By Vin Parise
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I recently sat down with point guard Scott Machado of the 4-1 Iona Gaels. The Gaels are one of the hottest teams around with wins vs. Maryland & St. Joe’s and their floor general Machado leads the nation in assists. For all the attention Arizona transfer MoMo Jones & MAAC preseason player of the year Mike Glover have gotten – Machado is playing as well as any guard in the country. Here’s our chat…
VP: Are you surprised that you and the team are off to such a great start?
Machado: I’m not as surprised because as returners, this is the second year under the system. I think our veterans have take our style of play to the next level and our new guys have adjusted pretty well.
VP: Explain that system. You guys lead the country in scoring. How much of that is talent & how much of that is the system producing points?
Machado: It’s really more about being free. It’s true offensive freedom. We push the basketball, run hard and advance it up the floor right away. The first open shot is the best shot.
VP: What’s the one thing you guys do in practice that you think translates to your team scoring 94 points per game?
Machado: We scrimmage full court with a 10 second shot clock pretty often.
VP: You’ve been a household name to MAAC and NY area basketball fans but now you’re starting to receive national attention. How did you end up at Iona & where did you almost go?
Machado: Coach Kevin Willard and his staff (now at Seton Hall) were on me before I even went to St. Benedict’s and was still on Long Island. I really liked how Coach Willard worked with the guards at Louisville and how he was rebuilding the program up here. A lot of schools came around late, but Coach Willard, Coach Dan McHale and Coach Shaheen Holloway were loyal to me from the beginning. In the end, I chose Iona over UNC Charlotte and Providence.
VP: After your high school years on Long Island, how did the year at St. Ben’s under Danny Hurley help you?
Machado: I feel like I got so much better in less than a year. It was high competition for every game and I had the chance to practice with pros every day.
VP: Why has Iona basketball gone to the next level these last two years?
Machado: I think Coach Cluess and the staff have brought in great pieces to make everything fit with us veterans. Me, Kyle Smyth and Jermel Jenkins have gotten better every year. Coach Jared Grasso bringing in Michael Glover was huge. Having a dominant big man to play with makes a point guard look really good.
VP: Speaking of bringing people in, Arizona transfer MoMo Jones was big news this off-season. How did you feel about it then and now?
Machado: I knew MoMo casually because NY hoops is like one big family but we weren’t close friends yet. I read on line that he was considering Iona, so I reconnected with him and we’ve been close friends since. He’s gonna be great for us this year and next year when I’m gone. He practices shooting on his own so much. It’s just a matter of time before he breaks out.
VP: What did you learn from Kevin Willard?
Machado: How to run a team as a freshman in college. He threw me into the fire but taught me at the same time. I needed that.
VP: What did you learn from Danny Hurley? (now Wagner head coach)
VP: What have you learned these last two years from Tim Cluess?
Machado: How to be a scoring threat while still being a point guard first, and scorer second.
VP: You’ve credited your off-season with your play thus far. What took place in the spring and summer?
Machado: I never took a break after the season ended. I could taste the NCAA tournament after we lost the championship so I got right back at it. I trained so much for the Brazilian national team that I lost 12 pounds which has gotten me quicker. And I took 1,000 shots a day. Literally a 1,000 shots. Sometimes 500 in morning and 500 at night, but I always got the work in.
VP: What does the future hold for Scott Machado and the Iona Gaels?
Machado: I try to stay humble every day. I’ve been underrated my entire life so I still try to play like an unknown to people. But I truly believe we can win a game in the NCAA tournament if we win the MAAC championship.
VP: Some people are even dreaming of a Sweet 16 appearance.
Machado: Why not? You never know.