Mike Poole has become a leader for Iona hoops

Mike Poole has become a leader for Iona hoops

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Mike Poole has become a leader for Iona hoops

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NEW ROCHELLE

The basketballs flew straight at the players — heads, legs, whatever. They were being thrown by the head coach at his own guys in practice, right there on the video.

“I wasn’t one of the guys that was in that fiasco,” Mike Poole said. “I was watching from the side. It wasn’t as bad as it seemed. But it shouldn’t have been done at all.”

This was Rutgers basketball under Mike Rice, Poole’s coach the previous three years. The explosive tape surfaced on ESPN and Rice was fired after last season for physical and verbal abuse. Then athletic director Tim Pernetti was let go. Poole knew he had to go, too, before his senior year tipped off.

“On the inside, it was unstable,” Poole said. “The AD was fired. Nobody knew who was going to be hired anywhere. It was just a place where I wasn’t comfortable staying there.”

The 6-foot-6 swingman from Queens found a comfortable place in New Rochelle. After receiving a waiver to play right away at Iona, Poole has become a leader and a solid two-way component for a Gaels team shooting for a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament, a team that’s riding a 10-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s matchup at Marist.

“He’s a very valuable piece of our team,” coach Tim Cluess said.

Poole had played the game of his college life against the Gaels last season, filling up the basket for 18 points in 18 minutes to help beat them at the Garden.

It didn’t take that long for Cluess to realize Poole should be one of his captains, just like he was with the Scarlet Knights.

“Early on, I thought he was just bringing great intensity into our practices and maturity and leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Cluess said. “I thought he was someone who got what it took to do things the right way. I thought he was someone our younger guys could learn from.”

The St. Benedict’s Prep grad embraces the role, saying: “It’s easy to talk, but it’s hard to lead when it’s your actions. And I think I’m doing a good job with my actions, going out there and showing guys how to move and talking to guys, helping them be in better places.”

So his value is more than just numbers. Poole averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds at Rutgers. He has started the past 18 games for Iona and is averaging 6.2 points — including a career-high 19 in the win over Manhattan on Jan. 31 — and 4.6 rebounds overall.

“I want to play basketball when my college career is over no matter where it’s at,” Poole said. “I love playing basketball and I’ll play anywhere.”

Twitter: @bheyman

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