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 junior guard Isaiah Williams is expected to return to the court for Friday’s home game against rival Manhattan, and should be a critical piece going forward as the Gaels hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament and cause a stir.
The 6-foot-7 junior from Newark hasn’t played since Jan. 13 because of a broken fifth metatarsal that required a screw be put into his right foot.
“We’re leaning towards playing him,” Iona coach Tim Cluess told SNY.tv by phone Thursday. “We really have to see how he feels tonight and [Friday]. He’s started going a little bit the last two days and we want to see how he’s feeling after being on it today and how he warms up [Friday]. It’s really going to be a game-time decision.”
Williams was averaging 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals when he went down with the injury. Iona (23-6, 16-2 MAAC) went 11-1 without him, and has rattled off 10 straight wins entering the tilt with Manhattan (15-12-12-6).
“We’re hopeful that he’s going to be able to go [Friday] but he just literally started doing a couple things on the court for a few minutes at a time the last couple of days,” Cluess said.
Iona clinched the MAAC regular-season title last Saturday and on Sunday they clinched the No. 1 seed in the tournament, which runs March 5-9 in Albany.
The Gaels have four scorers averaging double-figures, including David Laury (20.6), A.J. English (19.4), Schadrac Casimir (15.6) and Williams.
Getting Williams, who also leads the team in steals, back on the floor will help the Gaels on both ends of the floor.
“He brings so much energy, he’s another shooter, passer, defender, rebounder, blocks shots, he does everything for us,” Cluess said.
The Iona coach said he may open up the rotation going forward and “just work on some things that we’re going to want to get better on for next week.”
If the NCAA Tournament began today, Iona would be a No. 12 seed, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Of course, they still have to win the MAAC’s automatic bid.
“I like our team, I like what they’ve been able to do,” Cluess said. “We obviously have to continue to improve and get better and keep working hard, but I think when we’re playing well we’re very tough.”
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.