The Montclair State University men’s basketball team had a heroic season. And one player, in particular, is a true iron man. Junior guard Kieran Flanagan has started every game for the team this year, as well as every game dating back to his freshman year. In high school, Flanagan thrived with his scoring capabilities and his playmaking, but what drew interest from Montclair State was something else, according to associate head coach Sean Rossi.
“It wasn’t even the scoring and the passing at the time that I was drawn to. He looked like he was playing [with] a chip on his shoulder,” Rossi said. “A bigger chip than in comparison to anyone else on the floor. I called his head coach right away, and said, ‘I love him. When is he playing next?’ He gave me the schedule and I was there at the next game.”
It was not just Rossi who thought Flanagan was the real deal, but head coach Justin Potts saw a player that he needed for his fast-paced style of basketball.
“He played with such a high motor in high school that you knew that would translate right away,” Potts said.
As a freshman, Flanagan entered the starting lineup immediately, as he started all nine games of his freshman year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) season. Come his sophomore year, a full season was played of 24 games in which Flanagan was the only player to start all 24. As his junior year came to a close, Flanagan continued the trend and started all 27 games.
“I’ve done this for a long time,” Potts said. “I’ve told you guys that and a lot of different scenarios have been in the 23 years I’ve been doing it. I don’t know if there’s a guy that plays harder.”
Rossi talked about Flanagan’s dedication on the court.
“He’s the hardest playing person on the floor at all times, both teams combined,” Rossi said. “He came in right away and his energy was so contagious, how could you keep them off the floor?”
This year, Flanagan is averaging 5.8 rebounds a game, as well as a team-high 112 assists, over a steal a game and 6.2 points per game. Flanagan does everything he is asked and it’s no secret that his hustle sets him apart. In addition to his play on the court, as a captain, his voice on and off the court is another place where he makes an impact.
“As he’s going through his career, he’s really matured, he’s really developed into a really, really good leader in several areas,” Potts said. “And he’s challenged us as coaches to be better. Because when you have a guy that can lead like that, then obviously as the leaders of the program and the coaching staff, we have to raise our level as well.”
Flanagan knows what is asked of him and his voice.
“It means a lot,” Flanagan said. “I appreciate it, like from all my teammates. They have the same voice that I have at the end of the day. I like to use it a little more than others. Because I think we need it, we need an energy guy to keep the team together, to get the team going.”
Sophomore guard Mike Jackson compared Flanagan to Batman, while assistant coach Will Bishop said Captain America, Potts and Rossi had thoughts of their own.
“I would say he moves like Superman because he flies around all over the place,” Potts said.
Rossi described Flanagan differently.
“I kind of feel like Iron Man, he’s a warrior himself, but he’s also a funny dude,” Rossi stated. “So I’m going to go with Iron Man.”
Flanagan cannot fly, but with the mentality he brings every day, the sky’s the limit for him and the Red Hawks.
“I mean, when it’s all said and done, I don’t want to be able to regret anything and look back and be like, ‘Oh, I should have given more here or why didn’t I play like this,” Flanagan said. “Or why didn’t I do this or that, so I just want to have no regrets.’ So I kind of just try to leave it all out there every time I step foot on the floor, and that’s for anything in life. Anything I want to do, I want to do it to the best of my ability, and I’m always gonna put forth the most effort.”