Manhattan's Devon Austin Has Back Surgery, Senior Season May Be Over

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIFebruary 5, 2009

On Tuesday, word spread that Devon Austin underwent arthroscopic back surgery. Austin was troubled by a disk in his back, and was forced to ride the bench in games against Niagara and Marist before deciding that surgery was his best option.

Austin, now a senior, is the last remaining player from the Bobby Gonzalez era who stuck through the difficult transition to the Barry Rohrssen era—an era that Jasper fans hope will be ephemeral, but that is besides the point.

The point is that Austin’s career at Manhattan could possibly be over. It is truly a shame to see a player, who has been so devoted to his team, play what could be his last game without knowing it could be his last time suiting up in green and white.

Coach Rohrssen hopes that Austin will be cleared to play by the end of the season. However, there are only seven games left before the MAAC Tournament, leaving Austin with about a month to recover from the operation.

If, in fact, Austin will miss the remainder of the season, the senior’s nine-point performance against Fairfield on Jan. 26 will be his last game as a Jasper.

This article goes out as a tribute to Devon Austin, a hard-working leader who experienced (some of) the highs of Manhattan basketball as well as the difficulties.

Manhattan fans were ecstatic when they heard the news that Bobby Gonzalez received a verbal commitment from Austin, the 6′6″ star of White Plains High School’s basketball team.

Austin was not nationally ranked, but Big East schools, such as Pittsburgh, Saint John’s, and West Virginia all saw the small forward’s potential. Luckily, Gonzalez was able to beat out the bigger schools and to convince Austin to stay close to home and play for a school with recent success.

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On a stacked Manhattan team as a freshman, Austin did not see too much action until sophomore standout C.J. Anderson was put on academic probation. Austin got his first career start in a 19 point loss to Rider in which he only scored seven points. However, he found his rhythm shortly after, scoring 15 against Fairfield and 20 against Siena.

After his strong freshman season, Austin seemed to be living up to the hype. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in a minimal 22 minutes per game. His three-point percentage of 36 percent fit in perfectly with Gonzalez’s upbeat offense.

Then, Bobby Gonzalez abandoned ship and headed to Seton Hall.

Austin averaged 12.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game—both are career-highs—as a sophomore. Improvement was apparent and Manhattan fans thought that Austin would carry the young, new-look Jaspers back to the top of the MAAC.

Well, they were mediocre in Rohrssen’s first season, but Austin’s level of play had reached its peak and Rohrssen did not do a sufficient job of improving his new players. The Jaspers only finished 10-8 in MAAC play in Austin’s sophomore season, and they slipped well below .500 in 2007-08 with a 5-13 conference record.

Austin, who was once thought of as a steal from the Big East, did not continue to imporve. In fact, his statistics declined as his tentativeness on the court increased. Austin was always a reliable three-point shooter, but he stopped looking for his shot as a junior. Even if he realized that he was the star of the team, he didn’t put his status into action.

This probably was not Austin’s fault. None of Rohrssen’s players have steadily enhanced their game during the coach’s three year tenure at Manhattan. Also, Rohrssen runs a slower offense that condemns shots early in the shot clock.

Austin was probably just being a good listener when he elected to pass instead of shoot, but that is one reason why the Jaspers have struggled to reach the height that they were at under Gonzalez.

This year, Austin willingly accepted his role on the team—the role of being the third leading scorer behind Chris Smith and Darryl Crawford. He only reached the 20-point mark twice this season, and he scored in double-digits in all but seven games this season.

There is no doubt in my mind that Austin could have averaged 20 points per game this season under the proper coaching. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fortunate enough to spend all four of his collegiate seasons under Bobby Gonzalez. Barry Rohrssen definitely hindered Austin’s improvement.

Even though he didn’t reach his full potential, Austin was a delight to watch for four seasons. Whether he was draining a deep three-pointer from the left corner, swishing an off-the-dribble jumpshot, or rocking the rim on a contested dunk, Austin’s play was always appreciated by Jasper fans.

It’s going to be weird sitting in the bleachers at Draddy Gymnasium without hearing, “Your 6′6″ senior from White Plains High School, No. 23, Devon Austin,” during the lineup announcements.

It’s going to be bizarre sitting through an entire game without hearing, “Three-point basket from Devon Austin.”

Hopefully the doctors will clear Austin for the conference tournament.

With that, here’s to a speedy recovery. We all hope to see you don the Jasper green and white again.

It will be a shame if Austin does not recover by the end of the season. As coach Rohrssen stated, “It’s not the way you want to see the kid go out.”