Iona alum Rickey McGill aims for NCAA Tournament retribution in TBT 2019

 

By: Peyton Wesner | @pcwesner


Rickey McGill will look to accomplish the one feat that still alludes him

The stands are filled at Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a trip to the TBT 2018 Super 16 is on the line. Iona College rising senior Rickey McGill watches attentively as several of his former college teammates play for GaelNation, the alumni team of Iona. 

As Armored Athlete’s Julian Gamble walked to the free throw line, set his feet and netted the 75th point — helping his team reach the target score and ending GaelNation’s tournament run — McGill believed he could have had an impact on the outcome.

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“I wish I could have been out there,” said McGill, who had scrimmaged against GaelNation days earlier. “I feel like I would have made a little difference, and we probably could have got a win.

“I wanted to play, but I was still in college.”

Now, McGill will have his chance.

One of the most accomplished players in Iona school history will play not only in the NCAA Tournament this year but TBT as well. McGill played in “The Big Dance” each of the last four years, ending his college career with 26 points against top-seeded North Carolina in March.

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“He played terrific in our playoffs and the NCAA [Tournament],” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess. “What better time than being a senior and your final go-around to make it pay off for you. I thought he really helped lead our team.”

McGill scored 1,434 points in his career, ranking 20th on Iona’s all-time scoring list. He paired that with 551 assists, which is third best in the Gaels’ illustrious 79-year history. Out of all his accomplishments, an NCAA Tournament win always alluded McGill; the Gaels were defeated by Iowa State, Oregon, Duke, and North Carolina during his four seasons. Though, from his perspective, TBT provides the opportunity to avenge past losses and experience an NCAA Tournament-like victory.

“That’s still the same feeling,” said McGill. “If you lose, you go home.

“That would be another check[mark] for me.”

 

This past season, McGill was the only senior on a Gaels team that won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular season and tournament championships. The 6-foot-2 guard also, most notably, stands alone in MAAC history as the only player to win four consecutive conference championships.

“It’s something that no one can ever beat. They can only tie,” explained Cluess, who has led Iona to six NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons. “Luck is, obviously, involved. You got to be blessed by the man above. You have to have a team of guys that buy in and never give up and continually work hard and believe in what we do. A lot of things have to happen in your direction.”

McGill’s transition from freshman backup to Gaels legend was predicated on work ethic. After his freshman season, Cluess told the Spring Valley, N.Y., native to transfer, citing McGill’s failure to work hard. This challenge instilled the 2018-19 All-MAAC First Team selection to make a change.

 

“The summer after his freshman year he put in all the work because he wanted to prove to everybody that, ‘Look, I can be not only a great starting point guard but a valuable asset to the team,’” said GaelNation general manager John Kiggins. “He’ll go down as one of the best players in Iona history strictly because of sticking with it and not giving up. That’s a testament to his character.”

How McGill views himself, as well as his college accomplishments, is permanent. Tattooed on his right forearm is the word ‘Dream.’ On the left forearm, ‘Chaser’ resides in identical cursive lettering. The tattoos have been with McGill since his senior year of high school and serve as a constant reminder that will follow him to TBT and his rookie season in professional basketball.

“My dream is always to get to the NBA,” said McGill. “I am still chasing my dream and adding more pieces to the story.”

Photo Credit Iona College Athletic Department