Drawing Durant Comparisons, Pelle Visits Iona | Zagsblog
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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.
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Tuesday / June 25.
  • Drawing Durant Comparisons, Pelle Visits Iona

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    Norvel Pelle, the onetime St. John’s signee who is now being compared to Kevin Durant by his brother, visited Iona for two days this week but remains uncommitted.

    The 7-foot Pelle visited Iona Monday and Tuesday and would be arguably their most highly touted player ever should he choose the Gaels.

    “He’s definitely worked on a lot of skill-sets that we were focusing a lot on film, dribbling the basketball, shooting and playing more like a guard,” Rambo Rasheed, Pelle’s older brother, told SNY.tv Wednesday by phone. “So he looks way more like a guard now. Comparing more him toward a ‘KD’ instead of a ‘KG [Kevin Garnett],’ you know?”

    If Pelle were to choose Iona, one league source said, “He would be the best player in MAAC history.”

    Rasheed said West Virginia, Arkansas, Fresno State and “a few other schools” were in the mix but no other visits have yet been set.

    Still, the Iona visit with head coach Tim Cluess and associate head coach Jared Grasso made an impression.

    “We’re still trying to figure out what’s going on after this, but the visit went well,” Rasheed said.

    “They said they want him to come in and be the face of Iona as well as possibly being able to get out of here in one year [to the NBA]. He could be, if not the best player in the nation, definitely the top three or top five.”

    Rasheed said his brother was on track to becoming academically eligible.

    “We’re almost set with everything now,” he said.

    Added the MAAC source: “He’s getting there.”

    Pelle was one of three St. John’s players declared academically ineligible by the NCAA last fall — Amir Garrett and JaKarr Sampson were the others. Garrett arrived at St. John’s at midseason and Sampson will finally play this fall after spending a postgraduate year at Brewster (N.H.) Academy.

    Pelle finally decommitted from St. John’s last November and the source said he “soured” on St. John’s after the NCAA ruling.

    Pelle initially turned up at the Phelps School in Malvern, Pa., but didn’t stay there long. He ended up back home in California playing with Rasheed and the Los Angeles-based Buckets Academy AAU program, of which Rasheed is vice president.

    “He’s been working very hard trying to get his school work together,” Rasheed said. “And his game is looking great. He’s shooting 3’s, pullups, he’s handling the ball great. He’s a major athlete, so he’s doing a lot of amazing stuff with the basketball.”


    Iona also recently landed a commitment from 6-7, 235-pound wing Chris Cantino of Palm Beach (Fla.) Community College.

    “Iona is a perfect place for me on offense,” he said by text. “Coach told me I will be able to play my game and most coaches want to just stick me in the paint. I’m a three man with four skills. I will bring rebounding and scoring inside and out. I’m excited for my opportunity to be a Gael and ready to turn up and go back in the [NCAA] Tournament.”

    Cantino also held offers from Cal State-Northridge, South Alabama, Xavier, Rhode Island and Northern Arizona.

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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.

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