Despite last season’s injury-riddled 14-18 campaign, things are looking up for the Manhattan basketball program. Having to augment their style of play due to those significant personnel losses (the biggest one being leading scorer George Beamon), Steve Masiello’s Jaspers still managed to reach the title game of the MAAC tournament.
Now healthy, expectations are high for Manhattan as they (along with rival Iona) are seen as contenders for the MAAC title in 2013-14. That optimism has spread to the recruiting trail as well, as Manhattan entered Sunday with three verbal commitments in the 2014 class. That number has moved to four, as according to multiple outlets 6-7 forward Zane Waterman verbally committed to attend Manhattan on Sunday.
Waterman took an official visit to Manhattan over the weekend, and according to Bret Stretlow of the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer Waterman also spent some time with Brooklyn Nets rookie Mason Plumlee while in the Big Apple. Waterman joins guard Samson Usilo and forwards Calvin Crawford and Samson Akilo in Manhattan’s 2014 recruiting haul.
As a junior at Fayetteville Academy, Waterman averaged 25.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game on a team that finished the 2012-13 season with an 18-9 record. He’ll join a deep front court in 2014, as the Jaspers lose just one member of their rotation at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign. But to be fair that one departure is a major piece, as Rhamel Brown established himself as the MAAC’s best defensive player (and an underrated commodity nationally, as well).
Manhattan adds Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey to the rotation this season, along with 6-9 freshman Carlton Allen. And at small forward the Jaspers have plenty of experience, with juniors Emmy Andujar and Donovan Cates and sophomore Shane Richards all having eligibility remaining after this season.
Manhattan made their last NCAA tournament appearance in 2004, when they knocked off Florida and then fell to Wake Forest by four with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Given the work Masiello and his staff have done both on the floor and on the recruiting trail, that streak could come to an end in the near future provided the Jaspers remain healthy.
After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.
Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.
With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.
As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.
At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.
Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.
University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.
Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.
In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”
Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.
STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.
Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.
She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Forward V.J. Beachem has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will return to Notre Dame for his senior season.
Beachem made the announcement Sunday night on Twitter, writing that he was thankful for the opportunity to experience the NBA draft process and invitations to work out for teams, “but now I’m ready to lead [Notre Dame]. #IMBACK.”
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.0 points and 3.9 rebounds as the Irish finished 24-12. He was at his best in the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 17.5 points as the Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for a second straight year.
Coach Mike Brey sent a Tweet saying he was thrilled Beachem will return.