On Thursday January 19th, head coach Steve Masiello confirmed that senior guard Rich Williams will sit out the rest of the 2016-2017 season as a medical redshirt.
The announcement came following the 82-71 loss the Jaspers suffered on the road against Monmouth. With the team struggling this season, the loss of Williams for the season was tough for Masiello and the team.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Masiello, “he was a big part of our plans this year, and out best player”
Rich was named a preseason second team All-MAAC player before the start of this season. Bouncing off a strong year, Rich figured to be a pillar of this team going forward.
As a junior, the 6’5” guard from the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn emerged as a top offensive option for Manhattan. He averaged 14.8 points a game as well as 6 rebounds, averages that could have aided the Jasper offense this season which is 7th in the MAAC.
Masiello understands the adversity that comes with losing a great player in Williams, but still has his sights set on winning this season with the team he has. The two-time MAAC champion coach did, however, look forward to William’s return next season.
“It kind of reminds me of that second year when George Beamon was out,” said Masiello, “Now you’re looking at a guy who’s a ‘Player of the Year’ type of guy”.
Beamon’s 5th year was the iconic season which brought Manhattan back to the top of the MAAC conference. The Jaspers hadn’t won a championship in 10 years, and after beating Iona 71-68 in the championship game, Beamon was named the MVP of the conference tournament.
It was a long, and challenging road the brought Rich Williams to his decision to sit out for the rest of the season. His family, coach Masiello, his teammates, and George Beamon were among some of the people Williams consulted during the process. In the end, he felt furthering his education and starting fresh next season would bode best for himself as an individual.
William’s road to recovery took longer than expected, and once he returned to the hardwood on January 2nd, his explosiveness was not yet there. With this invaluable asset of his game lacking, and the Jaspers struggling this season, Williams decided that playing the entirety of next season while also earning his Master’s Degree was the right decision.
“10 years down the line, when the ball stops bouncing, I still want to be on top,” said Williams.
As for the rest of this season, Williams is set on being the best teammate possible. He already learned a lot, and is hoping that knowledge he has absorbed from being on the sideline will translate into his game next season.
“My job is to be here, I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can be,” said Williams, “I’m learning a lot, it’s going to help me evolve”
Looking ahead, the Jaspers do not lose much going into the 2017-2018 season. Assuming all of the current players stay healthy and in Riverdale, the only two players who are leaving would be walk-on Sky Williams and senior Tyler Wilson.
Wilson, a four-year contributor on two MAAC championship teams, is the only player left on the roster who came in with Williams and a great friend, another component which made this decision tough.
“Tyler understands,” said Williams, “The whole team understands my position.”
Manhattan continues its fight back towards the top of the conference tonight as they take go to Fairfield to face off with the Stags.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post showed a photograph