LOS ANGELES -- He played alongside high-profile guys and watched their recruitments explode. There was Nate Lubick and Naadir Tharpe on the summer circuit and Khem Birch, Markus Kennedy and Angel Nunez on his prep school team.
Now Anthony Ireland has made a name for himself.
Loyola Marymount's point guard has established himself as one of the elite floor leaders in the WCC and maybe even in the entire country. He's far from a household name beyond the west coast, but the 5-foot-9 junior, who hails from Connecticut and attended Winchendon (Mass.) prep school, earned first-team All-WCC honors last season.
Ireland didn't look the part coming out of the prep ranks, even though all he seemingly did was lead his team -- whether it was in the winter or summer -- to victories. VCU was interested, Rutgers poked around and Duquesne was also in the mix. But Ireland committed fairly early in the process to LMU, after his summer team, the New England Playaz, was playing in a tournament at the end of the summer on campus.
"I had no idea where the school was," Ireland said. "Then I fell in love with the campus."
It's tough not to be blown away by the LMU campus, which is perched high atop Los Angeles with a picturesque view and also has a favorable girl-guy ratio.
LMU coach Max Good knew exactly what he had when he added Ireland, but there were few others that bought into his hype. He didn't look the part physically and was a an average shooter, but Ireland has worked on his body and his shot and became the primary reason why the Lions won 21 games a year ago, including 11 in league play. He averaged team-highs of 16.1 points and nearly five assists per game.
"Still nobody knows about me outside of the league," Ireland admitted. "I still have that chip on my shoulder."
There are elite point guards in the WCC. Matthew Dellavedova and Kevin Pangos secure most of the headlines, but Ireland, while giving the duo the ultimate measure of respect, also feels he's the best in the league.
"I respect those guys, but I have no problem saying I think I'm the best point guard in the WCC," Ireland said.
Ireland attended the adidas nations camp this past summer and wound up finishing with 19 assists and just three turnovers while going up against guys like Isaiah Canaan, Joe Jackson, Pierre Jackson, Ray McCallum and Ryan Boatright.
"I felt like I belonged," he said.
Ireland said that despite the loss of Drew Viney and part-time starters Jarred DuBois and LaRon Armstead, he feels as though this team has a chance to eclipse the one from a year ago (which had the most wins since the 1989-90 team and knocked off BYU and Saint Mary's on the road). There's Ireland and fellow starters Ashley Hamilton and Godwin Okonji -- in addition to a talented group of newcomers and holdovers who will have a chance to ease into expanded roles.
"We're quicker, faster and more talented than we were last year," Ireland said. "Last year's team was smarter, but we just need to mature and get experience together."