Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Iona coach Tim Cluess believes Lamont “Momo” Jones will be a difference-maker as soon as he steps on the floor for the Gaels.
And he hopes that happens in 2011 instead of 2012.
“He can bring a high level of leadership and talent to our team, toughness, a guard who can play at a pace that we like to play,” Cluess said Thursday in his first public comments since SNY.tv broke the news of Jones’ transfer from Arizona. “He has a New York swagger to him.”
Iona has already begun the process of applying to the NCAA for a hardship waiver for the 6-foot Jones, whose grandmother lives in Harlem and is battling a liver ailment.
“My grandmother is going through chemo right now so just getting back to come see her whenever I can see her is real special to me because we don’t know how much longer it is that she’s really going to be here going through that stuff,” Jones said last year in a video produced by Arizona entitled “Home in Harlem.”
Added Cluess: “She went on chemotheraphy last year. It was supposed to be a six-month protocol but they had to pull her off of it because she almost died from the treatments. But now she’s in a stage where they’re just getting her strength back to kind of recover from the treatments before they decide whether it’s going to be chemo or something different from that.”
If Iona obtains the hardship waiver for Jones, he would be able to suit up for the 2011-12 season. If not, he would have to sit out a year and would be eligible in 2012.
A New York tabloid initially reported that Jones would definitely land at St. John’s, and one national pundit put his reputation on the line backing that report.
Yet in choosing Iona over Big East and other BCS schools, Cluess believes Jones showed how appealing the MAAC school is.
“It’s a statement about our program being on the rise and that players want to play our style and want to be a part of what we’re doing here,” Cluess said.
Jones averaged 9.7 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 38 appearances as a sophomore at Arizona.
His addition to an Iona team that reached the MAAC championship game before losing to St. Peter’s should be a huge bonus. The Gaels already return top scorers junior forward Mike Glover (18.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg), junior guard Scott Machado (13.2 ppg, 7.6 apg) sophomore guard Kyle Smyth (10.1 ppg) and junior guard Jermel Jenkins (9.2 ppg)
“I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team,” Cluess said. “With him, I think it elevates to another level. Without him, I still think we have a chance to be very good.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.