Iona’s A.J. English appeared poised to breakout halfway through his freshman year, however, a broken right wrist caused him to miss the final 15 games of the 2012-13 season.
Almost one year removed from that injury, English has started every game this season and on Sunday scored a career-high 31 points at Siena, but he has said that he is still working through last season’s wrist injury.
“I think it’s probably at 70%, 75%,” English said of what percentage he would say his right wrist is at right now. “I still sometimes I have to ice it. I just have to continue to rehab and do what my doctor says and just continue to hope that it gets better.”
At even less than 100%, English has been more than effective as the team’s new point guard, a new role head coach Tim Cluess said he is surprised to see him thriving so quickly.
“He didn’t get back from [his wrist injury] until about July,” Cluess said. “We thought he was going to have a good second half of the season for us last year, didn’t expect him to explode the way he has this quickly, but the kid is a confident player and a multi-talented player. He’s been doing a great job for us.”
The sophomore is second on the team with 18.2 points per game, over four assists per game and is second on the team with nine blocks. English, who said he worked on building his wrist back up and on his conditioning over the summer months, said that he is not as surprised by his hot start.
“I put in a lot of hard work in the offseason,” English said. “Every time you start doing well you surprise yourself, but I feel like eventually I was going to be able to do some of the things especially at the defensive end.”
The second-year Gael said that his teammates ask him to fill a variety of different roles as a point guard in Cluess’ up and down system. Sometimes English is tasked with distributing, tossing around a career-high 13 assists against Marist in December, while at other times he’s asked to make shots and score quickly. English has made a three-pointer in every game except the season opener at Cleveland State and made a career-high eight against Dayton.
“I feel like this my teammates come to me and they say that they want me to score or my captain Sean Armand says you got to be more aggressive,” English said. “Then I try to take that on a little bit and be more aggressive. I feel like I always have the confidence, but whatever my team needs, that’s what I try to do.”
Teammate Tre Bowman said that he isn’t surprised how well English has played so far this season.
“I always knew that A.J. could score and especially last year, before he got injured, he was a real scorer for us,” the senior Bowman said. “He’s playing real good right now.”
When asked how he would like to improve for the rest of the season, English said he is focused on getting back to the NCAA tournament.
“I just want to win,” English said. “Whatever it is my team needs, whether it’s scoring or being the best defender on the floor, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to win.”
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.