- Last Updated: 8:27 AM, December 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:06 AM, December 1, 2012
COURTING THE AREA
Manhattan coach Steve Masiello entered his second season returning all five starters after leading the biggest turnaround in Division I last season. The Jaspers were picked to finish second in the MAAC in the preseason coaches poll, but will only go as far as George Beamon takes them.
Masiello had a good idea what he would get on the court from the senior swingman, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, but the coach needed more than his best player’s smooth shooting. He needed Beamon’s voice.
And a summer spent watching film of Kobe Bryant helped bring it out.
“We didn’t watch necessarily his basketball film, but how he is in the locker room, with his teammates, trainers, coaches, and I told him, ‘That’s the kind of leader I want you to be,’ ” Masiello said. “I said, ‘George, if you see something you don’t like, I want you holding them accountable. I want you talking to me about what you see. I want you pushing everyone. I could tell them to do something and they’re going to listen, but when it comes from you it has a lot more of an impact.’
“His mentality has really changed. I think there’s a noticeable change to his leadership and how he conducts himself.”
The difference in Beamon’s demeanor on the court has only been trumped by the team’s difference in play since he returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him the first two games of the season. With Beamon, Manhattan (2-3) has won two of three games, and he claimed MAAC Player of the Week honors after averaging 24 points on 64 percent shooting.
Even as Fordham keyed in on Beamon during Thursday’s 65-58 Jaspers victory, holding him to 10 points, Masiello beamed with pride seeing a player contributing beyond the box score, while the senior soaked in nights that are becoming increasingly rare.
“I’m definitely trying to enjoy everything a little more and I’m trying to lead the younger guys because I know they need that,” said Beamon, a Roslyn, N.Y. native. “I’m just getting behind them and keeping them focused academically and on the court. Not just by example, but telling them what to do and where to be.”
Beamon and Masiello both acknowledged the trust between the coach and players is still developing through the season, Masiello’s first with the Jaspers, but that boundary is broken. The system works.
Now, the biggest hurdle Manhattan faces in chasing its first conference championship since 2004 is the weight of heightened expectations, or as the coach put it, “the team has to be ready to take some punches in the face.”
Having been on a team that won only six games his sophomore season, Beamon said the team doesn’t feel any pressure. This wasn’t a given. This is opportunity.
“It was embarrassing not winning any games,” Beamon said. “To overcome this is huge. I’m just so excited about this year. I’m going to give it my all because it can be taken from you at any time. I kind of saw that and that woke me up.”
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Bucknell at Columbia (Tonight, 7 p.m.)
After losses at San Francisco and at LIU Brooklyn, the Lions return home with a chance to knock off one of the top teams in the Patriot League. Columbia will need senior Mark Cisco to follow up his recent 18-point, 13-rebound outing, going up against Bucknell big man Mike Muscala, the Bisons’ leading scorer and rebounder.
Wagner at Hofstra (Tuesday, 7 p.m.)
Hofstra is 3-0 at home, but will have difficulty against a Wagner defense holding teams to just 38.5 percent shooting from the field, roughly the Pride’s average. The greater challenge in the game, and potentially the season, comes with the suspension of four Pride players, including starters Shaquille Stokes and Jimmy Hall.
Iona at St. Peter’s (Wednesday, 7 p.m.)
The Peacocks will need to slow down the high-flying Gaels in order to pull the upset. After an impressive 3-0 start, St. Peter’s has lost three straight and is scoring just 60.7 points per game, while Iona is averaging 83 points, led by guards Lamont “Momo” Jones (23.0 ppg) and Sean Armand (20.6 ppg).