Iona's hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament next March received a boost Tuesday night with the addition of an unusually high-profile recruit.
Norvel Pelle, a consensus top 50 Class of 2012 prospect, committed to the Gaels, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed. The 6-foot-11 big man originally signed with St. John's last year before reopening his recruitment after failing to qualify academically.
The only caveat to Pelle's decision for Iona is that it's still not a sure thing he'll be able to suit up for the Gaels this season. Two sources confirmed the NCAA has not yet declared Pelle academically eligible but also said they're hopeful he'll be able to play.
If Pelle does play for Iona this season, the Gaels will get a big man coveted by programs from leagues with greater pedigree than the MAAC. San Diego State and Iowa State initially pursued Pelle after he parted ways with St. John's and DePaul and Auburn were among the programs still interested at the end.
Pelle is an athletic big man who blocks shots, runs the floor well and has expanded his offensive repertoire. Surround him with talented perimeter players like MoMo Jones, Sean Arnand and Toledo transfer Curtis Dennis, and suddenly Iona looks like the class of the MAAC once again.
When Iona graduated point guard Scott Machado and forward Mike Glover, it appeared a dropoff from last season was all but inevitable. Replacing the pass-happy Machado as the catalyst for an up-tempo attack won't be easy, but don't expect the Gaels to fade from the national spotlight either.