Interviews

Published on November 11th, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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Iona Guard, Asante Gist On The Upcoming Season, “I Just Want To Take My Game To The Next Level.”

Last year’s NCAA Tournament proved, Iona guard, Asante Gist belongs on the big stage, his goal now is to prove he belongs on the next level.

Asante Gist is familiar with the big stage. His uncle Kier was a member of famed New Jersey group, “Naughty By Nature,” and his father, James served as the groups road manager and would later go on to manager R&B superstar, Jaheim along with other entertainers. But in terms of basketball, his 20-point outing against North Carolina in last year’s NCAA Tournament, not only put him on the basketball big stage, but it gave him the audience he needed to showcase his talents. Although they didn’t pull out the win, it proved that the MAAC school could compete with the big dogs that college hoops had to offer. Gist is no stranger to winning, he was an intricate part of, Bobby Hurley Sr.’s famed 32-0 St. Anthony team in high school. After a stint at Eastern Kentucky, he transferred to Iona in New Rochelle, New York. Gist hopes to piggyback off of last year’s successful season and elevate Iona to the next level.

During my recent conversation with, Asante he explains how attending Chris Paul’s camp built his confidence, opens up about the lessons learned from the North Carolina tournament loss and much more.

What’s good with you, my brother?

Asante Gist: Everything is cool. I just got out of practice.

You’re gearing up for the season. How are you feeling both mentally and physically?

Asante Gist: I’m feeling well. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling real good on the court. I feel like this year we are going to take a big step to where we’re supposed to go. We are going to have a huge season. We have returners coming back. As far as myself, I just took this offseason to really focused on all of my weaknesses and deficiencies that I felt as though I had on the court. I just want to take my game to the next level. Last year I had a good season, but it’s always about getting better. I feel good, mentally, physically and everything. I’m just getting ready.

What are some of those areas of concern that you felt needed working on?

Asante Gist: Last year, I played kind of off the ball a lot and towards the end of the season, I was more playing the point [guard] position. So, I have been working on the little things. I can really score the basketball and I proved that from the time I stepped into the collegiate level. My career average is like 15 points a game or something in that area. So, I have proved that, but I just wanted to work on getting my assist numbers up and going to rebound the basketball and getting steals. I’m doing everything to make sure that my team, have the opportunity to win every single game. I really wanted to focus on that. And then, just putting in a lot of time on my jump shot. I know in order to make it to the next level, I gotta be able to knock that down on a consistent basis. So, I was trying to work on that, so I can try to shoot over 40% from the 3. I know at the next level they look at that a lot. So, I just focused on those areas and running and getting in shape. I’ve been staying in shape and making sure I will be able to play in a whole game. I know I’m going to have to play a lot of minutes.

You can definitely stroke it, but you’re right, at the next level, especially now, it’s a big part of the game. As far as the collegiate level, do you feel like you are game-ready right now?

Asante Gist: Yeah! I feel as though I’m there now; at the elite level. I went to the Chris Paul Camp and it put me on the radar because there were a whole bunch of NBA scouts that was there. That put me on the radar and I’m starting to see that I’m getting a lot of recognition and attention. They know who I am and it just piggy backs from last year because when we played against North Carolina, I had a good showing on national television. I feel as though I am an elite college player now, but my whole mindset… my whole life my dad has always told me, “We are looking at the next steps.” It’s always what’s after this. So, I’m looking at the next level, so my mindset has to be bigger than just being an elite college player. I’m looking to be an elite NBA player or overseas player or wherever it may be.

The CP3 Camp was great for getting attention and having eyes on you, but what did you take away from it? Did it just let you know that you belong in the mix with the top hoopers?

Asante Gist: Yeah, I always will have that chip on my shoulder because I was kind of slighted a little bit coming out of high school. I didn’t get the big time offers that I felt as though I should get, so me being able to be there with those guys and seeing how I was playing and what I was doing, I always felt I belonged, but it just made me feel more confident. I really should be here, and I should be playing where they’re playing. Just knowing that I’m an elite player as well and just being able to get the knowledge from CP3 and the other NBA players and the guys that were there. It helped me a lot. I feel like I can take what I learned from that camp, put it into my game and it’ll make me a better ball player.

You were a part of, Bobby Hurley Sr. St. Anthony high school team that finished 32-0. That’s insane because game in and game out is different. No matter how good you are, everybody can get caught slipping. What was it like to accomplish that and finish with an unblemished record?

Asante Gist: People don’t know… that was probably the hardest season because, you just hit it on the head. Every single day there was a target on our back, so it was hard. The group of guys that we had and especially the coach that we had was never going to let us slip. Just being able to go out there and win every single game, some games were harder than others, but we were always able to go out there and get it done. Being under the knowledge of that coach and him having us play the same way everyday and never letting us take our foot off the gas pedal; no matter if we just beat a team by 50. He just always treated it like we were down, or it was 0-0. That kept us with the mindset to just keep your foot on their necks and continue to play hard. And just being a part of that was special. Being the last team at that prestigious school at that kind of program, and to win the championship and go 32-0 was a great feeling and a huge accomplishment for me as well. I appreciated being under his knowledge.

It seems like you have won at every level; born winner, bro. Tell us about some of your accomplishments.

