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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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Friday / July 12.
  • Iona Thriving Thanks to Influx of Transfers, And More Are on the Way

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    Iona College is less than 60 miles from Rutgers University, and the former now stands to benefit tremendously from what recently transpired at the latter.

    With five Rutgers players transferring following the Mike Rice firing, Iona could end up landing two of them — or 40 percent.

    Junior wing Mike Poole has already declared his intentions to play for Iona coach Tim Cluess, and sophomore big man Derrick Randall of The Bronx will visit the Iona campus Saturday.

    As previously reported here, all of the Rutgers transfers could wind up getting waivers to play immediately next season.

    “All of the players who transferred into Iona have countless opportunities to excel on and off the court,” Nate Blue, Poole’s mentor, told SNY.tv. “Poole hopes to follow in the path of Mike Glover, Lamont “Momo” Jones and Tavon Sledge.”

    Thanks to a roster fueled by big-time transfers like those, Iona has made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. The Gaels won the MAAC Tournament championship this past March.

    A Long Island native and Hofstra alum, Cluess was courted by Hofstra after Mo Cassara was fired, but opted to remain and re-up in New Rochelle.

    With Jones graduating, Cluess is now moving forward with a roster that includes transfers Sledge (Iowa State), David Laury (Western Kentucky/ JUCO), Tre Bowman (Penn State) and former Marshall pledges Kelvin Amayo and Isaiah Williams.

    The 6-5 Poole, and potentially, the 6-8 Randall — both New York City natives — could now join that mix.

    “I kind of think kids deserves second chances and sometimes you get a kid who’s a little bit hungry because they’re looking for that second opportunity,” Cluess told SNY.tv.

    “And I think when you find a kid with an edge, you usually get a kid that’s going to compete harder and work harder at his game. Sometimes it helps you fill a need during ¬†that period of time when maybe you don’t have anyone in that spot, rather than somebody who’s young and you have to wait a couple of years if he’s not ready yet. If you can find a kid who’s a good kid and is disciplined and works hard to fit in academically, athletically and socially with the team you have, it can be a good mix.”

    Iona isn’t the only school benefitting from the Rutgers situation, to be sure.

    Florida landed guard Eli Carter, the team’s leading scorer, and Auburn picked up guard Jerome Seagears.

    “Florida just got a transfer from Rutgers and so did Auburn so I think everyone’s looking at an opportunity,” Cluess said. “Does that player fit your style and does that player fit your need because if you’re bringing in a transfer or junior college kid, they have fit your style and need right away in order to make it worth their while to have a productive player and a happy player.”

    But Cluess’ philosophy lends itself to adding players who chose to leave Rutgers.

    He said he learned the philosophy while playing at St. John’s for legendary coach Lou Carnesecca.

    “I played for a coach at St. John’s who did that and saw how it worked for them way back then,” Cluess said. “He would bring in transfers every year. During the time I was there, we had three on our team, Curtis Redding, Reggie Carter and Bernard Rencher all came in. Those are the three that were high-level transfers.”

    There is a downside to adding transfers, Cluess said.

    “The downside is you’re re-teaching things very often to a larger group,” he said. “You’re not going to have those guys there for four years, so there is something special about a kid who can last in this program for four years. I think they know what you’re doing and it becomes very instinctual for them.

    “But again it’s more about the kid than it is where he’s coming from because you can bring a freshman in and he be a great kid and you can bring a freshman in who could be a problem. And it’s same thing with transfers and junior college players, you have to pick each kid individually.”

    From where Blue sits having watched other transfers succeed at Iona, the philosophy seems to be working.

    “The coaching staff at Iona really loves basketball and you sense it when speaking to each one of them,” he said.

    “They want to graduate you, make you a better player and let you have fun, all while making it to the NCAA Tournament.”

     

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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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