Sunday, July 17, 2016

Uno En Uno With: Jared Grasso, IONA

When Jared Grasso was tasked with revitalizing an ailing Quinnipiac program, the odds seemed overwhelming.

Then a young assistant, Grasso appeared ready for the rigors of planting the basketball seed in a northeast hockey hotbed. It would take laborious work.

 It would take persistency. It would entail consistent afterhours work, going above and beyond your typical 9-to-5 and side hustle. It would take important connections throughout the metropolitan area.

  Sure, Grasso had the opportunity to pitch a recruit an attractive campus loaded with attractive females. He had to rep the unique mix of a hyper-lively party scene and a free competitive college education (normally valued at $43,000+ per year).

  Winning over a serviceable recruit on a program stuffed in the Northeastern Conference’s low-rent district…Well, this particular part made for a hard sell. Daunting though it was, Grasso’s recruiting tactics and experience had ultimately positioned him for this task.

  Grasso was instrumental in helping the Bobcats sign sharpshooter James Feldeine out of Cardinal Hayes (N.Y.) and DeMario Anderson, a bullish 6-foot-3 guard who transferred from rival Central Connecticut State. 

  Both players entered Quinnipiac with uncertainties.

 Feldeine was suspended for half of his freshman year and never cracked the rotation. 

In his first few weeks, Anderson struggled in adapting his freelance barrel-to-the-rim game to Joe DeSantis’ motion offense. 

How did they exit? 

Anderson and Feldeine are each Quinnipiac Hall of Fame caliber talents, embedded in program lore.

Without a doubt, they are two of the best two ever do it at the now-MAAC school. 

A product of Cardinal Hayes High, Feldeine was known for sneaky bounce and deadly corner 3-pointers. 

 Anderson was the clear focal point as a senior, the type of multi-tooled veteran scorer capable of dictating the outcome should he get hot in a hurry.

As the lone steady threat on a youth-laden team in 07-08, Anderson’s contributions were ubiquitous. 

 Anderson’s wowing, half-court buzzer-beater against his alma mater became an ESPN Top 10 play. The miraculous shot is synonymous with Quinnipiac's evolution as a respectable program.

Now at Iona, Grasso has been instrumental in building the Gaels into a tournament team. As he did during his days in the NEC, Grasso has stocked the program with gritty, defensive-minded guards.

Grasso on Spring Valley product Rickey McGill
He kind of figured out how hard he had to play at this level, how hard you need to work every day in practice and how hard you need to compete to be successful at this level. From there he kind of took of for us.

Had a big game against Quinnipiac and then kind of move forward from there and really became a major part of our rotation. To be honest I don’t know if we go to the NCAA tournament without the spark he gave us down the stretch. He was probably our best on-the-ball defender.

High energy, Rickey is a kid who offensively can give you a spark. He can really defend and really pressure the ball. We have big expectations for him moving forward. He’s had a great summer so far with us, building up his body and shooting the ball a little better. He’s been working on his decision making. I think he’s a kid who has a chance to have a great year for us.

On Shadrac Casimir
He’s been out with the hip surgery, he’s still rehabbing right now. He’s a kid who obviously was rookie of the year as a freshman. He was one of the better players in the league. He was pre-season first team all league going into last season.

He’s a guy who we have big expectations for. You know, you don’t want to rush him back from an injury. So, we’re going to take our time and make sure we get him healthy. Even if it’s January or February when he’s playing his best basketball we want to make sure he’s back in shape and physically ready to help us.

I think he’s a kid who-- when he is healthy, he’s as dynamic offensively as any small guard in the country. He can make shots, he can make plays with the ball in his hands. He’s just a really gifted, explosive offensive player.

He’s just a really gifted, explosive offensive player. He’s a guy who were hoping to, at the start of the season have healthy. Hopefully by the team league play comes around and he has his legs under him, he’ll have a big impact for us.

On Incoming Transfers

It’s a large class. A couple of graduate transfers. A few JUCO guys and a prep school kid. So, we’ve got some older guys who I think are mature and hopefully ready to keep us competitive and keep us in the mix to win another conference championship.

 I think we’re excited about the group we’ve brought in. Again, it’s a lot of new guys. It’s a lot of new faces and we’re trying to get them to learn what are culture is and how hard we play every day and how hard we work.

The expectations here are something they’re going to adjust to. You’ve got to get them to mesh. You’ve got to get the chemistry right. You’ve got to figure out rotations and who you’re going to play where. It’s going to be a lot of mixing and matching.

I think we have some guys who fit our style of play. Again, it’s going to be up to them to figure out how hard we play. 

The guys who figure that out the quickest will be the guys who will play the most minutes early on. It takes different guys a different amount of time to adjust. Some of these guys can be thrown to the fire a little bit.