Team-first, stronger Brown readies new era at Manhattan

Team-first, stronger Brown readies new era at Manhattan
Photo by Kendall Rodriguez

Peter Wehye noticed a difference in Rhamel Brown the moment he laid eyes on him this summer. The former East New York Transit Tech forward had finished his first year playing basketball at Manhattan College and was back for a second season with Wehye’s X-Men team at Rucker Park’s Entertainer’s Basketball Classic.

“When you saw him walk in the door you saw the physical difference immediately,” Wehye said. “Once he played, we saw it automatically.”

Brown was always strong, but now he was more chiseled and solid after going through a strength and conditioning program at the Riverdale school. His time with the Jaspers added confidence to his game on both ends of the floor and a greater assertiveness. His improved conditioning allows him to play more minutes.

Wehye said Brown is rebounding better, challenging shots more effectively and is more comfortable with the ball in his hands.

“He specializes in blocking shots and rebounding,” the coach said. “Now he is finishing.”

In the X-Men’s convincing 81-58 win last Tuesday over Team Posse at Gaucho’s Gym, Brown finished off a few dunks, but the most telling example of his improvement came in the first half. He caught the ball at the top of the key, took one strong dribble, took the contact and finished between two defenders for a 3-point play.

“I’m extending my abilities, trying not to be one-dimensional,” the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Brown said. “The more dimensions to your game you have, the harder you are to guard.”

He was a major contributor for the Jaspers and former coach Barry Rohrssen as a freshman. Brown was the best shot blocker in the city as a senior at Transit Tech as he led the Express to their first ever PSAL Class AA semifinals.

He averaged 6.7 points and 7.1 rebounds playing in all 31 games and starting 25 at Manhattan. He posted consecutive double-doubles back on January, including 10 points and 11 rebounds in a loss to Canisius. Brown also had 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in a season-ending defeat to Siena in the opening round of the MAAC Championships.

Brown mentioned helping the Jaspers shut down the University of Pennsylvania late in an early season win as the moment he realized he could make a considerable impact. Despite the strong core of local talent that includes All Hallows alum Michael Alvarado, Kidani Brutus of Wings and Roslyn’s George Beamon, Manhattan finished a disappointing 6-25 and Rohrssen was fired. There is now an enthusiasm around the program for new head man Steve Masiello, a former assistant at Louisville and Manhattan.

“I think he rubs off on a lot of guys,” Brown said of Masiello. “He motivates everyone to work hard. The expectations are very high. We are going to do whatever it takes to live up to our expectations.”

He isn’t setting any individual expectations for himself next season only to do whatever is needed to put Manhattan in the win column. It’s exactly what he’s done for the X-Men this summer as they are a victory against one of streetball’s most famed teams awat from accomplishing their goal of putting their names with the city’s top squads.

“It’s a tough tournament,” Brown said. “It’s an honor to win any of the top tournaments in New York City.”