In an interview with The Quadrangle before the season, Men’s Basketball head coach Steve Masiello offered a statement on each of the newcomers to the 2017-2018 team.
Without prompt, Masiello jumped to address unknown sophomore transfer, power forward/center Pauly Paulicap, first.
“He brings great energy and passion to the game of basketball, and reminds me a lot of Rhamel Brown,” Masiello said.
Masiello would also praise his character, his motivation, and selflessness; but for those in touch with the history of Manhattan basketball, a preseason comparison to Brown is just about the highest praise a transfer can receive.
Brown donned the green and white from 2010 to 2014, and after being the first Jasper ever to receive MAAC Defensive Player of the Year honors for the 2011-2012 season, Manhattan’s power forward/center retained the title for the final two seasons of his career. He finished his career a MAAC champion in 2013, Division I’s active leader in blocked shots and he still holds the three highest single-season block totals in school history.
Paulicap was going to have some big shoes to fill.
Regardless, Paulicap attacked his first month in Division I basketball with the energy and passion that Masiello saw in September, and the country took notice. The 6’8”, 220-pound transfer from Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. was averaging 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks into December, and his current 2.46 blocks per game is still good for top-25 in NCAA Division I.
In just his second year of NCAA eligibility, Paulicap has come into his own as one of the best shot blockers in the country; similar to Brown.
“I see a lot of connections, he’s a real good person,” Paulicap said. “I feel like we are similar in a lot of ways.”
While their game and frame might be similar, Paulicap’s high motor is a quality that not only separates him from Brown, but from the rest of Manhattan basketball. For Paulicap, keeping his energy level high comes from a basic change of his perspective.
“I feel like with the grind and with the process a lot of people lose focus on having fun,” Paulicap said. “So I just try to have fun all the time.”
This exciting and energetic behavior has quickly turned Paulicap into a fan favorite and a team leader. Senior guard Rich Williams is the last player remaining from Manhattan’s back-to-back MAAC Championships in 2014 and 2015, and sees potential in the team’s young leader.
“The best way I could describe [Pauly] is a room being dark, and a light coming on,” Williams said. “He’s got special things coming.”
Even for the coaching staff, Paulicap’s lively attitude took some getting used to.
In a December interview with the New York Post, Masiello mentioned that Paulicap is “…probably the first player I’ve had that has more energy than I do.”
Jasper nation has also taken notice of Paulicap’s energy and have shown their appreciation with energy of their own. In a matchup with Canisius on Jan. 19, chants of “Pauly!, Pauly!” ringing from the Sixth Borough inspired the first-year Jasper to continue to have fun while competing.
“Man, I love it,” Paulicap said of the crowd. “That energy was just so electric, and it just made me feel so good.”
What goes untold by basketball is how Paulicap has become the man he is today. Per the New York Post, Paulicap spent most of his teenage years in search of stability. There was little to be had at home with his mother, and less to be had out in the world. He would spend nights with friends and support groups for homeless youth, unable to actualize his potential due to circumstances he grew up in.
This was before the family of a close friend to Paulicap brought him into their home, nurtured him, and allowed him to discover basketball as a junior in high school.
“If I hadn’t played basketball, God only knows where I would be now,” Paulicap said. “But basketball has really changed my life, and it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
Some of the opportunities were goals Paulicap had his eyes set on: goals like graduating high school and removing himself from a situation that had seemingly consumed his family. Others were unexpected, such as having the opportunity to fly to Belfast this winter with the team.
Even with the progress that Paulicap has made up to this point in his life, it has not blinded his sight of who he is and where he is from.
On Jan. 13, Paulicap posted a picture to Instagram with the caption, “I play to represent a shithole country #HaitiStrong” in response to comments made by President Donald Trump.
For the young man from Long Island, the post was a way to express his unwavering pride in the struggles he has lived through that define him.
“I represent not just my culture, I represent my family, I represent the Jaspers, I represent everyone I support and where I’m from,” Paulicap said.
Of all these components to an exceptionally complex individual, becoming a Jasper is among the newest and most relevant aspects of Paulicap’s character. In his first encounter with Masiello, Paulicap gained a sense of what the culture would be like if he were to come to Riverdale.
“I could tell he wasn’t going to be the coach to be my friend the whole time,” Paulicap recalled. “I knew that he was going to push me to a whole other level.”
Now, after experiencing success as a Jasper and being welcomed into the community, Paulicap has taken a new perspective on being a part of Manhattan College.
“My number one thing is I just try to protect the culture,” Paulicap said. “You just got to grind it out, and I think that’s the most important thing about being a Jasper.”
With the toughness and perseverance that has guided him to where he is today; Paulicap is set to overcome any obstacle, and is looking forward to spreading his positivity and work ethic in the years to come.