11. Manhattan (2006-07 Record: 13-17, 10-8 MAAC)
Head coach: Barry Rohrssen
Returning Starters: 4- F Devon Austin (junior): 6-6, 200; G Darryl Crawford (sophomore): 6-4, 185; G Antoine Pearson (sophomore): 6-2. 170; G Patrick Bouli (sophomore): 6-2, 185
A team that was very young in 2006-07 got a bit younger in the off-season when big man Arturo Dubois decided to transfer. His departure leaves the Jaspers with only one senior on the roster (F Franck Traore), but given last season’s youth movement that should not be the death knell for their season. The backcourt returns more than a few key cogs, including sophomores Crawford (9.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Pearson (9.5 ppg, 2.4 apg) and Bouli (6.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.7 apg). While Crawford didn’t show himself to be the best three point shooter last season, he is more than capable of putting the ball in the basket by getting to the rim. Pearson, who was also second on the team in steals last season, was named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team for his efforts in 06-07.
But neither one of these guys played as many minutes last season as Bouli, who after leading the team in steals spent the summer playing for his native Cameroon in the FIBA African Basketball Championships. Other returnees in the backcourt include sophomores Jamel Ferguson (4.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg) and Brandon Adams (3.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg). Freshman Rashad Green (North Babylon, NY) is a capable wing player who could see time at both the two and the three this season.
In the frontcourt, it will all begin with the junior Austin (12.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), a third-team All-MAAC performer who led the Jaspers in scoring even with the presence of Dubois. Austin can beat a defender either by way of a drive to the rim, or if the man sags off with a jumper. He led the team in three pointers attempted (132) and made (44), and was also second on the team in blocks (26). But he’s not the question up front, it’s the lack of experience when it comes to the guys who will have to do the banging in the paint. Franck Traore is the team’s lone senior, but he only played in nineteen games last season and saw limited playing time. This means that newcomers will have a very good chance to see significant action up front.
Redshirt freshman Laurence Jolicouer (6-9, 200) and junior college transfer Herve Banogle (6-8, 260; Cameroon) will provide some much-needed height, but Jolicouer isn’t the banger that the stronger Banogle is. Also joining the fray will be Andrew Gabriel (6-6, 210; Brooklyn, NY), but the Jaspers will look to the frontcourt (outside of Austin) for rebounding and defense more than anything else. Points will come from the perimeter players this season.
The schedule begins with three straight road games, and the non-conference slate will include games against Hofstra (November 17th), Fordham (November 28th), Princeton (December 16th) and Rutgers (December 29th). In late February, the Jaspers will join the other nine members of the MAAC in the ESPNU BracketBusters event. The conference schedule features four straight road games in January (Marist, Canisius, Niagara and Siena), and four straight home games in February (Fairfield, Canisius, Marist and Siena). The regular season ends with back-to-back road games at Fairfield and rival Iona.
2007-08 ProspectsNow while Austin was selected for second team All-MAAC honors at the conference media day, don’t be surprised to see him on the first team come season’s end. And the backcourt boasts a number of solid players who can make some waves within the league. But it’s the frontcourt and its lack of experience that could end up costing this team in the end. Picked sixth in the MAAC this season, a middle of the pack finish could be the most likely result. But get your shots in now, because another year of experience combined with Coach Rohrssen and his staff’s ability to recruit will make the Jaspers one of the teams to beat in 2008-09. It just may be a bit much to require a conference title out of them this year, however.