By: Joey Fairbanks (@Fairbeezy)
This Week: Scott Machado, PG, Iona Gaels
Senior, 6-1, 180 lbs.
2011-12 Season: 13.1 ppg, 10.3 apg, 4.7 rpg (seven double-doubles); Had a 33 points and 10 assists vs. Maryland
Awards: 2008-09 MAAC Rookie of the Year, twice All-MAAC First Team
Leading the nation in assists is not something Iona coach Tim Cluess was expecting from Scott Machado when he accepted the Gael's head coaching position. Cluess coached Machado at St. Mary's High School in New York, and said that Machado preferred to get buckets over helping others get them.
Machado averaged 7.6 dimes last season, but a stint playing for Brazil at the World University Games this past summer seemed to change his approach to the game. Since returning from the competition, the Gaels' point man has morphed himself into an NBA-prospect at the 1.
So far this season, Machado's new-found delight for distribution has helped his team post 84.4 points per game, third-best in America.
Part of Machado's training for the WUG that has carried over was dropping around 15 pounds, making him more explosive off the dribble. He has also become a "first in, last out" player in the gym, raising his conditioning level to play 36-plus minutes per game in Iona's frenetic offense.
Machado orchestrates the chaos of the Gaels' system using his spectacular court vision and high-end motor. Passing seems to be of second nature to him, and he can thread the needle like few others on the fast break. Machado's decision making in the open floor is phenomenal as well. He seems to be most at home when operating the fast break.
In the half-court, Machado can still do damage, but not at the same level as when the Gaels are running. He is not the most spectacular pure athlete, but the more sinewy frame has improved his quickness on the first step. The open-floor passing instincts are just as good in traffic, as he masterfully finds teammates for open looks and lay-ups when he penetrates the lane. He also has a claim to the prettiest lob pass in Division I hoops.
Machado has a confident shot, banging home 40 percent of his threes on the season. He is solid on jump shots, especially spotting up, but is often forced to pass in the lane because he struggles shooting over bigger defenders. He is an able scorer, but his mesmerizing prowess in the passing game is what sets Machado apart.
His defense in the half-court leaves something to be desired, but his rate of pace and conditioning suggest that he can make up for a lack of lateral quickness. One thing is unquestioned on the defensive end - Machado hustles. He is a competitor who makes opponents work for their baskets; earlier this season, he chased down a Siena defender after a turnover and blocked the lay-up off the backboard (around the 3:10 mark of these highlights). He then retrieved the ball off the carom, pushed it back up the floor and assisted on a three-pointer.
The Gaels are a front-runner for the MAAC championship and an NCAA berth. They will be a handful for the teams they face in the post-season, because Machado keeps them running at such a high clip. His name is often mentioned among the country's best point guards, but his game must be seen to be believed. Make sure to catch Machado and the Gaels whenever possible, and good luck keeping up.
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