With Manhattan’s Men’s Basketball season just around the corner, the team is preparing to showcase some of the new faces that joined the squad in the offseason.
Warren Williams (Kingston, Jamaica), Patrick Strzala (Bayonne, N.J.), Nehemiah (Bud) Mack (Harrisburg, Pa.), Ebube Ebube (San Juan, Puerto Rico), and Pauly Paulicap (Elmont, N.Y.) are the five new faces joining the Jaspers for the 2017-18 season.
Of the five; Williams, Ebube, and Paulicap will be occupying the front court while Mack and Strzala will be manning the back court. Four of the five newcomers are freshman in the program with Pauly Paulicap (Sophomore) transferring from Harcum College.
This was a revamp that Head Coach Steve Masiello needed for his team after losing six players from the 2016-17 roster season. However, the team’s expectations remain high as they were able to maintain the core of upperclassmen that produced for them last year, while also bringing Rich Williams back from a knee injury that sidelined him for the entirety of last season.
Although the five newcomers account for just over a third of Manhattan’s roster, Masiello feels that the team’s position hasn’t changed all that much.
“I think there is a lot of turnover, you have almost 800 transfers in college basketball…even though we have some new face, five in total, we have a lot of our core returning,” Masiello said.
One of the newest but most important aspects of that core is sophomore guard Aaron Walker Jr. The only freshman from 2016 returning to the team, Walker Jr. is prepared to assume a big role this year after breaking out at the end of last season. As both a productive player and team leader, Walker is excited to go to battle with new teammates that share his vision.
“To be honest, I love all of my new guys… It’s just a great feeling when you have a group of guys that come in and they just want to listen and learn, and they just want to do what’s best for the team” Walker said.
For Masiello, Walker assuming this role is something he values from both a production and player development aspect. Walker’s woes at the beginning of the 2016 season were a product of immature and sloppy play, but signs of leadership and maturity are invaluable in the eyes of Masiello as he aims to develop young men both on-and-off the court.
“You constantly tell guys, a year older doesn’t make you a year better, but I think Aaron has shown a lot of growth from a consistency stand point,” Masiello said.
As far as projections, Masiello is certain that this team has what it takes to win a MAAC Championship and beyond. There may be some young and new faces, but Masiello took time to assess how his roster fits together so that regardless of age or ability, the 14-man roster can share the drive, determination, and sacrifice that it takes to accomplish team oriented goals.
“I think that’s something we’ve tried to reassess. What’s the fit? And making sure guys fit ‘your vision’; understand Rich’s vision, ‘Z’’s vision, Zane’s vision,” Masiello said.
The team’s opening game is still roughly two months away, but the blueprint to the season is not only precise but understood. Manhattan has only won one MAAC tournament game since there MAAC tournament win in 2015, but with senior leadership and committed underclassmen the team is poised to be a contender in the 2018 campaign.