Manhattan’s Steve Masiello Embracing Adversity, Injuries

For an undermanned team like Manhattan, being down 14 to Fordham with just over 10 minutes remaining might not have been the worst thing on Saturday night.

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Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello (right) has struggled as his bench continues to be extremely thin.

The Jaspers, who played up six scholarship players and walk-on Matt Maloney sparingly, could not afford to lose another player. However, they lost sophomore Zane Waterman by a different variety with 10:35 remaining in the game.

With Fordham’s Mandell Thomas streaking towards the basket, the 6’9” Waterman grabbed the senior with both his arms from behind. The referee crew instantly called for a intentional foul and, after further review, ruled Waterman’s foul a flagrant two. Thomas made both free throws to put the Rams up 16 at that point and Fordham would cruise to a 87-64 win in the Battle of the Bronx.

Waterman was ejected from the game, but will not miss the Jaspers’ MAAC opener at Siena on Friday night since the ejection did not involve fighting. However, it was just another blow to a team that came into their Wednesday night game with five scholarship players. They pulled out a dramatic home win over George Mason, but could not manage to keep up with Fordham. They returned Carlton Allen, who started, but managed four points and one rebound in six minutes of action.

With all the injuries it has been hard for Masiello and his Jaspers to assess their first four games, yet he has embraced their current predicament. As he roamed the bench in the game’s final minute, talking to the bench, his message was clear.

“I told the guys, as Fordham was dribbling the clock out, remember this,” Masiello said. “It’s like Iona’s 70-67 three years ago, remember it. Let this be the fuel, when we come back in January because one thing I do like is, let us get angry about that, let us get mad about this. I think that’s great. I don’t shy away from that. I want them to feel this, I want them to feel the pain, because this is going to be our motivation come January and February.”

January might be the first time when the Jaspers have enough players to succeed in Masiello’s up and down style. Manhattan played seven players on Saturday night and struggled to sustain their up and down effort through the game.

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Manhattan junior Rich Williams led the Jaspers with 24 points against Fordham.

“We’re competing for 16, 17, 15, 14, 18, 25 minutes and then we’ll run out of gas,” Masiello said. “I don’t want to say this arrogantly, when you get a lot of credit for playing hard, which I think we have done over the years, it’s tough to tell guys don’t play hard to save yourself when you’ve taken two years just to get that foundation up.”

Not having enough players on the floor is one problem, but it also seeps in practice, where the head coach said they have not been able to field a practice in 12 days. They have six players ready for practice and Masiello admitted he brought in recent graduate Rhamel Brown to come in as a practice body. He said he will wait for the trainers to tell him when players are ready to go, but he hopes to slowly get players back as they hit the next few weeks.

“I think RaShawn [Stores] and [Ak] Ojo could be this weekend, I’m hoping,” Masiello said of when they could possibly return. The Jaspers open conference play Friday at Siena. “I think Calvin [Crawford] could be in January situation, Sammy Usilo I’m not sure about. It is what it is and then the other thing is guys come back and it’s not 100 (percent), now do you want to bring a guy back at 80 percent or do you sit him out for two more weeks.”

Masiello said he is trying to not adjust his style too much, but hopes that the group that he does have, even if they run into continuing tough circumstances, can use this time to draw new motivation.

“Everyone enjoy this now because when we get healthy I think we’ll be different, so everyone should enjoy this now,” Masiello said. “We’ve been on a nice run for the last couple of years here in the metropolitan area, everyone should enjoy beating us.”

“I’m not looking for any mercy or pity, but I am going to say when we get our nine or 10, I think that we’ll be the Manhattan we’re supposed to be and that’s something that I’m confident in.”

When the Jaspers return players from injury, such as RaShawn Stores who projects as their starting point guard, it should have a cascading effect that helps the inexperienced players.

“Problem is, I don’t know if I can get RaShawn Stores a 9th year of college,” Masiello said in jest. “So I think I got to get him back soon.”

Very little of Manhattan’s future this season is in his control, which for a college basketball coach, is hardly normal.

“I’ve got to worry about Manhattan and what I have to worry about is getting my team healthy as best I can, but unfortunately, it’s tough when things aren’t in your control,” Masiello said. “That’s the tough thing, it’s very vital to you and your team and your program, but you’re not in control of that and it’s a tough thing.”

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.

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