The Iona men's team and its fans will be the ones enjoying basketball, along with the traditional turkey dinner, in 2009 it was announced on Thursday.
The Gaels have been named as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's representative to next season's Old Spice Classic at the Milk House at DisneyWorld in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. held over the Thanksgiving break.
The event, which just finished its third annual appearance, has quickly become recognized as the premier early season tournament nationally due to its terrific fields, and the 2009 version is similarly strong.
Joining Iona will be Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Marquette, Michigan and Xavier. The eighth team will be announced at a later date, but a variety of internet sites have speculated that the final team might well be national powerhouse North Carolina.
Previous MAAC representatives to the event were Marist (which won two games in 2006), Rider (which won one game in 2007) and Siena in this year's event. Although the Saints didn't win a game, losing to Tennessee, Wichita State and Oklahoma State, they had chances to win two of their three contests.
Iona appears poised to be another strong representative a year from now. Its key personnel loss after this year will be 6-9 post player Gary Springer, currently averaging 14.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. The only other departing senior will be guard Devon Clarke, the Gaels' fifth-leading scorer so far (6.0 ppg.).
Everyone else is scheduled to return and Iona has already gotten a signed commitment for next season's team from 6-9, 240-pound center Chris Pelcher, currently a senior at Albany Academy high school in Albany, N.Y.
Pelcher averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game as a junior for Academy, one of the premier programs in upstate New York, and is expected to be a solid contributor at Iona.
This blogger thinks Iona, which has as much quality depth as any team in the MAAC, will be the conference's surprise team this year and will probably be even stronger a year from now.