Any fan or follower of Iona basketball knows about AJ English, one of the best players in program history. The 2016 graduate is third on the all time Iona scoring list and holds the MAAC conference record for three pointers in a game (13). These records only give a snapshot of how good a player English really is. I am here to tell you why AJ English should be on an NBA team right now.
First of all, looking at English’s build, he has NBA player written all over him. He is a 6’4 and 190 pound guard and although he played mostly “off-ball” in college, he would’ve transitioned to point guard in the NBA game. At 6’4 and with a muscular frame, English has the perfect body for a modern day NBA point guard. With his size and athleticism, English would not feel outmatched or out of place in an NBA game.
One might argue that English only excelled because he was playing in a mid major conference. To say this is just plain ignorant. You may recall how Monmouth had a historically good team for MAAC standards in 2015-16. The Hawks went 28-8 and upset elite out of conference opponents like UCLA and Notre Dame, who was ranked #17 at the time. This great Monmouth team, who received votes to be ranked multiple weeks during the season, was unable to beat AJ English and Iona in MAAC championship. The Gaels won 79-76 and English led Iona with 19 points as well as 5 assists, showcasing how his court vision is another strength that he can bring to a team at the next level. It should be noted that this performance was no fluke considering he averaged a whopping 6.2 assists on top of his 22.6 points per game. Productive NBA players impact the game in multiple ways which is why his passing ability would’ve been such a luxury for an NBA team to have to go along with his elite scoring ability at all three levels.
Following this game, Iona faced off against Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State was a #4 seed in the tournament and they were coming off a season where they had a winning record in the Big 12, which was arguably the best conference in the country at the time. Although they didn’t make it there, Iowa State was a final four caliber team with multiple NBA prospects on the roster. Iona, as a team, struggled in this game. In fact, only two Iona players finished in double figures. One of these players, of course, was AJ English. He rose to the occasion against the elite opponent and finished with 28 points to go along with 6 assists. However, these offensive stats don’t tell the whole story. English also had 3 steals and 7 rebounds in this game, which should’ve given NBA scouts a glimpse of how his length and athleticism would be able to benefit an NBA team on both sides of the ball. Posting elite numbers all across the board like this against a top tier team should dismiss any doubters who think he can only succeed against mid majors.
Anyone who was still doubting English’s potential could’ve watched him play at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a postseason camp for the nation’s best seniors. Playing with and against 63 other players, most of whom came from high major schools, English was a standout performer at the camp, averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds. Continuing to post big assist numbers, English was once again showing scouts that on top of his obviously scoring ability, he also had great passing instincts. With the skill to go along with his ideal frame, there was clearly potential for English to become a solid NBA point guard if a team was willing to take a chance on him.
With his great numbers and obvious potential, why is AJ English not playing NBA basketball right now? I think the clear answer is that NBA scouts are not taking a deep enough look into mid major players. Everyone is so caught up with the players from “power 5” schools and we seem to forget that there are so many other division 1 players out there. If scouts spent enough time researching how English plays against stronger opponents they would’ve seen that he thrives against higher competition. At the end of the day, I am confident that AJ English could help an NBA team right now and I blame NBA teams and scouts for overlooking players from smaller schools.