Norvel Pelle: Former St. John's Commit, Top-100 Recruit Commits to Iona

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Norvel Pelle: Former St. John's Commit, Top-100 Recruit Commits to Iona
Pelle, who played at Price High School and originally committed to St. John's, committed to Iona on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Dave Keefer)

In July, Iona was dealt heartbreaking news with the death of Chicago native Michael Haynes, who was planning to start his Division I basketball career with the Gaels this fall.

This month, Iona fans now have something to be cheerier about.

Norvel Pelle, who was a member of the ESPN Top 100 for the class of 2011 and committed to St. John's last year, committed to Iona, according to a Tweet by CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein on Tuesday night. He reportedly chose the Gaels over DePaul, Auburn and New Mexico State.

According to Rivals, Pelle is ranked 23rd overall in his class and is the No. 1 center coming out of high school.

Pelle was supposed to be an impact recruit as part of St. John's monster recruiting class last season, but he was ruled ineligible because the NCAA did not accept summer classes that he took at Northeast Preparatory School, according to an article in The New York Times.

Pelle de-committed from the Johnnies in November and reopened his recruitment.

Less than two months before the new season, he finally has a new home.

The next questions are if he will become eligible to play for the Gaels this year and, moreover, if he will be eligible to play immediately at the start of the season.

Iona, which last year won the MAAC regular-season championship and went to the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid after losing in the MAAC tournament, is generally regarded as one of the top three teams in the MAAC this year, along with Manhattan and Loyola (MD).

The Gaels graduated their two best players, Michael Glover and Scott Machado, but they return a pair of starters in Momo Jones and Sean Armand.

Jones was No. 2 on the team in scoring last year, with 15.7 points per game.

Armand averaged 9.5 points and was No. 2 in the MAAC in three-point percentage, at 46.7.

Senior Taaj Ridley is also back. Ridley started in the frontcourt last year alongside Glover and averaged 6.7 points and four rebounds per game.

The Gaels are expected also to start Toledo transfer Curtis Dennis. Dennis, who averaged 11.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 2011, is eligible immediately thanks to Toledo's postseason ban.

David Laury, a junior-college transfer, is expected to have a huge junior season for the Gaels, but he will not be eligible until the second semester.

If Pelle is eligible, the Gaels can start him with Jones, Armand, Dennis and Ridley for their season opener.

Once second semester rolls around, Laury can replace Ridley, and Ridley can become a useful sixth man.

Before the addition of Pelle, Iona appeared to be a solid step behind Manhattan and Loyola in the run for the MAAC title. But with the former St. John's commit, the Gaels are now possibly even ahead of the Jaspers and Greyhounds.

Iona's biggest pitfall, aside from a potential lack of chemistry with so many new pieces joining the squad, was going to be its lack of size.

Laury is 6'8" and 240 pounds, but he is more of a small forward than a traditional big man. Ridley, at 6'7", possesses a similar problem.

Pelle stands at 7'0" and will be an immediate force in the paint against MAAC competition.

His athleticism and shooting skills are not too common for a man of his height. His brother, Rambo Rasheed, compared him to the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant in an article by NBA.com's Adam Zagoria.

Size is already rare in a mid-major conference like the MAAC. But size combined with top-100 talent is an absolute gem.

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