much-needed addition to Richards’ game.
“I think if you ever watch college basketball, you’re not going to let Shane get a three off you, so you’re going to make him put it on the floor,” Masiello said after the game against LIU Post. “I think he’s worked on that though, and it’s been a big thing for him. I think his game has totally evolved in a lot of areas. …”
Of course, Richards’ bread and butter will continue to be the 3-point shot. It’s what has allowed him to make a name for himself in college basketball. Despite attacking the rim more often, Richards is still shooting plenty of threes. Through three games, Richards has made 10 of 31 3-point attempts.
But now that defenses know that Richards is capable of driving to the basket, his pump fakes from the 3-point line have been much more effective. Richards has already drawn three fouls from behind the arc, resulting in nine free throw attempts. He has taken a total of 15 free throws and has made 10 of them, which puts him one-third of the way to his career-high of 30 free throws he made last season.
On defense, Richards has also shown much improvement, registering career-highs in rebounds per game and steals per game with three and one respectively. His progress on defense has allowed Richards to enter the starting lineup and play meaningful minutes for the Jaspers.
No longer is Richards a liability on defense. No longer is Richards a one-trick pony on offense. He is turning into a complete all-around player.
Shane Richards’ Average Stats Through the First Three Games
Richards is off to a torrid start to the season, posting career highs in all the stats listed above. Table by Daniel Ynfante.