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.
With NBA Scouts on Hand, A.J. English Shines in Iona Victory
By CHRIS RUSSELL
NEW YORK – With 18 NBA scouts on hand to watch Iona’s electrifying point guard A.J. English and power forward David Laury, the Gaels put away crosstown rival Manhattan in thrilling fashion, 70-67, in an ESPNU game on Friday at Draddy Gym.
When the game was on the line, head coach Tim Cluess looked no further than his talented junior lead guard. English connected on a contested 3-pointer, giving the Gaels a 68-65 lead with 32 seconds left. English led the Gaels with 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 6-for-9 from behind the arc in 40 minutes of action.
“As much confidence as I have in anyone,” Cluess said. “A.J. [English] has been our best player in making shots since I’ve been here in Iona.”
The last two weeks have not been the best for the junior from Wilmington, Del. English was suspended one game due to an incident that occurred in the postgame brawl against St. Peter’s on Jan. 31.
Perhaps unaware that he was out, some NBA scouts even came to the game in which English was suspended, when the Gaels held off Siena on Feb. 6.
For Iona (20-6, 13-2), hosting scouts throughout the season has been the norm. Many are already in town for Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game and making the trip to Manhattan was an easy one.
“Going to the NBA isn’t important to me, “said English. “Winning is more important to me, making sure my guys are contending for a national title.”
Iona is currently a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
From the onset against Manhattan, English delivered, connecting on three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes. While English was not scoring, freshman sensation Schadrac Casimir stepped up to the challenge. While the Jaspers had their runs in the second half, Casimir was always there to answer the call and quiet the Manhattan frenzy. The 5-10 freshman finished with 22 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
The Jaspers (12-12, 9-6) entered Friday’s contest ranked third in the MAAC standings and three games behind conference leader Iona. The Jaspers were led by local product Emmy Andjuar, who posted 17 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Ashton Pankey, a 6-8 center from The Bronx, scored 16 points but only grabbed 2 rebounds.
“At the end of the day it’s just basketball,” said English. “I love this game [against Manhattan], it had a lot of intensity and it felt like when we played Kansas or Arkansas with a great crowd.”
English came into the contest averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds. English, whose father A.J. English II played for the Washington Bullets in the early 90’s, possesses many qualities that are enticing to an NBA scout. He has good size to go with a good shooting range. He creates well, gets into the lane with ease, and possesses outstanding speed and quickness.
English isn’t the only player on the Gaels roster who has been catching the eyes of NBA scouts throughout the season. Laury leads the Gaels in scoring on the season, averaging 21 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. On the game, Laury struggled to find his rhythm but did hit the clutch free throws with 4.9 seconds left in the game, giving Iona a 3-point cushion. Laury finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
With English, Laury, Casimir and Isaiah Williams, who remains out with an injury, the Gaels could make some noise come NCAA Tournament time. Scoring has been Iona’s forte all season, averaging 82.4 points per game, ranking fourth nationally.
Iona last made the tournament in 2013 as a No. 15 seed, where they lost to Ohio State.
Meantime, Iona will host Manhattan for the rematch Feb. 27 in New Rochelle.
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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.