Where to begin about Anthony Ireland.
The first time I ever truly sat down and watched Ireland’s greatness, it was the 2012-2013 season, where the Lions were playing at the McCarthey Athletic Center against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
LMU was getting their lunch handed to them by the No. six team in the nation; but one thing caught my eye. There was a junior point guard that was making shots that he had no business making. Fade-away 3-pointers, off-balance runners in the lane, etc. You name it, Ireland probably did it.
While Gonzaga was dominating the game, I found out just how good Ireland really was and walked away thinking “he is one of the most talented scoring guards to ever play in this conference.”
In the end, Ireland finished with 30 points on eight of 20 shooting, a fairly average shooting night for the Waterbury, Conn. native.
Fast-forward a year later, and I had watched Ireland a handful more times after covering the WCC this past season. That claim still holds true, Ireland is truly one of the best scoring guards in the conference’s history.
Ireland came to LMU from the Winchendon School, a prep school in New England. Prior to his prep season, Ireland played at Crosby High School, but reclassified to the 2010 class to gain more interest recruiting wise.
Ireland made an immediate impact on LMU his debut season, starting in 26 of the Lions 32 games. At this point, the Lions had a host of talented players, such as Vernon Teel, Ashley Hamilton and Drew Viney. Nonetheless, Ireland was third on the team his freshman year in scoring (10.6 PPG) and second in minutes played (31.6 MPG).
For his immediate impact, Ireland was named to the WCC’s All-Freshmen team.
As expected, Ireland made a significant jump in his sophomore season. Ireland led the team in scoring (16.1 PPG), assists (4.9 APG) and minutes played (36.5 MPG).
Under Ireland’s leadership, LMU experienced their only winning season during his career in Westchester. The Lions finished 21-15 that season, finishing fourth place in the conference standings and earning a berth into the College Insider Tournament.
The sophomore floor general earned All-WCC honors and was named to the NABC all-district second team for his stellar play.
When Ireland’s junior season rolled around, the 5-foot-10 point guard turned into one of the best scorers in the nation. Not only was Ireland second in the conference in scoring with 20.2 points per game, he was also 14th in the country for that mark.
Along with his 20.2 points per game, Ireland finished the season with 3.6 assists per game and 1.7 steals per game. Ireland also posted career highs in minutes played (37.5 MPG) and 3-point percentage (37.5 percent).
Ireland once again found himself on the All-WCC team, along with the first-team All-WCC tournament team. As a junior, Ireland started all 34 of LMU’s 34 games.
Ireland did not explode like a lot of people predicted in his final season, but he put up respectable numbers nonetheless.
Scoring wise, Ireland’s numbers dipped down to 18.5 points per game and his 3-point percentage dipped down to 30.7 percent.
However, as a distributor, Ireland was better than ever. Dealing with a very young roster, the four-year starter averaged 5.4 assists and only 2.8 turnovers in his final season, posting his best ever assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9.
Ireland found himself on the all-WCC team for the third straight season for his numbers.
Ireland’s statistical accomplishments are impressive, there is no getting past that. He ranks third all-time in LMU history in points scored with 2,169, fourth all-time in field goals made with 735, fourth in 3-point field goals made with 195, ninth in assists per game with 4.2, 13th in steals per game with 1.5, first in games started with 125, second in free throws made with 504, third in assists with 557, second in steals with 200, first in games played with 132 and first in minutes played with 4,653.
All of those are unbelievable feats that speak a lot about Ireland as a player. However, none attest to Ireland’s commitment to the game more than the fact that he never missed a single game or practice while at LMU.
There are plenty of adjectives to describe Ireland. Committed, talented and captivating all would work. However, one word illustrates Ireland’s career better than anything: Great.