Nov 16, 2014

Former FGCU Star Sarah Hansen Signs In Finland

(via Captive Photons)
Former Florida Gulf Coast women's basketball star Sarah Hansen signed her first pro contract on Sunday when she inked a deal with Forssan Alku in Finland.

Forsann competes in the Naisten Korisliiga, the highest tier of women's basketball in Finland, and has won a record tying eight championships since the league's inception in 1944. However, they are currently 1-7 on the year. Hansen informed the FGCU Eagles Nest that Forsann is not happy with their season and is bringing in a whole new team and coaching staff.

"I recently signed with a new agent. She knew the new coach from previous contracts," said Sarah Hansen. "He liked the way that I played and everything. It all pretty much came from there."

"Hopefully we can win more games...1-7 is not exactly the best," Hansen continued. "I obviously don't know much about the team or playing overseas so initially, I just want to contribute in ways that they need me to."

Hansen will look to carry over the tremendous success from her senior year. She averaged 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game en route to being named the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for the second season in a row. The Eagles captured the Atlantic Sun title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament as she was inducted into the FGCU Hall of Fame.

"Florida Gulf Coast made me into a significantly better ball player. Coach Smesko is one of the most amazing coaches I've ever come across," Hansen said.

That was just the final season in her tremendous collegiate career, in which she finished as the Eagles' all time leader in points, field goals made, rebounds, steals, games started, and minutes. After redshirting her freshman year, she landed on the Atlantic Sun All-Conference 1st team and earned a plethora of other awards as a sophomore and junior.

"When I came into FGCU, I redshirted. I wasn't good enough to be on the court. I was basically a practice player," Hansen said. "In my five years, I grew a lot as a player, intelligence wise and talent wise. It completely changed my game and changed me as a player."

The McKean, Pa. native flies to Finland on either Nov. 18 or 19 to continue her baksetball career. She will be joining former Eagle Brittany Kennedy, who spent the 2013-14 season with Saarlouis Royals (Germany), in the professional ranks.

"I've talked to some coaches and Brittany Kennedy. There's less physicality overseas than here. That's going to be a big change - it will be a lot more finesse and things like that," Hansen said.
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Nov 15, 2014

Norelia's Energy Lifts FGCU Past Nova Southeastern, Slow Start

(via Captive Photons)
A sluggish start from the Florida Gulf Coast men's basketball team had Eagles fans anxiously squirming in their seats. When would they see the Dunk City squad that was predicted to dominate the conference and return to the NCAA Tournament?

"In the first half we were frustrated. We weren't running our offense the way we wanted to, and defensively we were giving up way too many easy layups and shots," said senior guard Brett Comer.

Well, the Eagles' first dunk came with 6:31 left in the first half when Brett Comer threw a lob to athletic UNLV transfer Demetris Morant. It got Alico Arena on its feet, and it sparked the Eagles as well; they went on a 9-2 run to end the half.

Once FGCU had the momentum on their side, both Jamail Jones and Marc-Eddy Norelia made sure they kept the foot on the gas pedal. The two transfers were flying all over the floor, as they racked up a combined 33 points and 23 rebounds.

"His energy level was great in the second half, rebounding the ball with two hands...a big offensive putback to give us some room," Coach Dooley said of Norelia. "It took him a little while to ease into it, but we've seen it for the last year, he's had great energy for us everyday."

Also proving to be a tenacious defender alongside Jones and Norelia was freshman guard Christian Terrell. Despite a few silly turnovers, which is to be expected in his first collegiate game, the Jacksonville native racked up 7 points on 3/5 shooting.

"He made a big shot in the first half to give us a little momentum. He's very actively defensively, you saw he had a couple deflections," Dooley said. "It's just a learning process and I think one of the things that helps him is having the senior guards."

Speaking of newcomers (it's quite a theme here in Dunk City), Auburn transfer Brian Greene Jr. took over the point guard duties when Brett Comer needed a breather. Meanwhile, former UNLV forward finished the day with 2 points, on his lone dunk; he looked a little tense and dropped a few easy passes and rebounds.