Asante Gist: Well you know in high school, I was the first player in New Jersey history to win a state championship and a “Tournament of Champions,” as a freshman. And I was starting and basically played the whole game. Me, Hakim Santil, Tyler Roberson, Malachi Richardson, Chris Silva who now plays for the Miami Heat. That team alone, we were able to be a great team, state champions and win “Tournament of Champions.” The next year I won another state championship, but we loss in the semifinals to North Eastside. You know, Isiah Briscoe was on that team, Chris Silva was on that team, Nazi Reed was on that team; a lot of kids was on that team. We should’ve won, but we loss. My junior year, I played at Roselle at the beginning of the season and then I transferred to Marist, which was in Bayonne, New Jersey. That was really nothing. And my senior year, as I stated, we won the “Tournament of Champions,” the state championship game and went 32-0, so that was huge for me.

Then I went to college. I went to Eastern Kentucky. We really didn’t get it done there, but I had a tremendous freshman year there. I got a lot of accolades. I should’ve gotten “Freshman of the Year,” but I didn’t get it. I don’t know how that happened. I got “Player of the Week,” and “Freshman of the Week” almost every week, so I don’t know how that happened. It’s politics, I guess. Came back my sophomore year. It never really worked out there. I don’t know… miscommunication and kind of some things with the coach. So, I went to a place close to home, so I came to Iona. I sat out the rest of that year. Being able to play last year, we won the MAAC Tournament and was able to get to the NCAA Tournament and almost beat North Carolina. That was huge for us. So, basically like you said, I try to go everywhere and take that winning mindset and winning mentality to every single team and it seems to be working for me so far.

When you play a team like North Carolina, you have to elevate your game. What lessons did you take away from the North Carolina game?

Asante Gist: Just being on that stage in front of almost 20,000 people, on national television and everybody being able to see you and know who you are. As far as on the basketball court, that really made me understand that I belonged. Playing against guys like, Coby White, Nassir Little and Cameron Johnson and those guys who are now playing in the NBA and going out there and really handling my own out there. I had 20-points, 5-assist and 3 or 4-rebounds. That was big for me just as a confidence booster and gave me an understanding that I belong, and I really should be playing at that level. Just taking that away and the experience is always good. Gaining that experience just helps you in so many ways, so being able to gain that experience and help my team now, I just feel like it helped us tremendously.

You wear #3, so I immediately think your basketball influences are either, Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade or Chris Paul. Am I reaching on this one and if so, who are your basketball influences?

Asante Gist: My favorite player is, Kobe Bryant. That’s the GOAT to me. Chris Paul definitely had an influence on me. My father used to always tell me to watch him and how he controlled the game and how he played. So, me just being able to go to that camp helped me and was a dream come true for me. Being able to take his knowledge, watching him play and seeing how he’s able to put his guys in certain situations to be successful and he could also score the basketball as well. That helped me a lot, so that was a huge influence. #3 to be honest with you was not really my choice. I kind of came here last year and somebody else had #11. That’s my favorite number. Somebody else had it and 3 was open, I like the #3, so I chose it. As far as right now in the NBA, I really love, Kyrie [Irving]. Just his game in general, I really love, Kyrie. But Kobe is my favorite player.

You have a famous uncle and father. Your uncle was in the group, “Naughty By Nature,” and your dad managed him and other high-profile people, so I’m sure you were exposed to the big stage at an early age as well.

Asante Gist: My father and my uncle (Kier Gist AKA DJ Kay Gee) was in the music industry. That’s my dad’s younger brother, so that’s my real uncle not a play uncle (laughing). That’s really my blood. They formed, ‘Naughty By Nature” and a lot of people know the history behind it and how they became a big group from New Jersey. We’re from East Orange, New Jersey. They call it, “Ill Town,” that’s where we’re from; N. 18th Street. They just built a huge group and became something big and my dad was the manager and road manager for them when they first started. I have just always been around that. And my dad branched off and he started managing, Jaheim, Miilkbone and other artists. My dad’s been in the entertainment business as well as my uncle. Me just being around that and seeing that was a lot for me when I was younger. A lot of perks from it, but there were also some downs, my dad not being around all the time when I was younger. Certain things like that, but being around that at a young age, I feel like it helped me with my confidence level. My dad used to have me come on stage with, Jaheim and stuff like that, so just being around that, that was huge for me. But as far as my uncle, he’s very in tune with me. He comes around all the time; he comes to a lot of my games. I’m just happy that they were able to be successful at what they did.

Luke Cervino is my brother, I can’t let you go without telling me how you met, Luke and what are your thoughts on him as a person?

Asante Gist: Luke played on the New Jersey Roadrunners. I don’t know if you know, Sandy.

Absolutely. Coach Sandy is a legend.

Asante Gist: Yeah! Funny story, I was in 7th grade and I was playing with the 17-year old’s because my father always had me playing up when I played AAU. I never played with my age group. He always wanted me to play up so I could play against the older kids. He never wanted me to play with my age group because he felt I would be much better than people around my age. So, I always played up. I was in 6th-7th grade and I played up with, Luke. Me and Luke just became cool. He kind of took me under his wing at that age. He was like, “This kid can be good.” So, me and him just became cool and real good friends. His father and my dad became good friends. So, throughout the years they formed a relationship and we formed a relationship and it’s been like that ever since. He’s helped me with certain stuff and just being around me. So, that’s kind of how that happened, we just met in AAU when I was playing up.



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