Monday, May 2, 2011

Off-Season Report: Jasper Men Moving Up

Here's another in the series examining conference programs.

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 3-15 in conference play, 6-25 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: Much happened on and off the court, dating as far back as preseason, so let's begin there. What looked like a preseason of promise took on a three-pronged hit that began when incoming players Robert Colonette, a 6-7 junior forward and junior college transfer from ASA Institute in Brooklyn; and, 6-6 freshman forward Torgrim Sommerfeldt suffered season-ending injuries without either playing a game. Colonette was an impressive post performer in preseason drills, while Sommerfeldt, originally recruited by Wake Forest, was expected to have an offensive impact with his long-range shooting skills. And, then, 6-8 Alabama transfer Demetrius Jemison, missed the first semester due to a paperwork snafu. If that wasn't enough, two of the team's top four players were freshmen (point guard Mike Alvarado and 6-6 forward Rhamel Brown), and another was a JC transfer (Kidani Brutus). It created chemistry issues, and more of those came when Jemison eventually joined the team at midseason. Still, there were some positive signs. Sophomore George Beamon (16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) looked like a future MAAC scoring champion, Alvarado looked like he'll become an impact point guard and Brown was an effective post player (7.1 rebounds). Jemison was also effective (10.4, 8.6), but he was a grad student and the semester of play completed his college eligibility. Improvement was noticeable as the season progressed as the Jaspers were within nine points or less in seven of their last nine losses, including a hard-fought 68-66 overtime loss to Siena in the play-in round of the conference tournament. But, things didn't end there. All-time nice guy coach Barry Rohrssen was fired and there were several published reports that indicated there wasn't unanimous agreement among school administrators about the move. Rohrssen was replaced by Louisville assistant Steve Masiello, the school's second choice for the position (LIU head coach Jim Ferry turned down an offer). And, then, three of the four recruits who had signed to play under Rohrssen have opted to rescind that commitment.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Strong play by Jemison, after he became eligible; a standout sophomore season by Beamon, who became one of the conference's better players on the offensive end of the court; the year-long development of freshmen Alvarado and Brown, both of whom should take another step forward this coming season. Some late-season improvement that, theortically, should carry into the coming year, although a transition to a new coach raises minor questions about that. Even though Ferry turned down an offer, Masiello, by all accounts, should be a good hire. It's always tough to tell about assistants moving into the lead chair, which was Rohrssen's situation, too. But Masiello has a reputation as a great recruiter and hard worker. But, for that matter, so did Rohrssen. But even as Rohrssen was fighting to retain his job in the final weeks of the season the program was showing improvement and there was much optimism for the future.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The preseason losses of Colonette and Sommerfeldt, along with Jemison's delayed eligibility, created some holes in the ship that couldn't be plugged. When Jemison moved into the starting lineup, it meant the only starter with Division I experience prior to the 2010-11 season was Beamon, who came off the bench the previous year. Had Colonette and Sommerfeldt been healthy ... it might have meant at least a few more victories, at least, for the Jaspers. A 12- or 13-win season and we're probably talking about Rohrssen retaining his job. But, Rohrssen's departure cost the program its top three signed recruits, including 6-10 forward Edison Avila and 6-4 guard Zach Lamb, the brother of UConn standout Jeremy Lamb. The season did start with two victories (over NJIT and Penn), but that was followed by 15 straight losses. Still, there was considerable resiliency and Manhattan was 4-10 after that with four of the losses by one or two p0ints.

WHAT'S AHEAD: If Rohrssen's recruiting class all honored their initial commitments, the coming season might have been the start of a significant resurgence for the program for years to come. Even without them, though, the coming season should be marked by considerable improvement as returning starters Beamon, Brutus, Brown and Alvarado all return as quality players with an additional year of experience. If Colonette and Sommerfeldt are healthy and contribute as expected, that's six quality players and Manhattan will certainly be poised to at least contend for the upper half of the MAAC standings. But, depth will be a factor and, as of early May, Masiello had yet to secure a single recruit. That, though, will change and any quality newcomer could sneak into the playing group and solve the depth concern. The problem, though, is that right now, with only one incoming new player (6-7 forward Ryan McCoy of Montgomery, N.J., H.S.). Two months from now the expectation is that Masiello will have added a couple more quality pieces. But, that hasn't happened yet.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Provided Colonette and Sommerfeldt are healthy and can contribute as expected, there's reason for optimism. Any team with a solid inside player (Brown), a standout point guard (Alvarado) and a gifted scorer (Beamon) has a nice recipe for success. Now, it's just a matter of assembling the supporting pieces, and the inside presence of Colonette could be another nice piece. If all goes well the Jaspers could easily get up to fourth or fifth place. But, that's no certainty yet.

1 comment:

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