Manhattan wanted the ball in the hands of senior guard George Beamon throughout its magical season, so it was only natural it should be in his possession when the Jaspers clinched their first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade with a 71-68 victory against Iona last Monday night in the championship game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.
The native of Roslyn responded in a manner that has endeared him to teammates and fans. He shared the moment by heaving the ball into the stands.
Latest college sports stories
"I don't know, it was just my emotions getting the best of me," he said. "I wanted the fans to get a piece of what I felt."
As 13th-seeded Manhattan prepares to face No. 4 seed and defending national champion Louisville Thursday night in Orlando in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, perhaps only the 6-4, 175-pound Beamon can appreciate how far he has come. A handful of schools recruited him out of high school. St. John's expressed interest -- if he was willing to attend prep school first.
The Jaspers won six games when he was a freshman. There appeared to be little hope for a turnaround until Steve Masiello, a hard-driving understudy of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, arrived like a thunderbolt. His rebuilding effort culminated in a 25-7 mark this season.
Even under Masiello, Beamon faced adversity. A severe ankle injury forced him to take a medical redshirt last season. He watched helplessly as Iona edged Manhattan, 60-57, in the conference title game, knowing he might have made the difference if he had been healthy.
"It was a heartbreak for all of us," he remembered. "But we bonded together and didn't want to get that feeling again."
Even as Beamon led the team in scoring (19.2 points) and rebounding (6.6) this season, he endured some rough times with the demanding Masiello. "I don't yell at George about his play ever," the coach said. "The only thing I get on George about is his leadership, and I get on him pretty hard.
"I told him, 'George, you don't realize the impact you have on people.' I think, at times, he forgets who he is. I think the area in which he is most improved is as a leader."
Teammates appreciate his selfless nature. "Everybody talks about his scoring when that is the last thing on his mind," said Rhamel Brown, a 6-7 senior center. "He's more about rebounding and defense, everything we need to win."
Beamon emerged as the MVP of the conference tournament after being a first-team All-MAAC selection. He scored 20 or more points in 17 of his 29 games. He reached double figures in scoring and rebounding five times.
Beamon graduated last year with a degree in business management. He speaks hopefully about continuing to develop his game overseas as a way of fulfilling his NBA dream. For now, though, there is at least one more game to be played. He is living in the moment and loving it.
"I'm just ecstatic," he said.