Iona made the NCAA tournament last season, but now the hard part begins. Tim Cluess returns just four players from last season’s team that lost to BYU in the first round. But he’s reloading with junior college players, transfers and a few freshmen in an effort to keep the momentum going next season.
Only two Iona’s nine incoming recruits are freshmen. The Gaels will once again be a veteran team that is designed to compete with the top of the MAAC for a title. Looking at the recruits’ profiles the traits Cluess and his staff are searching for are obvious. You can expect to see more running and gunning in New Rochelle next season. Here’s a breakdown of Iona’s projected rotation.
Even though Scott Machado is off to the NBA this is the still the strength of Iona’s roster. The talented, but streaky, Momo Jones returns to lead the show. He’ll be backed up by DaShawn Gomez, a 6’2″ point guard from Inglewood, California. One of the best recruits in this class can’t play this season. Tavon Sledge is a dynamic transfer from Iowa State but will have to sit out 2012-13. When he’s eligible next season he should fit right into Cluess’ run-and-gun system.
Sean Armand will probably be the starter at shooting guard this season. He proved what an incredible scorer he can be last season and should have even more shots – and more attention from opponents – in 2012-13. He’ll have some help though from incoming transfer Curtis Dennis. Dennis, who is transferring in from Toledo, is immediately eligible because the school is suffering from APR related penalties. Last season with the Rockets he had a 112.8 offensive rating while using 22.4% of Toledo’s possessions. (That’s really good, especially because Toledo was decidedly average on offense in general.) He also played strong defense, and was amongst the national leaders in steal rate. He’s going to make a huge impact in his lone season with the Gaels.
Three other newcomers are also going to get a chance to earn a chance to play because Kyle Smyth transferred to Seton Hall. Brandon Parga’s work last season at Citrus College reminds me a lot of Smyth. Parga isn’t too athletic, but he shot 44.8% on 116 threes last season and 82.2% from the line. He needs to get better with the ball after putting up a negative assist-to-turnover ratio last season. (Full season stats.)
Then there are the two freshmen. Grant Ellis sounds like a great fit for Iona’s system. He’s a good athlete that excels in transition and can shoot the three. He was also pursued by Manhattan. A.J. English is a talented shooter with NBA bloodlines who could eventually develop into an Armand clone. With all the experience on the roster though they’ll both have to work hard just to get on the court.
Mike Glover and Randy Dezouvre are playing professionally now, so there are big holes to fill up front. Taaj Ridley should be a starter, but until mid-season, when David Laury is eligible, the team will be a little thin up front. Consequently, returning senior Nyandigisi Moikobu should get more run this season.
One newcomer who should also take advantage is DeSean Anderson. A face-up four from Inglewood, CA – and a former teammate of Gomez – he’s got the right skills to play with the Gaels. Laury is another talented player and was originally recruited by Massachusetts before failing to qualify academically. He scored 16.2 points per game and shot 60% from the field at Lamar State. Expect Laury to play big minutes once he’s eligible after the first semester.
The final recruit, Michael Haynes, seems like he’ll be a little more of a project. Haynes shot better from the field last season than the free throw line (47% vs. 45%). He did average 4.5 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game. Indian Hills Community College, where he played his junior college season, is a well-known program. He’s only a sophomore, so Haynes will have time to develop.
Of course by the time the Gaels might be reloading again.