By Andrew Mannion, Staff Writer
After the surprise dismissal of Jasper head basketball coach Steve Masiello, star player Jose Perez announced his departure from the team. Perez has committed to West Virginia University and joins a team with high hopes of breaking a tournament appearance drought.
On Oct. 25, news broke that Manhattan would dismiss long-time head coach Steve Masiello. The news shocked the MAAC, as this broke mere weeks before the Jaspers kicked off their season. Although no specific reason was released for Masiello’s dismissal, Marianne Reilly, the athletic director at Manhattan College, confirmed the news in a statement.
“We thank Coach Masiello for his service and wish him well,” Reilly said. “As we look to building successful teams for the future, with recruiting season beginning soon and Coach Masiello’s contract ending in April 2023, we determined that it was the right time to begin rebuilding from the top down.”
Masiello was not the only big name to depart from Riverdale. Star guard Perez announced after Masiello’s dismissal that he would depart from Manhattan as well.
“This has been a very tough day for me,” Perez wrote on Twitter. “Honestly speaking, coach (Masiello) was the most caring person I ever met he cared so much for his players and honestly speaking, it would be very difficult for me to put on a Jasper’s uniform again if coach ain’t on those sidelines.”
Perez followed through with that statement, entering the transfer portal. He garnered interest from across the NCAA and spoke to marquee programs such as Alabama, Bryant, Cincinnati, Clemson, Kansas State, Massachusetts, Memphis, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Oregon, Rhode Island, San Diego, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
Throughout that process, Perez mentioned one team stood out from that bunch. West Virginia was the most assertive in pursuing the former Manhattan guard. Led by head Coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers made it clear they wanted Perez.
“Coach Huggins was calling me 2-3 times per day,” Perez told WV Sports Now. “Literally right after practice, the exhibition game. Him and coach Jay [Kuntz] did an amazing job recruiting and they gave me their word.”
Perez ultimately took his talents to the Big 12 conference, joining the West Virginia Mountaineers. This team is amidst a 4-year drought from the NCAA tournament after being selected 9 of 11 previous years going back from 2018.
However, they have high hopes of making it back to the big dance. After acquiring Perez, they are ranked 34th in ESPN’s BPI rankings. With 68 spots for the tournament available, it’s looking up for the Mountaineers to break their recent skid.
As for Perez, he seems to fit into this Mountaineer’s team. He is one of now seven transfer players on the Mountaineers roster. Although he may not find the same role he had at Manhattan College, his immediate height and versatility off the bench will be of great value to West Virginia. There will also always be plenty of opportunity to work himself into the starting lineup.
The only looming issue regards Perez’s eligibility for the first semester of the college basketball season. Since his transfer process happened outside of the transfer eligibility window, he will not be able to play the first semester’s games for West Virginia. However, most reporters close to NCAA hoops believe an appeal would be accepted, given the circumstances of Masiello’s termination.
The Mountaineers will mark the fourth team Perez has been a member of in his collegiate career. During his freshman and sophomore years, he played at Gardner-Webb. He led the team in points, rebounds, and assists in both years he played for them. He then moved to Marquette amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. His minutes took an expected dip, but played a vital role off their bench. Perez then transferred once again, heading to Riverdale where he had a career year with Manhattan College, putting up nearly 23 points a night along with 5.5 assists.
Only time will tell how Perez handles the Big 12 conference, but he believes he’s ready for it.
“I have won at every level. Just a winner, I see myself as a winner. I do whatever it takes,” Perez told WV Sports Now. “I came in as a freshman at Gardner-Webb, (and went) directly to the tournament. I know how to win.”