by, Pete Janny, Sports Editor and Managing Editor
The game of basketball has deep roots in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. New York’s long-standing status as a hub for producing talented players is undoubtedly a treasured part of the city’s sports history. Legends such as Bernard King, Kenny Anderson, and Kemba Walker — just to name a few — naturally dominate the discourse of this subject matter. But beyond this pantheon of legends exists a lesser known cohort of New York ballers who are often overlooked.
Two players who fit that mold are former Jaspers George Beamon and Rhamel Brown.
Beamon and Brown are both local guys whose passion for the game led to legendary careers at Manhattan. The two formed a dynamic duo for the Jaspers from 2010 to 2014, playing big roles in guiding the Jaspers to their first of two consecutive MAAC Championships in 2014. They shared in the vision and identity of those championship teams by simply being themselves: just two guys who embraced the New York attitude of hard work and sacrifice.
And boy oh boy were they talented.
The Formative Years
Beamon grew up on Long Island in Roslyn, New York, where he attended Roslyn High School before taking his talents to Riverdale. To say Beamon’s skillset translated well to the college level would be an understatement. After only averaging seven minutes as a freshman, Beamon broke through as a sophomore during the 2010-11 season, channeling the same scoring brilliance that cemented him as a high school basketball legend in Nassau County. Beamon’s emergence as a sophomore set the stage for First Team All-MAAC honors in each of his final two seasons and a lead role on the 2014 MAAC Championship team. Now six years removed from his college days, Beamon fully appreciates how instrumental Manhattan was in his development as a person and player.
“That time for me was such a blessing to be a division one athlete, just being on my own for the first time, living that college life going dorm to dorm and my teammates we formed a family,” Beamon said via text message to the Quad. “Those [Manhattan teammates] are my guys for life.”
Of course, one of those teammates was Brown, who was raised in Brooklyn and spent his high school career at Transit Tech. A two-time All New York State Class AA selection in high school, Brown arrived in Riverdale with an impressive package of defensive skills that centered on his ability to block shots. He more than lived up to expectations on the defensive end, winning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year three times to solidify himself as one of the best defenders in conference history. Furthermore, Brown gained national attention by being consistently ranked among the best shot blockers in division one. He finished his Manhattan career with 367 rejections, good for a share of 30th place on the division one all-time blocks list.
“My defensive prowess has always been there from childhood but it really developed in high school with the help of Coach Perazzo [Transit Tech head coach],” Brown said via text message to the Quad. “He taught me so much about defense and positioning that has always stuck with me throughout my career.”
As for shot blocking, Brown considers it a skill that requires more discipline and awareness than pure athletic ability.
“I think the most important part about shot blocking for me is timing and picking your spots,” Brown said. “You can’t go for every block and I try my best to keep it inbound to start the fast break.”
But those who have watched Brown play know he is far more than just a defensive player. While at Manhattan, he worked hard to develop his offensive game on his way to becoming a force on both ends of the court. As a junior during the 2012-13 season, Brown paced the MAAC in field goal percentage at 55.6 percent and scored in double figures in 18 games. Looking back, Brown proved to be a natural fit for coach Steve Masiello’s system as a player who prided himself on playing physical and aggressive. The feeling of mutual trust between the player and coach helped make Brown a more complete player.
“He [Masiello] made himself very approachable especially during my last two years playing for him and he was open about his plans and why he did things which made it easier to understand him,” Brown said of Masiello’s coaching style. “His coaching helped me develop the mental toughness I needed on the court and in life. Coach Mas also helped me realize I had more to offer than just being a shot blocker and that I could affect the game in a multitude of ways.”
In Beamon’s case, it is the opposite. His scoring ability has always been the most celebrated part of his game as reflected by his career scoring average of 15.4 points-per-game at Manhattan. But as much as he enjoys scoring the ball, Beamon knows he can impact the game in other ways by doing some of the little things that oftentimes get overlooked. At Manhattan, he proved his worth as a defender. As a sophomore during the 2010-11 season, Beamon recorded a team-high 45 steals and finished fourth in the MAAC with 1.5 steals-per-game, demonstrating his well-rounded skill set.
