For GaelNation GM John Kiggins, recruiting is a worldwide affair

 

By: Josh Brown | @josh_brown31


GaelNation GM John Kiggins racked up some serious miles this offseason

For most recent college graduates, a trip to Europe is either an excuse to forget your responsibilities stateside and explore a new culture or backpack up and down the continent with a group of friends.

GaelNation GM John Kiggins had two million other reasons why he decided to make the solo trek across the Atlantic this past March.

Motivated by a double-overtime loss to Boeheim’s Army in the second round of the TBT 2017 Northeast Regional, Kiggins packed his bags and hopped on a flight from New York City to Warsaw, Poland. The goal was simple: put together a championship caliber team for TBT 2018.

Although the Iona Alumni squad had a good infrastructure in place after beating two-time TBT semifinalist City of Gods in the first round and taking Boeheim’s Army to the brink, Kiggins knew that he had to take the team to the next level if they wanted to get over the hump this summer.

“Everyone realizes after last year, maybe we didn’t throw out our A-team per say,” said Kiggins, a 2016 Iona graduate and former four-year team manager. “We had a couple guys who couldn’t come so we were scrambling to find some guys who didn’t really fit our system.”

The most obvious place to start for Kiggins was Iona legend A.J. English. A three-time First-team All-MAAC selection and 2,000-point scorer, Sports Illustrated named him one of the 10 best players not to be drafted by an NBA team in 2016.

English attended TBT in person last summer and even joined the team on the bench for their second-round game against Boeheim’s Army. After instantly becoming hooked on the event, English decided that if the squad advanced to Brooklyn for the Super 16, he would suit up with his fellow Iona brothers.

Unfortunately for GaelNation, he never had the opportunity.

“He’s a guy who I’ve been talking to about TBT since the car ride back from the Syracuse game,” said Kiggins. “He has been very adamant about wishing he could have played, wishing that things could have been different.”

After spending some time together in New York City for the next month and reflecting on the loss, it was time for English to depart for Radom, Poland to begin his professional season. Although they kept in touch via text message, when January rolled around and it was time to start constructing the roster for this summer, Kiggins wanted to ensure that his number one recruit was all aboard for #TBT2018.

“The main point in my mind, if you get a guy like A.J. English…the rest of these guys will buy in,” said Kiggins. “He was my key recruit this year. Adding a guy like him kind of brings credibility to the other guys who also kind of were on the fence last year. It’s one of those domino effects in terms of once you get a couple of the better players to buy in, per say, everyone wants to join in on the fun.”

Three months and one missed connecting flight in Portugal later, the two were dining together at a Pizza Hut in Radom. Not only did Kiggins get his commitment from English, but the two spent hours putting together a plan for this summer.

“At night, we’d be talking to other Iona alums saying ‘hey look, we think this would be a great fit for you. We want you in. We have a pretty good shot at winning this thing.” said Kiggins.

That strategy seems to be paying off. In addition to returning key players such as Steven Burtt, Javier Carter and Aaron Roundtree, GaelNation has added 2014 grad Sean Armand to the roster for this summer. The 6-foot-4 guard helped lead Iona to the 2013 NCAA Tournament and is one of the best 3-point shooters in program history. Several other big additions are expected to be added to the roster in the coming weeks.

“If you add some of these big-name guys, you’re looking at some firepower,” said Kiggins, “and in my opinion, probably the deepest and best guard play in the tournament “

GaelNation currently sits third in the Northeast with over 500 supporters. If they can take home the giant check this summer, it would be a year and 5,000 miles in the making.