Posted on: November 17, 2011 3:43 pm
By Matt Norlander
The game was played a 1 p.m. on a Thursday, well after the excitement from ESPN's 24-hour basketball marathon had worn off. There were, maybe, a thousand people in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico.
Still, Iona-Purdue was arguably the best televised game of basketball so far this season, which is now a week and a half old. The game was a first-round matchup in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and the Boilermakers won 91-90 after Robbie Hummel (right) coolly hit a 3 coming off a roll on the right side of the floor. Hummel scored a game-high 24 points, grabbing nine boards in the process. It's probably an ego booster -- in a good way -- for Hummel, who missed the majority of the past two years with ACL injuries.
We've well-documented what Hummel's gone through. Will his senior year be a feel-good story? Who knows. If it is, this is a great start to that. (And how great does Goodman feel to have his Hummel avatar on Twitter now?)
He looked very, very good today. Without Hummel, who knows what Purdue is.
What it's not right now: defensive-minded. The Gaels (who also didn't engage when playing on their heels) went where they pleased against a team that's been ranked 16th or better in points-per-possession defense the past five years.
Iona's MoMo Jones, who scored a team-high 17 points and took over at point guard after Scott Machado fouled out with three minutes to go, showed flashes of his bad self, as it was his turnover after Hummel's 3 that prevented Iona from getting its best shot to snag the upset. He also hit a couple of big shots before that, but Jones' M.O. is being feast or famine. Arizona fans know this all too well.
For Iona, it's a win that got away. Could end up being a critical one, too. This team has NCAA tournament talent, and if that's true, then it's got at-large-quality talent. But the Gaels lack a lot of chances on their schedule to get impressive wins. The more they lose in the next month, the less they can afford to lose any games in the MAAC, which will have Fairfield chasing them step for step.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 5:23 pm
By Matt Norlander
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- I stopped in at Iona's practice Wednesday morning. The Gaels, who five seasons ago won just two games, are now the favorites to win the MAAC in 2011-12.
They should have won the league tournament last March, but awful shooting and lackluster hustle led to a St. Peter's upset.
The reason for the return of high hopes are three-fold: Michael Glover, the preseason Player of the Year; Scott Machado, who we think is one of the 30 best point guards in college basketball; and MoMo Jones, the junior transfer from Arizona with the exciting-but-enigmatic game.
I watched Iona practice and scrimmage for more than two hours. But I'll get to those facets and observations, particularly Machado and Glover, later on. For now, I want to talk to you about what Jones talked to me about Wednesday morning.
Jones, who's letting his hair grow out and resembling Donald Glover these days, spoke for a good 25 minutes about his life, himself, the change of scenery and why it's a choose-your-own-adventure kind of time for him now.
He didn't practice. Why? Well, it actually dates back to the tournament game against Texas, when Gary Johnson and Jordan Hamilton sandwiched Jones on a breakaway layup attempt. He landed awkwardly on his knee, and thereafter he had a cracking sound -- with no pain -- for a few weeks. He dealt with it, sometimes jerking his knee into place before it cracked as a sign of normalcy/relief. That's not normal, but again, he was never in pain; he soon discovered it was worn-out cartilage that had built up over years of going full throttle on cement courts.
Jones landed on his knee at Iona's first official practice, so he took a shot and is sitting out a little while longer. He'll likely rejoin the team in practice by week's end, or Monday at the latest.
Having said that, a few tidbits from our conversation that I'm able to share. First of all, Jones said he never intended on leaving Arizona. The decision came fast, and after the season, but he's made the move because of his grandmother's illness. He wants to be close to her, to stay in daily communication and be a weekly physical presence for her, his mother, and his little sister. Iona coach Tim Cluess expected Jones to get cleared for this year due to the severity of his grandmother's illness (which is still in limbo, but doesn't seem immediate).
Jones is an entirely different guy off the floor. On it, he's arrogant beyond confident, brash and unafraid to do whatever he'd like. It's why Arizona fans got so frustrated with him. He can play the point, but he prefers the combo-guard position. It's what he couldn't do at Arizona. It's what he will do at Iona. Jones played at the prep level beside shooters like Kemba Walker and Doron Lamb. He knows how to acquiesce, so long as he's playing against seriously skilled two-guards with range. (I wonder how it will work, as Machado and Jones will go back and forth at the 1. But that's a post/column for another day.)
The guy -- guy, not kid -- wants to lead this team. I think he will, and so does Cluess. But there's still plenty for him to prove. He's probably not as good as he thinks he is, at least not right now. Few players lived and died in spurts like Jones did at Arizona. What I do know: Jones is a player obsessed with himself and his abilities. He rattled off random stats from games past I couldn't even remember taking place. I'm talking points, assists, rebounds and turnovers.
