2:11 pm Aug. 28, 2012
The best college basketball team in the New York area last year was probably Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y.
The Gaels posted an R.P.I. in the 30s for much of the season, and managed an at-large bid to the N.C.A.A. tournament despite losing in their own conference's tournament. Led by an elite offense, Iona took a 55-40 halftime lead over Brigham Young University in an N.C.A.A. play-in game, but lost, after one of the great collapses in recent tournament memory, 78-72.
And that looked to be that. Point guard Scott Machado, who spent the summer with the summer league team of the Houston Rockets, and forward Mike Glover both graduated. Like many mid-major teams, the ability to reload is a limited one.
But Iona could be even better this season, and boast the best player in the area, with the news that Norvel Pelle is going to Iona this fall.
Pelle was an extremely well-regarded recruit for St. John's last season, but failed to qualify academically. He's yet to do so at Iona, but if he does, he will be the most talented player the Gaels have featured since Jeff Ruland, who led Iona to a national ranking and 29-5 record back in 1979-80 for coach Jim Valvano.
Pelle is 6'11", with the ability to finish inside and shoot from the perimeter, drawing comparisons to the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant. And he won't be alone on the court; Arizona transfer MoMo Jones, for instance, is around to feed him the ball. Junior college guard Tre Bowman, who played at Penn State, and wing Curtis Dennis, from Toledo, will also start for the Gaels, who are probably going to feature four guards/wings and Pelle in a starting lineup that should pile up the points.
People will be trekking up the Hudson to go see Pelle. And, assuming he is eligible, it'll be worth it.