“I feel like a lot of people underrate my defense,” Beamon said. “I love to score but also take pride in locking down my opponent.”
Beamon has all the respect in the world for Masiello. According to Beamon, Masiello helped him become a better three-point shooter among other things.
“Coach Mas is a class act,” Beamon said. “Probably the best coach I have played for. He just motivated me and knew how to get players to reach their full potential. And to be honest, he turned a weakness I had and made it a strength… His first season I went from a 20 percent three point shooter to a 43 percent three point shooter.”
Life in Professional Basketball
Manhattan’s heroics in March 2014 — winners of the MAAC Tournament and a Cinderella hopeful in the NCAA tournament — gave Beamon some much-deserved national recognition as a senior. He used the momentum from that memorable stretch in March to launch a run in the NBA G League by getting drafted by the Oklahoma City Blue — an affiliate of the Thunder — in the third round of the 2014 NBA D-League draft (now known as the G League). However, Beamon never got a legitimate chance to prove himself and was released by the Blue after only 18 games. During that same 2014-15 season, Beamon managed to get another shot in the D-League with the Texas Legends — an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks — appearing in six games for the team. His stay in the D-league was short-lived, but was a welcomed learning experience for a young player like Beamon.
“My G league time was unmatched,” Beamon said. “I didn’t play as much I wanted to but I learned so much and am ready for another go around there.”
For that same 2014-15 season, Brown decided to take his talents to Israel where he competed for Maccabi Hod HaSharon based in Hod HaSharon, Israel. His first, and only, season in Israel was a transformational experience for Brown competing in the respectable Israeli National League and getting his first taste of a different culture.
“Israel was my first stop in my pro career and is still my favorite,” Brown said. “Just learning about the history of the country and visiting all the different historical landmarks was the best.”
Most importantly, Israel gave Brown the right perspective he needed to be ready for more foreign lifestyles to come. After leaving Israel, Brown had stints playing in the top professional leagues in Switzerland and Canada, respectively. His residency in Canada playing for the Halifax Hurricanes lasted for two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19), being his longest stay anywhere as a professional thus far. Brown is currently a member of Bipa Odessa of the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague. Across 24 games in Ukraine this past season Brown averaged 6.8 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game.
In Brown’s case, the lessons learned playing overseas go far beyond basketball.
“My favorite part about playing abroad has to be the different types of people that you meet,” Brown said. “The world is so vast and no one place is the same. I try my best to be open so that I can learn the culture and try new foods and see how people live in these different countries. Just the experience and knowledge gained from each year is amazing.”
Since leaving the D League, Beamon’s career has followed a similar trajectory. Over a span of three years, he played in the top leagues in Canada, Iceland, and England. Beamon’s skillset translated well to the crafty brand of basketball played in Europe, where he averaged 21.8 points-per-game for Thor Ak (Iceland – Express League) and 18.5 points-per-game for the Worcester Wolves (British Basketball). This past season he played for Cab Madeira in Portugal, averaging 21.5 points-per-game across 20 games making him the leading scorer in the entire country.
Beamon admits he felt most in his element in England thanks to some of its obvious cultural parallels with the United States.
“Most suitable country would have to be England because it was so easy to adapt, no language barrier, the culture was great and they showed a lot of love,” Beamon said. “Every country has been a blessing though and helped mold me not only as a player but as a person.”
The game of basketball was such a constant fixture throughout the childhoods of Beamon and Brown that, in essence, they naturally grew into their roles as professional players. By trusting their instincts, they now are living lives of great fulfillment.
“I always had such a love for the game but I would say my 7th grade year going into 8th grade is when I just fell in love with the process of just working hard and getting better,” Beamon said. “So I knew that with my faith in God and my work ethic the sky was the limit.”
Brown’s vision for his future was not always as clear. Initially used as an outlet for socialization, the game of basketball eventually blossomed into Brown’s subsistence.
“Growing up I mostly just played basketball for fun and as a way to try to make friends and connect with people,” Brown said. “I never actually thought I would be a pro even though I was blessed to have people around me who believed I would be.”
Life in Quarantine
During COVID-19, sports have become an afterthought in a society facing much bigger problems. The discussions about when live sports will resume are volatile and differ from league to league.
