by Kyla Guilfoil, Asst. News Editor
Ant Nelson is the starting point guard for the Manhattan men’s basketball team this season after transferring from Seton Hall where he spent his first two seasons coming off the bench in a limited role. At Manhattan, Nelson’s playing time and overall responsibilities have increased for a Jaspers team that is 4-8 in MAAC play. In 13 games, Nelson is scoring 13 points-per-game, highlighted by a 27-point performance in a 87-77 win over Rider on Dec. 12.
TQ: What drew you to Manhattan College when choosing to transfer from Seton Hall last summer?
AN: Back in April, I lost my grandfather due to COVID-19, and I went to school at Seton Hall, which is kind of close to the city, but I felt like I wanted to move closer so that way I could be able to see my family at least three, four times a week.
TQ: What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be able to get right back to playing after being granted the waiver?
AN: Honestly, I was ecstatic, I was so hype. I thought I was going to have to sit out, so that was just, like, going through my head the whole time. I put my name in the portal and I thought, am I ready to take a whole year away from basketball, not playing, just practicing? But, everything worked in my favor.
TQ: According to an article written about you in the New York Post shortly after your decision, you reportedly suffered a knee injury during your time at Seton Hall. How did that affect you and how have you overcome it?
AN: It kind of did something to my confidence, and I was real low on myself. I had zero confidence and I was kind of depressed. But throughout the year I was working on getting my knee strong, and now that I’m here everything feels a lot better.
TQ: Did you have to take a lot of time off for the injury?
AN: I was supposed to, but I didn’t. I think that messed it up bad.
TQ: Is there anything in particular about Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello that convinced you this was the right place?
AN: Yeah, I know there’s a lot of head coaches out there, but he’s like an uncle. That’s how I see him. I see him as like an uncle to me. You know, like he has a relationship with everyone on the team, it’s just a different relationship from other head coaches.
TQ: Have you been able to establish a strong relationship with Masiello since arriving at Manhattan?
AN: Since the first time he called me, I felt like we had a very good relationship, like we established something good.
TQ: Over the course of your basketball career, what are some special moments that have shaped you into the player Ant Nelson is today?
AN: I could say when I won the state championship in high school. I just felt like, after that, you know what to do to win so now you take that everywhere you go. That was a special moment to me.
TQ: How challenging was it for you to adjust to a new team?
AN: It was a little hard because I have a different role this year. Last year I was a role player and this year it’s kinda like I’m the dude, and everyone follows what I do, but I have to lead the right way. So it was kind of hard for me in the beginning, but now that I’m running it’s gonna be easier.
TQ: And do you feel a responsibility to be a leader?
AN: Yeah, definitely.
TQ: What’s the best highlight, on or off the court, that you’ve shared with your new teammates at MC?
AN: Definitely just us growing. You know, we were on a losing streak at the beginning of the season, and then we had a three-game winning streak. I feel like that’s the best time we’ve had so far. Just to see how we grew in those three games, and just how we fight with each other in practice, we go to war with each other, the coaches try to go to war at us, but we just never back down, we just stick together.
TQ: Have you set any goals for yourself as a player at MC?
AN: I don’t really have any goals for myself this year, but for the team I would like to win the MAAC championship and get to the NCAA tournament. But, ultimately the goal, when I leave here, is to go to the NBA. But, as of right now, I don’t have any goals for myself to accomplish this year.
TQ: Is there anyone or anything that inspires you to be the best version of yourself?
AN: Yeah, definitely my friends and my family. I have three nieces and nephews, and they’re basically like brothers and sisters to me, so, everything I do is for them.
TQ: Have you always wanted to be an NBA player?
AN: In middle school, I was heavy in basketball and track. I wanted to play football, but my mother didn’t allow it because she thought I was going to get hurt. So, it was just basketball from then on.
TQ: What are your thoughts on how the team has played this year?
AN: We started out rough, but I feel like we’ve gotten on track. The way we’re practicing is great, and I feel like we’re in great condition. I feel like as the season goes on, everyone will start to see how good we are.
TQ: What do you think the biggest key is for the team to improve?
AN: Everyone just has to share the ball, we have to play together. For those three games that we won, everyone shared the ball, we were all playing together, we were all locked in. We all have the same goals, so as long as we’re all locked into that same goal I feel like we’ll be fine.