6. Iona Gaels
2005-06 Record: 23-8 (13-5 MAAC)
Last season’s final ranking (NY Metro area poll): 2nd
Head Coach: Jeff Ruland (137-107 @ Iona, overall)
Leading Returnees: Points (Anthony Bruin-7.2 ppg); Rebounds (Bruin-4.9 rpg); Assists (Bruin-0.8 apg)
Returning Starters: 1 (F/C Gary Springer (Jr. 6’9, 230)
Key Losses: G Steve Burtt Jr., G Ricky Soliver, G Marvin McCullough, F Kiril Wachsmann
It would be unfair to preview the 2006-07 season without mentioning the players that left the Iona program after their season-ending loss to LSU in the NCAA Tournament last season. Guards Steve Burtt Jr. and Ricky Soliver left the New Rochelle campus as one of the most prolific backcourts in school history, and Burtt Jr. now makes up half of the highest scoring father/son duo in NCAA history. Floor general Marvin McCullough and hardworking forward Kiril Wachsmann also said their goodbyes to the program.
With that being said, there are reasons for optimism in New Rochelle this year. While the two returnees who had a part in last season’s success are not necessarily high scorers (forwards Anthony Bruin and Gary Springer), they are both athletic players than can attack the glass and defend. And with their experience, this should end up being a more post-oriented team on the offensive end. Also returning in the frontcourt is seven-footer John Kelly and senior Justin Marshall. Newcomers up front include St. John’s transfer Dexter Gray and freshman Alejo Rodriguez.
The backcourt is where the questions that need to be answered lie. Who will put the ball in the basket? Who will run the team? Well, the answer to that second question may have already been answered. Kyle Camper, in his first semester on campus after two years at Cecil Community College, has already been named team captain. This has to be seen as a good indicator of his leadership qualities. The majority of players competing for minutes at the guard spots are newcomers, so expect some early-season growing pains. Freshman DeShaune Griffin has plenty of speed and will see some time at both guard spots.
Classmate Milan Prodanovic played his high school ball at Archbishop Molloy under the legendary Jack Curran, and the lefty will also see time at both spots. Rounding out the freshman class are Mike Harris and Kevin Hassett. Harris is more of a scorer, and despite standing 6’8” Hassett is versatile enough to play either the shooting guard or small forward position. Opponents who face the Gaels in November and December will be happy to avoid this team come February.
Interesting Fact: Iona must replace 75% of the four key losses’ scoring and 63% of their minutes played.
Schedule at a Glance
The season opens in the NIT Season Tip Off, meeting Big South favorite Winthrop in the first round of the East Regional in Charlotte November 14th. The following night brings either North Carolina or Sacred Heart depending on the opening result. The winner of the regional will advance to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and final of the event. Iona will only have two non-conference games at Hynes Athletics Center: New Hampshire December 22nd and Princeton December 30th. Other non-conference foes include Buffalo, Rhode Island, Fordham, Vermont, Rutgers and Maryland. Iona will also participate in the Bracket Busters event in mid-February.
MAAC play opens on the road as well, with a trip to Rider December 7th. In fact, three of Iona’s first four league games are on the road, with the only home game being Niagara December 19th. After opening the New Year with a game at Maryland, Iona returns to MAAC play with games at Loyola-Maryland and league favorite Marist. A three-game road trip in mid-January, with visits to Canisius, Niagara and Fairfield, will another set of tests for this young team.
The Gaels don’t meet St. Peter’s for the first time until a trip to Jersey City February 14th, yet face them for the second time just nine days later. And just like 2005-06, the season ends with a trip to Manhattan February 25th. Yet, it would be a pleasant surprise if as much is riding on this year’s meeting (Manhattan won the regular season title by defeating the Gaels on the final day of the regular season).
Interesting Note: For the second consecutive season Iona will only play eleven games at home, not counting their exhibition with Rhode Island College. Last season, the Gaels managed to go 11-2 on the road and 5-2 on neutral courts.
2005-06 Team Averages
· Points per game: 79.8 - Points per game allowed: 72.2 - Scoring Margin: + 7.6
· Rebounds per game: 36.8 - Opp. Rebounds per game: 34.4 - Rebounding Margin: + 2.4
· Assists per game: 15.5 - Turnovers per game: 15.1 - Assist-to-Turnover Ratio: 1:1
· Field Goal Percentage: 48.0% - FG Percentage Defense: 43.3%
· 3-Point Percentage: 40.2% - 3-Point Percentage Def.: 34.0%
· Free Throw Percentage: 69.1%
· Longest winning streak: 7(Howard, Portland St., @ Iowa St., @ Fordham, Vermont, Rider, @ Marist) November 23rd-December 11th
· Longest losing streak: 2-twice (@ Kentucky, @ Seton Hall) December 23rd-31st; (Siena, @ Manhattan) February 23rd-26th
· Five of Iona’s eight losses came to teams that qualified for postseason play (including the loss to LSU in the NCAA Tournament).