One of the most-enjoyable aspects about covering a mid-major level conference like the MAAC is that real life rarely intrudes on our games.
But, occasionally, tragedy touches even the mid-major level of the sport.
On Thursday night, incoming Iona recruit Michael Haynes, a 6-foot-7 forward, was shot and killed near his home in Chicago.
Reports indicate that Haynes, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds last season at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, was shot in front of his house and later died at a Chicago-area hospital. The assailant was still at large.
He had been ranked the No. 11 recruit in the state of Illinois by one internet scouting service following his junior season at Washington High School, during which he averaged 17 points and 22 rebounds. He eventually graduated from Heat Academy where he averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds per game in the 2009-10 season.
He originally committed to play at the University of Texas of El Paso, but never played there and, eventually, joined Indian Hills CC where, last season, he averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds.
"We're shocked and deeply saddened by this news," Indian Hills coach Barret Perry told the Ottumwa Courier newspaper. "He was such a great kid and a great member of our team."
Police said that Haynes was shot in the wrist, chest and lower back while trying to break up a fight over a stolen necklace near his home. According to the report, his cousin, Kandice Blouin, 25, said several men were shoving each other when Haynes pushed the shooter, who pulled out a gun and shot him.
Haynes was part of a nine-member incoming class for Iona, but was one of just two of the nine recruits not already on the New Rochelle campus taking summer courses.
"It's just so hard," Iona coach Tim Cluess told the New York Daily News. "I don't know how to describe it. Once you get to know Michael you just couldn't want to coach him. He came from a very rough area in Chicago and he just wanted to make a better life for himself. He was just looking for a chance to change his life."