When Iona head coach Tim Cluess takes to the floor for the Gaels first game in November, one notable presence will be missing.
The one player who has been on the court for all four years of Cluess’ tenure, Sean Armand, will be gone.
“We’re going to miss him,” Cluess said when reflecting on the past season, adding that they will need a group effort to replace his and fellow exiting starter Tre Bowman’s production.
Armand and Bowman made up just over 36% of the team’s scoring from last season and took 35% of the team’s shots. Cluess said he knows finding players to replace those two at the shooting guard and small forward spot will be difficult to replace.
“We will be putting people in different roles than what they’re used to and more is expected of them,” Cluess said. “We’re going to have to have a number of the newcomers and returnees, who maybe weren’t part of the bigger picture, step up and become a bigger part of the picture.”
Iona’s foundation is set behind juniors A.J. English, Isaiah Williams and senior David Laury. English ranked second to Armand in scoring last season, averaging 17.2 points per game.
“I think we have some very solid players who are going to have to do more this year than they did last year and bring a good amount of leadership to our team,” Cluess said. “Those other pieces are going to have to fit in and then we’re going to have to have a couple of surprises in there as well.”
“We’re hopeful that a couple of kids we bring in will kind of make the jump similar to A.J., maybe not quite as good as him, but come out of nowhere and be a very good player.”
The Gaels added Longwood graduate transfer Jeylani Dublin who will be eligible immediately and has been working out with the team since summer session began.
“I think [he] can bring a lot of physicality to the defensive end,” Cluess said of Dublin who averaged 10.4 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game at Longwood last season.
Another transfer that figures to be in the mix next season is Kelvin Amayo, but his past year has been complicated by multiple knee operations.
Among the young players who might be abele to contribute, Cluess said that he believes redshirt sophomore Grant Ellis will get an opportunity to expand his role.
“He didn’t play a lot last year, he had some reasons for that, and his freshman year he was sick and had to redshirt because he had mono for most of the year and couldn’t get rid of it,” Cluess said. “[He] is getting better and better as he works, he’s understanding things and his body has got better so he can be a surprise for us this year.”
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.