Schadrac Casimir missed last season's MAAC championship win, and is determined to do as much as possible to help Iona repeat despite concerns surrounding injured hip. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
ALBANY, NY -- Schadrac Casimir remembers where he was when Iona punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament last season.
"A year ago today, I actually had surgery," the redshirt sophomore guard said, having undergone a procedure on his right hip the morning of the Gaels' 79-76 victory over regular season champion Monmouth. "As soon as I got home, it was just starting. I remember I was forgetting I was hurt, trying to jump up and cheer, and almost tearing my hip again."
After three surgeries in total, and two years since the former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year competed in a championship game, the Stamford native is back in the limelight and willing to pay the ultimate price to help Iona win back-to-back conference titles for the third time in program history, and the Gaels' tenth overall MAAC crown.
"I'm going to do what I can to help my team win," Casimir confidently stated following Monday's shootaround before Iona takes on Siena with an automatic bid to the field of 68 at stake. "It's a championship game, so no excuses."
After initially expressing concern over whether or not Casimir would be able to be effective in three consecutive games, Tim Cluess changed his tune slightly following a quarterfinal victory over Rider, quipping that he expected a full effort from Casimir against Saint Peter's on Sunday following his 22-point effort the day before. When prompted again about just how much of a contribution was in the cards, Iona's head coach was largely noncommittal.
"He doesn't feel too bad, actually," Cluess admitted. "Just a little bit sore, but the doctors say that he's okay to go. We'll know a little more when we get out here and start playing tonight, and when he gets a good warmup in."
One of Casimir's teammates, though, had a much brighter outlook.
"Right now, I'm looking forward to him coming out and being Schadrac," Deyshonee Much shared hours before the 9 p.m. tipoff at the Times Union Center. "If for whatever reason he does go down, then our guards know the next person is up. But he's a trooper, and I know he's ready to go."
Facing Siena amid a crowd of over 8,000 in a championship setting adds more to the atmosphere on paper, especially considering Iona is battling the Saints on their home floor despite assertions by head coach Jimmy Patsos that the tournament is held at a neutral site. Yet for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a conference title matchup, Casimir insists this is no different from any of the other 33 games the Gaels have played.
"There's always motivation," he said. "Cluess is always expected to win. He preaches that in practice, that we don't take any games off."