It is hard to not stare at the last two Iona teams and understand how much of a fixture David Laury was.
In his senior year, Laury won MAAC Player of the Year and helped the Gaels to their second straight regular season championship. This year head coach Tim Cluess will have to work to replace what the senior brought, who ranked third in scoring, second in rebounding and 10th in assists.
The one discernible difference in this version of the Gaels will be their size. In working to replace the MAAC Player of the Year, the Gaels add James Madison transfer Taylor Bessic, JUCO transfer Jordan Washington as well as Wake Forest graduate transfer Aaron Rountree, who are all 6’8” or taller.
“We have a bigger team,” senior A.J. English said. “We feel like the size is just the difference. I mean, it’s still going to be the same Iona basketball, coach Cluess is still always going to coach the same way and just want to get up and down the court and make a lot of three’s. The height of the team is way bigger than the other teams I played on so far.”
They will also return even more size in Isaiah Williams, who missed 12 games last season in the middle of conference play with a foot injury, the 6’7” forward scored 13.3 ppg and made 44.2% of his three-pointers.
“He’s a difference maker for us, we were fortunate to win games without him last year,” Cluess said. “We really need him because he is our heart and soul.”
Cluess said he hopes that they will be able to be a better defensive team this season after ranking 10th of 11 MAAC teams in scoring defense (73.3 ppg).
“I think we have guys with a bigger passion on the defensive end,” Cluess said. “I think that’s going to be the change in us, I don’t know if we’ll score as many points, but I think we’ll be a better defensive team.”
The head coach, entering his sixth season with the Gaels, has asked English to work on his defense and envisions a team that can improve on the defensive end thanks to their size.
However the biggest loss by committee that they will need to fill is Laury’s void, which should be aided by the Wake Forest transfer Rountree, who has been the most impressive newcomer and has proven to be versatile.
“He can really pass the ball, love his energy, love his leadership, talks on the court, has a lot of the intangibles that we haven’t had in a while,” Cluess said. “I think he’s going to make our team better more so in what he does for every other player on the court and coaches, as oppose to the numbers he puts up. I think he’ll just make so many hustle plays: a tip here, a block there, got a little Isiaiah Williams in him with his energy level, so we’re really excited about him.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.