It’s still about five months before Manhattan tips off the 2017-18 college basketball season, but judging by its newly-assembled recruiting class, it looks as though the Jaspers have already posted their first victory.
Last week, Jaspers’ head coach Steve Masiello finalized his five-man newcomer class for the upcoming season.
It is a versatile group Masiello thinks will go a long way toward restoring Manhattan to title-contender status in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“I’m very happy with this class,” Masiello said. “I think they are very good players, obviously, or we wouldn’t have recruited them. But I love their personalities, I love how coachable they are, and I love how hungry they are.”
There’s a good mix of size and scoring heading to Riverdale in the fall with three of the new recruits checking in at 6-foot-7 or taller, while a pair of guards should help the Jaspers improve on an offense that ranked ninth in the 11-team MAAC last season.
The class is led by Pauly Paulicap, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward who spent last season at Harcum College. Joining Paulicap up front will be 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward Ebube Ebube and 6-foot-9, 250-pound center Warren Williams. Each fits a specific need for the team, Masiello said.
“It came down to, ‘Ok, can this guy score with his back to the basket?’” Masiello said.
“And we got that in Warren Williams. He’s a guy we can throw it into and get a bucket.”
Williams averaged 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks last season playing for New Jersey powerhouse St. Benedict’s High.
“Then it got down to, ‘Do we have a guy who can block shots and rebound and do all the dirty work?” Masiello said. “A real blue-collar guy. And I think we got that in Pauly Paulicap.”
Paulicap averaged 9.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in leading the Trojans to a 22-9 record last season.
“Then we looked to see if we have a guy who can play multiple positions with a high (basketball) IQ that’s also a matchup problem,” Masiello said. “And that’s Ebube. He’s long and he’s a lefty that can shoot it or post it. He can do a lot of things and play multiple positions.”
Ebube averaged 13.1 points and 9.1 boards for Episcopal High School last season, and led the Maroons to a 25-4 record and a Virginia state championship.
While those additions will surely help the Jaspers in rebounding and on the defensive end, an influx of offense was sorely needed after Manhattan averaged 70.6 points last season, better than only Marist and St. Peter’s in the conference. Masiello thinks he remedied that situation with the signings of 6-foot-5 guard Patrick Strzala and 6-foot-1 guard Nehemiah “Bud” Mack.
“I said, ‘OK, do we have a guy who can score the ball in bunches for us? Anyone who can really get us going and help us space the floor?’” Masiello said.
“And I think Patrick will bring that to us.”
Strzala averaged a robust 26.3 points a game last season at Bayonne High School, along with 11 double-doubles.
“Then I thought we got a really good old-school basketball player in Bud who is a guy with a really high IQ who can really shoot the ball and knows the game,” Masiello said.
Mack scored nearly 1,200 points in his three-year career at Susquehanna Township High School in Pennsylvania prior to spending last season at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia.
“I think these guys will really help our basketball team,” Masiello said. “We return a great six or seven players in (Zavier) Turner, (Rich) Williams, (Aaron) Walker, (Zane) Waterman, (Calvin) Crawford and (Tom) Capuano, and these guys will complement what we already have.
“I really wanted to get guys to put around our nucleus, guys who I think will be a great supporting cast, and in a year or two, will be our next foundation.”
Masiello sees similarities between this group and one he recruited several years ago that went on to play in consecutive NCAA tournaments.
“I see this group in two years being the next (former Jaspers stars) George Beamon, Mike Alvarado, Emmy Andujar, Rashon Stores and Rhamel Brown group,” Masiello said.
If that’s the case, it should be a very entertaining year at Draddy Gym next season.