It’s safe to say Iona will look very different next season. Not only will Rick Pitino be the coach along with a whole new staff aside from Ricky Johns, but there were also be nine new players for the Gaels. They will be joining Asante Gist, Dylan Van Eyck, Isaiah Ross, and Colton Cashaw, who will all be returning seniors next season. With such a new team, there are a lot of unknowns about the 2020-21 Iona Gaels. With that said, there is a great deal of talent and potential coming into the program. I am going to break down each new recruit to give you an idea of what to expect from them next season.
Tahlik Chavez (So.) – Chavez, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound combo guard from Garden City Community College, was Pitino’s first commitment as head coach at Iona. He is an elite shooter who makes things happens with the ball in his hands but with his NBA range, I believe he can be very effective off-ball as well. After watching his highlights, I was extremely impressed with his ability to create for himself off the dribble. With proper spacing, Chavez is a player who will be able to put up a quality shot whenever he wants to. Having such an elite shooter on the floor like Chavez will also open up driving lanes for other players. Whether he is in the starting lineup or not, look for Chavez to be a great compliment to Asante Gist in the backcourt.
Ryan Myers (Fr.) – Shortly after Chavez committed, it was announced that Myers would also be joining the Gaels. He’s a 6-foot-2, 180-pound shooting guard with a great skill set. Myers is a local recruit who played high school basketball at Christ the King, a New York basketball powerhouse. Although Myers played primarily off-ball in high school, his highlights made it quite clear to me that he has some elite court vision and passing ability. However, the guard averaged 21.3 ppg in his senior year of high school and I believe that is his scoring ability that will make him so valuable for Iona over the next four years. I don’t think he’ll start as a freshman, but I do think he is polished enough and talented enough to be a difference maker right away at Iona.
Berrick JeanLouis (Jr.) – This is a player who is a perfect fit for Pitino’s system, both offensively and defensively. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound wing out of Florida SouthWestern State (JUCO) is a freak athlete who will thrive in Pitino’s full court press as well as his up-tempo offensive style. It is easy to fall in love with JeanLouis after watching his highlights that feature numerous ferocious dunks and acrobatic finishes. On top of that, he seems to be able to knock down jumpers from the outside. I also believe that JeanLouis is the kind of player that can guard multiple positions which will help Iona immensely on the defensive side of the ball. Expect JeanLouis to start and be a key player for Iona all year long.
Johan Crafoord (Fr.) – Crafoord, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward out of Sweden, is going to bring toughness and great offensive ability to Iona over the next four years. When I began watching Crafoord’s highlights, the first thing I noticed was that he already has the strength and size to go up against high level competition at the Division 1 level. Also, don’t let his position blind you from the fact that he is a very skilled passer. His speed and agility definitely have room for improvement, but I think his potential is through the roof. He can score at all three levels and once he becomes more athletic, he will be a nightmare to play against. Crafoord will definitely have a big role on the 2020-21 Iona Gaels and his future in New Rochelle is very bright.
Osborn Shema (So.) – Shema is a 7-foot-1, 200-pound center out of Rwanda. He played his freshman season at New Mexico Military Institute (JUCO) where he had eight double-doubles in 28 games. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the seven-footer is that he has a very good perimeter jump shot which gives him a very high ceiling. Pitino has already said that Shema has “unlimited potential” and he seems very excited to have him on the team. He definitely needs to put on a lot of muscle if he wants to maximize his potential, but Shema should be a key contributor for Iona right away. In a conference like the MAAC, having a seven-footer is a luxury regardless of his skill set, but when the seven-footer can shoot threes, it becomes a whole new level of dangerous. Being the only center on the roster, I definitely expect Shema to start and be a main scoring option for Iona next season.
Nelly Junior Joseph (Fr.) – Joseph is a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward who will be coming to Iona after being a part of the NBA Academy Africa. There are limited highlight videos on Joseph, but from what I saw, it looks like he can be a very productive rim runner for the Gaels. His strength and athleticism are off the charts and he will be a force on fast breaks. With that said, I feel that he needs to improve his ability to be effective in the half court in order to be a key contributor for Iona. In the 2020-21 season, I believe Joseph will give the Gaels a very good rebounder and a solid defensive presence off the bench.
Dwayne Koroma (Fr.) – Iona will be getting a very versatile player in Dwayne Koroma. The 6-foot-6, 180-pound small forward out of Germany has a knack for anticipating steals and he can guard any position one through four. His defense will provide Iona with many fast break opportunities. Offensively, Koroma’s great court vision allows him to play like a point forward. When he isn’t creating for others, he’s driving to the basket which is where he does most of his scoring. If Pitino can help him develop a consistent jump shot, Koroma can turn into a star for Iona. I think Koroma has a chance to start as a freshman, but even if he doesn’t, expect him to have a very positive impact on the team, especially defensively.
Omar Rowe (Fr.) – Like Ryan Myers, Rowe is another local player. Although he went to prep school at Believe Academy in South Carolina, Rowe group in Queens which is just a short drive away from New Rochelle. The 6-foot-6, 185-pound wing is very athletic and he will be able to reach his full potential if he continues getting stronger and growing into his body. Rowe has fantastic range and he will be a very solid wing defender with his length and quickness. I’m not exactly sure of what kind of role Rowe will have as a freshman, but he gives Iona another solid scoring option and a player who should eventually be able to defend at a very high level.
Robert Brown (Jr.) – Brown transferred to Iona from New Mexico State before Pitino joined the program. In fact, he practiced with last year’s team in the spring semester. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward is a very skilled player on the inside and he has the potential to expand his game if he continues to develop his jump shot. Brown is also a strong defender and a capable shot blocker. One might think that Brown will have a hard time finding playing time since he wasn’t recruited by Pitino, but it should not be overlooked that he is older and more developed than most of the other recruits, which gives him an opportunity to have an important role on next season’s team.
There will be talent all throughout Iona’s roster next season, and it will certainly be interesting to see how Rick Pitino uses each player. No matter what the starting lineup is, I think we can expect to see Pitino go pretty deep into the bench every game, especially in the beginning of the year. If everyone can learn how to play together, I truly think the sky is the limit for the 2020-21 Iona Gaels.