Team preview: Iona

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 3:34 PM ET
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They may not have signed up for it, but the players on the Iona basketball team took a course in chemistry last season and -- despite a late push at the end of the season -- the Gaels failed.

One of the problems was when the DeShaun Williams experiment blew up in Iona's face.

Williams played three seasons at Syracuse before being dismissed from school for academic reasons and transferring to Iona. Though supremely talented, Williams (a former second-team All-Big East pick) didn't mesh with his teammates or get his work done in the classroom. He led the Gaels in scoring (14.8 ppg), but was shooting just 36.4 percent from the field when he was suspended after 21 games for failing to attend to athletic and academic-related issues. Iona was also 7-14 in the games that Williams played. The Gaels also lost senior captain Steve Smith to academics after 16 games.

"My whole thing is you don't have to like each other, but when you step on the court you have to play together," Iona coach Jeff Ruland said.

"We're hoping [this year] they buy into what made us successful in the past and that's playing defense and sharing the ball."

Iona actually started to buy into it at the end of last season. The Gaels finished with four straight wins before falling to Niagara, 106-92, in overtime in the second round of the conference tournament. The five players who started the final eight games -- Greg Jenkins, Marvin McCullough, Ricky Soliver, Steve Burtt Jr. and Anthony Bruin -- all return this year.