While summers are usually reserved for recruiting with an eye towards the future, for Steve Masiello it was a very different summer.
The two most important recruits he could bring in to defend his two straight MAAC tournament titles were already on the roster in the form of tournament MVP Ashton Pankey and senior RaShawn Stores. Manhattan received good news on July 22 when they learned that Stores had received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. It was the culmination of a process where they had prepared two waivers and moved forward with one for the 5’11” point guard who averaged 6.3 ppg last season.
“It’s something for us that really is a game changer,” Masiello said. “RaShawn is every intangible there is, everything that winning teams have he’s responsible for and for us I didn’t know where we were going to get that from.”
There was a time when the Jaspers considered trying to get both Pankey and Stores back, but the 6’10” Maryland transfer that led the Jaspers to the NCAA tournament had to weigh professional options.
“There was money on the table,” Masiello said. “You got to take emotion out of it and you have to do what is best for the young man.”
”We made some calculated decisions and I think we got a little lucky. We made some good decisions because we kind of guessed right it seems.”
Pankey signed with the Hapoel Galil Club in Israel over the summer, while Emmy Andujar joined Forca Lleida in Spain.
That guess was that their waiver for Stores would be fulfilled and would change their prospects for the upcoming season. Since they found out the decision as late as they did, Stores was unable to practice with the team during summer workouts. Even though he missed that part of the summer having him back is tantamount to adding a major piece as late as it was.
“People kept asking when are you going to recruit a point guard, I said ‘listen the best recruit is RaShawn Stores,’ no disrespect to any high school kid,” Masiello said. “I’m not getting anyone better than RaShawn Stores, so I got to go after the best player I can get and that was RaShawn Stores. It’s funny how things work out and that worked out for us.”
For a group that was expected to return Shane Richards as their only senior, the addition of Stores should help a younger group mature in plenty of ways.
“RaShawn is going to grab guys and lead guys and put them in the right spots,” Masiello said. “He just makes everyone look better.”
“I’m not trying to put too much pressure on him or make this bigger than it is because his numbers aren’t overwhelming, but I’m just telling you that guy – there’s a reason we’ve been in three straight championship games and a big big part of that has been RaShawn Stores.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.