Iona basketball and point guard Asante Gist had a whirlwind 2020-21 season, overcoming multiple COVID-19 pauses to win the MAAC Tournament and reach the NCAA Tournament.
The Gaels’ voyage in their first campaign under Rick Pitino was similar to the winding road Gist has taken in his basketball career. Gist played for multiple prominent high school programs and began his college career at Eastern Kentucky but ultimately finished up at Iona, where he was a three-year contributor.
The Spun caught up with Gist recently to discuss what this unique season was like, how it felt to play for a coaching legend, his next plans and much more.
Here’s a look at how the conversation went down.
The Spun: Probably the best place to start is to just tell us what this season was like for you guys. You dealt with COVID-19 pauses, cancellations and everything in between. It had to be pretty tough.
Asante Gist: It was crazy for us. We were paused at one point for 51 days straight. Just being shut down and not being able to play, going through everything we went through this year, it was something that nobody had ever experienced and I don’t want to experience ever again…Obviously, it was a good situation [the NCAA Tournament] at the end of it, but going through it was hard.
The Spun: How do you got about staying sharp and ready during a long pause like that? Was there anything you could do?
AG: During the pauses, they had a certain amount of days during the week where as long as you didn’t test positive, you could go to the gym and work out with the people that you lived with. Just getting shots up on the gun or working on your game by yourself. I took advantage of that and I tried to go outside and run. They gave us bikes to work out inside as well. That’s what I tried to do to stay in shape.
The Spun: What was it like to play in another NCAA Tournament after all that? That had to at least be nice.
AG: It was something special. Like I’ve always said, not everyone gets to enjoy those moments. For use to be able to do it twice is something special. I dreamed about playing in the NCAA Tournament since I was a kid starting to play basketball. So for me to go out there and play at the highest level, that just means to much to me.
The Spun: What was the experience like playing for Rick Pitino? Obviously, he’s a legend, a Hall of Fame coach. How did that go?
AG: It was great for me. In high school, I played for Coach [Bob] Hurley. They kind of were similar in some ways. Coach Pitino is a great coach. He’s somebody who demands excellence from you. He’s somebody that is going to make you go hard, even if there’s some days you might not want to. His standards are set high and his knowledge of basketball is crazy. Being around him and being able to pick his brain and talk to him about the game and things on the court, I feel like it helped me so much and will help me moving forward in my pro career.
The Spun: You mentioned pursuing a pro career. What do you have planned for that going forward, in terms of workouts or showcases?
AG: This past week, I’ve been taking calls from a bunch of agents that want to come and sit down with me. I’m just kind of enjoying the process but also understanding that I have to work extremely hard to be ready to go. I think I’m going to have some NBA workouts set up. I’ve also been taking calls from agents from overseas, in Europe. Playing overseas is on the table as well. I’m just trying to figure out the best situation. I’m going to sit down with my family and figure out what the best situation is, where the most money is and what makes sense for me.
The Spun: Last question. You’ve had the opportunity to go up against a bunch of really good guards in high school and college. Who were the best ones you’ve faced?
AG: In high school, I played against guys like Myles Powell, Tyus Battle. That whole 2016 New Jersey class was crazy. I played against all of them on a daily basis.
Also, my teammate in high school at Roselle Catholic, Isaiah Briscoe, me and him used to go at it every day in practice. Even the guys like Jagen Mosely, R.J. Cole who became my teammates at St. Anthony later on.
In college, I played against Coby White and all the guards North Carolina had [in the 2019 NCAA Tournament]. That’s probably all the guys I can think of that stand out right now.