Just like other professional athletes, Beamon and Brown are back in the New York area, staying ready for when the time comes to compete once again.
“I’m living in New York still,” Beamon said about life during quarantine. “I have been staying ready by working out everyday. The grind doesn’t change.”
The grind may never stop, but for now, the normal ways of living life have. Quarantine workouts will have to suffice for Brown, even though it does not compare to the adrenaline felt competing on the hardwood.
“I’ve been spending quarantine with my girlfriend in New Jersey,” Brown said. “Just trying my best to work out from home at least 5 times a week but it’s difficult not being on the court for so long.”
One good thing to come from this period of downtime in the world is the opportunity to reflect. A lot of us have had more time than usual to think about the things we tend to take for granted, such as the support of family and friends. For some, it has also allowed for future planning and the discovery of new interests. Evidently, coping strategies and entertainment preferences are all relative in nature during a pandemic. However, the biggest common denominator among us members in society is the desire to come away from this pandemic a better version of ourselves.
“My goals are to just continue my improvement on the court and finding more ways to impact the game and doing my best to stay healthy,” Brown said. “That way I can play as long as my body allows it. Off the court I’m just keeping my mind active as I’m currently taking some courses. Life has many opportunities and I’m just on the path of finding my next passion.”
Beamon’s dream has always been to play in the NBA. If anything, this unusual time in the world has led to an even greater zest in Beamon to accomplish that goal as well as grow in his spiritual life.
“My long term goal has not changed and it’s to play in the NBA,” Beamon said. “That dream will never die until I can’t do it anymore and getting closer to God is my main goal in life.”
Besides being 1,000 point scorers at Manhattan, Beamon and Brown further enhanced their legacies when they helped lead the Jaspers to 25 wins and a MAAC Championship in 2014. That title was a long time coming for the Jaspers, snapping a drought of 10 years without a championship. Just a few years earlier, Beamon and Brown were part of the Manhattan team that had won only six games during the 2010-11 season. The incredible growth of the program in such a short period of time was a testament to a new and improved team culture that mixed together talent, hard work, and good coaching.
“The thing that separated us from a lot of teams was our work ethic and how we played both sides of the court,” Beamon said. “As much talent we had on the offensive end our defense was better.”
Unfortunately, the dream season ended with a crushing defeat to Louisville in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Jaspers held a three point lead with just over four minutes left, but ultimately fell short of upsetting the Cardinals. Had Manhattan’s fortunes been different in the closing minutes of that game, Brown believes there would have been even more upset magic left in the tank.
“The Louisville game was definitely intense and to this day I still think had we won that game we would’ve made a historic run in the tournament,” Brown said.
Results aside, the greatest accomplishment was the way all the Manhattan players embraced one another.
“My favorite part of playing for Manhattan had to be how close all of us were as teammates,” Brown said. “It was fun to be around those guys and to work hard for each other.”
Many former Manhattan players still stay in touch. After all, communicating with and caring for one another comes second nature to those who know the value of teamwork.
“That’s my family for life,” Beamon said. “We have been through too much together and have shed too much pain. Most of them I see in the summer especially the ones from New York at summer league games, through texts or calls, events, and we actually had a zoom call recently that was great.”
The fact that Beamon and Brown overcame serious odds along the way made their success all the more sweet. And for Beamon, there was even more drama to it — had he not missed the 2012-13 season due to injury, he would not have been around for that final run. His contributions to that championship team — most notably his 18.8 points-per-game — were integral for their success.
“My favorite memory is definitely holding up that trophy at the end of the year,” Beamon said. “It was such a blessing just seeing all that hard work and the pain we put in that year, seeing it was all worth it at the end.”
Many former college basketball players would not trade their college playing days for anything. Beamon and Brown had the chance to share that important life experience together and the range of emotions that came with it. There were a lot of wins and a lot of losses. But above all else, they are remembered by Jasper Nation for being legends.
“I can honestly say I miss the college basketball experience and the bonds you build over four years,” Brown said. “They last for a lifetime. It’s great to be paid to do what you love but nothing can replace how special it is to build towards greatness with teammates and friends in college.”