|Lamont Jones has been an excellent addition for Iona coach Tim Cluess/ AP Photo|
LAWRENCEVILLE — Two things stand out about Iona when you see it play.
It scores a lot of points and has a roster full of transfers.
Thus igniting debate on one of college basketball’s hot-button issues.
Nine of the 12 players on the Gaels’ roster did not compete at the
school during their freshman season. Four of those nine — including
leading scorer Lamont Jones — spent time at another Division I program,
while the rest came from the Junior College ranks.
Only one upperclassman — junior Sean Armand — has been at the school since he was a freshman.
Transfers, or a least debating them, are in vogue. Players jump
around from school to school for any number of reasons. Some have to sit
out a year under NCAA rules, while others, like Jones or Rider’s
Nurideen Lindsey, win hardship waivers and can play immediately.
There are arguments made both for and against the NCAA changing the rules regarding them.
But this is certain — transfers play a big role in a league like the MAAC.
“That’s the way our league is going,” said Rider coach Kevin Baggett,
whose Broncs (10-9, 5-2) battle Iona (12-6, 6-1) Sunday afternoon in
what is all of a sudden a big game in the conference race. “It’s almost
like you have to keep up with the Jones’ a little bit.”
To Iona coach Tim Cluess’ credit, he’s built a winner by going that
route. He inherited a team that won 21 games the year before he got
there, added a high-profile Junior College transfer, Mike Glover, to
team with point guard Scott Machado and went 50-20 with an NCAA
tournament berth in his first two years.
Prior to the start of last season, he landed Jones — a player that
had a starring role in Arizona’s run to the Elite Eight in 2010-11.
Jones was looking to come back home to New York City to be closer to family.
This season, Jones’ second at Iona, his 22.3 points per game lead the league and rank fifth nationally.
“I don’t know if I want to make my team up of those guys as opposed
to building my program through the high-school kids and developing
them,” Baggett said. “To (Iona’s) credit, they’ve done a good job with
Baggett said he’s not opposed to transfers, and would like to add
some as he molds the Rider program. He was the driving force behind
landing Lindsey from St. John’s.
“It’s case-by-case,” said Baggett, adding he had the chance to
recruit Tre Bowman, who eventually landed at Iona after spending one
season at Penn State before playing his sophomore year at Midland
College in Texas.
“To (Iona’s) credit, not only have they got them, they’ve put them in
the right places and they’ve all been very good players for those
The MAAC is what Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos calls “the perfect drop-down league.”
“If you went out west or the ACC or Big East and didn’t get your
minutes, I think, we’re a logical step for kids,” Patsos said during a
recent conference call for the league’s coaches.
“That’s the way our league is going,” the
first-year coach said. “It’s no knock on where those guys are coming
from. This is a very good league and those guys make it a good league,
being able to transfer down. They’re talented, but it’s just a matter of
if they’re getting the amount of minutes they want. If not, this is a
good league to be able to do that.”
Iona’s not the only school having success with transfers.
Patsos struck gold with Erik Etherly (Northeastern) and Billy Baron
followed his father from Rhode Island to Canisius, helping that program
turn an about-face.
Therefore, Patsos’ advice to young coaches — don’t be afraid to stick your nose in during recruiting.
“When things go bad,” he said, “they remember who was around.”