2008-09 Manhattan Basketball Preview
Could the Jaspers be a darkhorse in the MAAC?
Even though they only lasted two days in last season's MAAC Tournament, losing to eventual champion Siena in the quarters, the time spent in Albany was a positive for the development of Barry Rohrssen's program. Devon Austin emerged as a go-to guy and team leader, and Antoine Pearson played like one of the top point guards in the conference. Add to this a renewed commitment on the defensive end of the floor and you have a couple of the reasons why the Jaspers were in the Siena game until late. And with four starters back (Rashad Green transferred to San Francisco), this season could shape up to be one in which Manhattan improves substantially from their eighth-place standing a year ago.
2007-08 Record: 12-19 (5-13 MAAC; 8th)
Head coach: Barry Rohrssen (25-36 in two seasons)
Assistant coaches: John Alesi, C.J. Council, Edgar De La Rosa
Home court: Draddy Gymnasium
PPG: Antoine Pearson (12.2)
RPG: Devon Austin (4.2)
APG: Pearson (2.3)
FG%: Andrew Gabriel (49.0%)
FT%: Austin (79.2%)
3PT%: Pearson (41.1%)
Assist/TO ratio: Patrick Bouli (1.3)
Junior Antoine Pearson is the man that makes things go for the Jaspers on offense. Also the leading scorer last season, Pearson can break down opponents off the dribble to either score himself or set up teammates. But even with that ability, he still finished the season with more turnovers than assists, something that must improve if the Jaspers are to be a more efficient team on offense. His likely backup is classmate Patrick Bouli, who was Manhattan's best player at not turning the ball over. Bouli won't wow you with his ability to put the ball in the basket, but he's a guard who understands what he's needed to do: run the offense and play solid defense. Nick Walsh only played seven minutes per game last season, but he can provide a spark off the bench and is a decent perimeter shooter.
Devon Austin is one of Manhattan's two seniors heading into this season and his progression in March was a key reason why the Jaspers were able to hang with Siena in the MAAC Tournament. Austin needs to be more consistent and be a primary offensive option on a nightly basis. For example, the last time Austin led the team in scoring before their two conference tournament games was Manhattan's loss at Fairfield on February 8th (eight games). He's a candidate for postseason honors and has the talent to do just that, so long as he brings it night in and night out. The likely replacement for Rashad Green is sophomore Chris Smith, who started fifteen of the twenty-one games that he played in last season and was Manhattan's third-leading scorer. Just like Green, Smith can crash the boards from his perimeter position and is a tough defender.
Also in the backcourt is junior Darryl Crawford, a two-guard who can provide scoring off the bench when needed. He averaged 8.5 points per game last season, but the field goal percentages (42.1% overall, 27.5% from three) need to improve if he's to have more of an impact. Classmate Jamel Ferguson will also look to contribute this season, hoping to increase his playing time from last year's average of 14.7 minutes per game. But like Crawford, Ferguson stands to be more effective if he can up his shooting percentages.
Just like last season the Jaspers will be most effective by committee up front, but the extra season should make this group that much better. He only played in seventeen games last season, but senior Herve Banogle stands to see more than the eight minutes per game he received in 07-08. In the Green/White Scrimmage, Banogle went for ten points and seventeen rebounds. And when three of the top four rebounders last season played on the perimeter (Green, Austin and Smith), you know that the Manhattan coaching staff will be looking for more production on the glass from the bigs. In addition to Banogle there's a trio of returnees and one newcomer who should also contribute inside.
Sophomore Andrew Gabriel and junior Brandon Adams both saw time last season, as did redshirt sophomore Laurence Jolicoeur. Gabriel dropped twenty-one on Canisius in the Jaspers' victory on February 10th, and the other two also showed flashes of what they're capable of. How much these three have progressed, especially Jolicoeur, could be the determining factor in just how much Manhattan improves this season. Freshman Djibril Coulibaly (Bamako, Mali) will also look to contribute this season, but he may need some time to bulk up. And with the experience in front of Coulibaly, he may have time to do just that.
They may have been picked by the coaches to finish sixth in the MAAC this season, but don't be fooled: the Jaspers have to tools needed to make some wave within the league. The two question marks: how much they'll commit to the defensive end and how much the big men can contribute. If they learned anything from the MAAC Tournament as a team, it should have been that a commitment to the defensive end of the floor can make up for a slow offensive night. And the big men won't have to score a lot of points; just defend and hit the boards. Guys like Austin and Pearson are talented enough to score on a regular basis and if they do that, look out for Manhattan.
Team Stats (conference ranking in parentheses)
PPG: 69.3 (6th)
PPG allowed: 71.2 (6th)
FG%: 42.7% (7th)
FG% defense: 47.5% (10th)
3PT%: 35.3% (6th)
3PT% defense: 38.2% (10th)
FT%: 66.3% (7th)
Rebound margin: -2.0 (8th)
Assist/TO ratio: 0.79 (7th)