He has NBA aspirations; I don't know if he's honestly thinking about making the leap after this year, his junior campaign. From what I gather, he was debating the NBA at certain points while at Arizona. Why that shouldn't be a problem at Iona: Jones knwos the guys there. He's from Harlem and played at the high school and prep level against a number of Iona's players. He's known Machado and Glover for years and years. They were friends long before they were teammates.
Plus, Jones isn't the best player on this team (it's Glover, and Cluess would take Machado and junior Kyle Smyth over Jones right now). Though he's so, so confident, I think Jones knows how vital this season is for him.
"My life can go in one of two very different directions," he said. "I can work hard, help this team and make my dream come true, or I can ruin it."
That self-awareness, particularly with a player that voluntarily chose to go from an elite program to a MAAC one, isn't that common. Iona's going to be a lot of fun to watch. Jones will be part of that. Seeing how he goes back to being the guard he wants to be, and seeing how that improves (or, who knows, maybe it doesn't) Iona's team will be one of the biggest mid-major storylines this season.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:01 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 3:06 pm
Former Arizona transfer Momo Jones has been cleared to play this season for Iona, sources told CBSSports.com.
There were questions whether Jones would eligible immediately, but the NCAA granted him a hardship waiver.
Jones left Arizona in May, announcing he wanted to move closer to home to be close to his ailing grandmother in Harlem, N.Y. There were rumors that he was planning to transfer to St. John’s, but NCAA regulations prevented it.
Once he chose Iona, questions still surfaced regarding whether he would be eligible to play this season. We received an answer on Thursday.
With Jones in the fold, Iona is clearly the best team in the New York City area heading into the season. Michael Glover is one of the best big men in the country, while Scott Machado ranked third in the nation in assists.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:18 pm
Posted by Jeff Borzello
As soon as Lamont “Momo” Jones announced he was transferring from Arizona, rumors began to swirl that the New York native was planning to return home.
While moving to St. John’s didn’t work out due to NCAA regulations, Jones did end up going closer to home.
On Wednesday, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com that Jones is transferring to Iona. He chose the Gaels over Seton Hall and Hofstra.
Jones played at Rice High School (N.Y.) before transferring to American Christian (Pa.) and later Oak Hill Academy (Va.). After high school, Jones committed to Louisville, Virginia Tech and signed with USC before finally settling on Arizona.
The 6-foot point guard averaged 9.7 points and 2.4 assists last season for the Wildcats, helping lead them to the Elite Eight.
Posted on: May 17, 2011 10:00 am
Posted by Eric Angevine
The Pac-12 is every writer's favorite target these days. It's the power conference that has suffered the most from talent drain in recent seasons. Talented players are still choosing to "go West, young man", but they're not staying. Just this past season, the league lost exciting players like Arizona's Derrick Williams, UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, Washington's Isaiah Thomas, USC's Nikola Vucevic and Washington State's Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto. All of those players declared for the NBA draft, and incoming league member Colorado lost Alec Burks and (oddly) Ryan Kelly as well.
That inability to keep mega-skilled players on campus is not unique to the Pac-10, but it does help explain why the league is putting fewer teams in the NCAA tournament than it used to. Perusing various different reports from newspapers serving Pac-10/12 schools, another equally impactful trend rears its head as well. Transfers - of mid-level and even seldom-used players - are killing the league in another way. Arizona losing MoMo Jones this week has obvious downside, but a player doesn't have to be a star to hurt his program by transferring.
The first piece of the puzzle came from this article on Arizona State's high turnover rate, written by Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.
In five years at Arizona State, Herb Sendek has signed 24 players, including three in his latest class.Haller's article focuses on ASU's inability to mesh well with a constantly-changing rotation, but there's more to the problem. The second piece of the puzzle was unearthed by the Eugene Register-Guard, which follows the Oregon hoops program.
The Register-Guard, in addition to correctly zeroing in on the Academic Progress Report as an indicator of possible future danger, recognizes the more immediate issue of negative recruiting. Other coaches will use Oregon's high turnover rate to insinuate that there's something wrong in Eugene, Oregon, and that Recruit X would be much happier elsewhere, specifically in that opposing coach's program.
The recent focus on the Pac-12 has been all about how much money the league's TV deal is worth. Some might feel that the financial success of the growing conference diminishes concerns over the league's reduced profile, but that seems short-sighted. TV revenue always revolves around football, and a declining basketball product isn't going to attract many eyeballs in the winter, not if viewers have the option of switching to another network to watch potentially more meaningful games every weekend. Knowing that only two or three teams have realistic NCAA tournament resumes each season is robbing the venerable league of some past glory.
There will always be transfers and early NBA entries. For the long-term health of Pac-12 hoops, however, coaches and athletic directors need to put their heads together and find a way to slow the bleeding.
Photo: US Presswire