Friday, August 25, 2017

Gulf Coast Showcase field revealed, Manhattan to open tournament against UMKC

Steve Masiello and Manhattan begin three-day Gulf Coast Showcase against UMKC on November 20 after eight-team tournament field was released Friday morning. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Manhattan's first of two in-season tournaments now has an official field that the Jaspers will now start preparing for.

The eight-team Gulf Coast Showcase announced its participants Friday morning, with the Jaspers leading off the three-day event on Monday, November 20, in an 11 a.m. contest against UMKC. Manhattan will face Georgia Southern or Missouri State the following day, either at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m., depending on the results of the first day of action. All games will be held at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida.

A member of the Summit League, UMKC finished 18-17 last season and competed in the College Basketball Invitational, but must replace all five starters from their 2016-17 roster. Sophomore guard Isaiah Ross, who averaged eight points per game as a freshman, is the top returning scorer for the Kangaroos and head coach Kareem Richardson; who, like Jaspers boss Steve Masiello, was a former Rick Pitino disciple at the University of Louisville before heading out on his own.

Georgia Southern is a much more experienced team should Manhattan see them in the second day of the tournament, as the Eagles return eight of their top nine scorers from an 18-15 team that also reached the CBI, each of whom averaged more than twelve minutes per contest a year ago. Although challenged from a height standpoint, the three-guard attack led by junior point guard Tookie Brown, with fellow junior Ike Smith and senior Mike Hughes alongside, is a formidable and potent scoring unit that will give any team opposing them their share of fits for 40 minutes. Should the Jaspers face Missouri State, they will have their hands full with an imposing front line headed by 7-foot-2 senior center Tanveer Bhullar, who arrives from New Mexico State, where he played alongside his older brother, Sim. Senior forward Alize Johnson is a 6-foot-9 lethal weapon for the Bears, and comes into his final campaign on the heels of averaging a double-double of nearly 15 points and 11 rebounds per game, no easy feat in the physically grueling Missouri Valley Conference. Obediah Church, the third piece of Missouri State's interior protection, is a 6-foot-7 triple threat of scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker all rolled into one, impacting Paul Lusk's Bears in a similar vein to how Rhamel Brown was Manhattan's lifeblood for four years in Riverdale.

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The Jaspers' final game in the Sunshine State takes place on Wednesday, November 22, and will come against either of four teams, depending on how the brackets play out. Manhattan will meet Penn, Northern Illinois, Towson, or Florida Atlantic in this tilt. The Quakers should be much improved under Steve Donahue this season, returning nine of their top ten players from an Ivy League tournament appearance last year. Sophomore AJ Brodeur will be the focal point for Penn after a promising and efficient rookie campaign that saw the Massachusetts native average just under 14 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor. Fellow second-year teammate Ryan Betley will be a force to be reckoned with on the perimeter, having shot 40 percent from three-point range as a late-blooming freshman, and senior point guard Darnell Foreman will look to build on a junior season where he averaged a near-2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Northern Illinois, who astute football fans will recognize as the alma mater of former Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner, returns three of their top five scorers from a 15-win team coached by former Tom Izzo assistant Mark Montgomery. Junior forward Jaylen Key is a deceptively strong 6-foot-8 forward whose length and ability to find smart shots will pose a problem for any opponent, whereas sophomore Eugene German and junior Levi Bradley will be counted on to transfer their high productivity off the bench into the starting five for the Huskies this year.

Towson could be a repeat opponent for Manhattan this season, as the Tigers are also participating in December's Belfast Classic, with a potential matchup against the Jaspers in the cards for the Northern Ireland event's finale. A 20-win outfit last season, Towson should be forwardly placed in the Colonial Athletic Association under head coach Pat Skerry, as senior guard Mike Morsell leads the way following a 13-point-per-game average that led the Tigers in scoring a year ago. Senior guard Deshaun Morman, a high-major castoff at Cincinnati, will infuse more offense into the Towson backcourt, but size will be a concern with only three players taller than 6-foot-7. Should the Jaspers meet Florida Atlantic, they will see an Owls team that returns just two starters from a 10-20 squad last year. Point guard Nick Rutherford, who transferred to Monmouth in the offseason, leaves behind a gaping hole that former NBA player and Detroit Pistons head coach Michael Curry will attempt to fill with Payton Hulsey, a fifth-year senior who is using his final season of eligibility after transferring from College of Charleston. Senior Gerdarius Troutman is a dangerous outside shooter the Jaspers will need to contain, having connected on 72 three-point field goals at a 42 percent rate for the Owls a year ago. Up front, seven-foot senior center Ronald Delph arrives from Auburn to bring much-needed size to the front line, while Jailyn Ingram should see his marginal production from last season increase with a greater share of the workload. All in all, whoever Manhattan takes the floor against will be contributing to a furthering of the greater good, as the tournament setting is something the Jaspers' head coach hopes will bring them to a third Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship in five seasons.

"That's why we're doing that, to get this group ready for conference tournament situations, to put them in situations playing on back-to-back nights," Masiello stated when discussing his rationale behind scheduling Manhattan for two tournaments before the start of MAAC play. "I wanted to do that to this team early by design because I want the young guys to know how important they are. And when I say important, I don't mean come in and get 12 points, I mean come in and have our defensive intensity go up, be a spark plug off the bench offensively. I want them to see how beneficial that could be or how costly that could be early in the year."

1 comment:

  1. Good tough early test for the Jaspers with 3 back-to-back games over 3 days against decent Mids. Should provide the early learning lessons that Coach Mas want for this team. But besides tough defense hope he also emphasizes offensive proficiency from the seniors.

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