The Gaels’ season was cut short due to a positive covid-19 test. This resulted in Iona’s season to end with an 8-5 record, 6-3 in the MAAC. The test stopped the Gaels momentum they were trying to gain back after a doubleheader win against the Monmouth Hawks.
The team performed well this regular season. That’s thanks to both head coach Rick Pitino and the players putting up some amazing numbers and performances throughout the regular season.
Though it’s a close call, these are my picks for the Iona College Gaels men’s basketball awards.
Senior guard Isaiah Ross has improved a lot since last season. For the 2019-20 Iona men’s basketball season, in 29 games, Ross scored 320 points with a .459 field-goal percentage and .401 3-point percentage. He was an important cog in the well-oiled machine of the Gaels. He was an integral piece to Cleuss’ team and Arnold’s team. It was hard to see how he could become better than he was already doing.
Come the 2020-21 season, he’s shown us just how much he can improve. In 13 games, less than half of the games as last season, Ross has scored 267 points, averaging 20.5 points per game, compared to his 11.0 points per game last season. He’s taken more free throws and netted them more often as well, with a .839 free-throw percentage, compared to his .725 last season. Ross went from being a super sub to a super starter for Iona basketball this season, transferring his importance from the bench to the starting five on the court.
Defensive Player of the Season
It was a tough decision between junior guard Berrick JeanLouis and senior forward Dylan van Eyck, as both have been defensive powerhouses this season. After a closer look though, JeanLouis was the winner by a margin.
The junior guard held it down with a total of 72 rebounds, 54 of which were defensive, averaging a total of 5.5 rebounds a game. He also had 17 blocks and a team-high 30 steals all season. He also forced 23 turnovers for the Gaels.
He’s started every game for Iona and has averaged 29.8 minutes per game, showing just how important he is to Pitino’s starting lineup.
Freshman guard Ryan Myers has been the go-to guy for Pitino when looking at the bench for options. Playing in all 13 games and only starting in three, Myers has been a powerhouse offensively with a .470 field-goal percentage, a .459 3-point percentage, which is the highest in the team, and a .750 free-throw percentage. He’s scored a total of 94 points throughout the season. His defense has been a big help for the Gaels. He secured a total of 21 rebounds, 18 of which were defensive.
Rookie of the Season
Nelly Junior Joseph
It was a clear decision for rookie of the season. As a freshman, forward Nelly Junior Joseph has made waves in the MAAC, announcing his arrival for Iona men’s basketball in the league with stellar performances every week. The rookie has scored a total of 157 points in 13 games, starting 11 of them. He has an average playtime of 27.2. His field-goal percentage is the highest in the team at .612%.
His defensive abilities are no joke either. He leads the team in blocks with 23 and is second in the team in turnovers. He also leads the team in total rebounds at 92, with just one behind teammate JeanLouis in defensive rebounds at 53.
All this leads to a very important part of this relatively successful Iona basketball team and one of the best signings Pitino has made for his team.
Most Valuable Player
For reasons mentioned in “Most Improved” above and more, Ross has been by far the most important player for the Gaels this season. His play has led the team to their positive MAAC record and he’s been the driving force behind their ability to carry their momentum from half to half, a major problem the Gaels had last season. With Ross’ experience and Pitino’s guidance, he was able to spearhead himself as the top performer of the team. He had the knowledge of past teams and that knowledge helped this team’s chemistry a bunch. This led to a team that’s well rounded and has top performers in all five positions.
Overall, the Gaels are well-equipped with some of the best players in the MAAC going into the MAAC Championships on Tuesday. They look to bring back the MAAC Championship trophy after having it for four out of the last five seasons. The tournament starts on Tuesday at 5 p.m. when first tipoff happens at 5 p.m.