Players Missing: Julian DeBose (three game suspension), Logan Hovey (foot), Nate Hicks (ACL)

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Marc-Eddy Norelia Slams Home Putback Dunk

Tulane transfer Marc-Eddy Norelia made quite a splash in his Florida Gulf Coast debut, Saturday. The 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore slammed home this putback dunk en route to 16 points and 13 rebounds in a 63-51 win over Nova Southeastern. Expect the athletic forward to continue making highlight reels as the Eagles continue their season on Monday against UC Santa Barbara.
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FGCU Basketball 2014-2015 Season Outlook

By: Bryan Cooney

The thrilling run to the Sweet 16 in 2013 brought national attention and a following with fans hooked on the wave that Dunk City rode on with wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. The expectations for Florida Gulf Coast and new head coach Joe Dooley were off the charts. In 2014, a promising season ended in the NIT against Florida State, after a defeat at the hands of arch-rival Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Championship thwarted a return trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Eagles. With three departures from last season’s team, Chase Fieler, Eric McKnight and Dajuan Graf, one would think that void that is hard to replace. Fortunately for Joe Dooley, four transfers from Division-I programs are ready to step in and provide depth and production. Marc-Eddy Noreila (Tulane), Julian Debose (Rice), Brian Greene Jr. (Auburn), and Demetrius Morant (UNLV) combined with the familiar cast of characters in Brett Comer, Bernard Thompson, Jamail Jones, and Nate Hicks, give FGCU its most talented roster in the school’s history. Senior Marcus Blake along with JUCO transfer Eric Moeller, true freshman Christian Terrell, and Logan Hovey who took a medical redshirt last season due to a leg injury should factor into the rotation as well.

A potential eleven-deep rotation should allow maximum flexibility for Joe Dooley to mix and match lineups and provide rest for players when needed. Possibilities are endless with five on the floor, but the starting lineup in the opener against Nova Southeastern on November 15th should feature familiar faces. Comer, Thompson, and Jones have cemented themselves as the staples of the Eagle lineup, with the trio starting all but five games all of last season. Comer begins the season as the active leader in assists amongst any player in college basketball entering this season and is closing in on the Atlantic Sun all-time record of 634, sitting 35 assists shy of that mark. Thompson’s prowess as a dynamic scorer and defender makes him one of the more valuable players in the Southeast. Jones settled into his own the latter third of the regular season and postseason and will be looked upon as a leader on and off the court. Noreila appears to have the first crack at the power forward position with his mobility and athleticism hard to leave out of the starting lineup. Hicks looks to return from an ACL injury sustained in the NIT matchup against Florida State and if healthy, should provide an imposing force at the rim and on the boards.

I believe there are three keys to success this season for FGCU, with one common theme: The letter B. The first B I look at is the bench. Bench depth in a conference like the A-Sun always gives the opposition issues with matchups, and with the talent at Joe Dooley’s disposal, whichever way he goes will be impressive. The situations that can arise during a game or a season, from foul trouble to an injury, can be problematic for some clubs. But for the Eagles, the bench should be a strength. DeBose averaged over ten points a game for Rice two years ago, with impressive offense ability. Greene was asked to play point guard at Auburn, but seems to be more comfortable off the ball, and his athleticism should be very useful on both ends of the floor. Morant is athletically gifted and coming along in his development offensively. Out in the open floor, none may be better on this roster, and his length on the defensive end should allow him minutes to produce and gain experience. Hovey could be an important piece to the roster being a skilled forward who coaches have been high on since he arrived on campus. The rotation excludes sharpshooter Filip Cvjeticanin, who will miss the season after back surgery. Depending on the starting lineup, the bench roles can fluctuate, which is a luxury FGCU will be able to experience with many guys to choose from.

The second B, that may be the most critical key to the success of this team, is the bigs. Last season, outside of Chase Fieler, production on the offensive end was inconsistent. This year's squad will feature more skilled and of course eligible players in the frontcourt that simply were not available last season. The mix of Noreila, Hicks, Moeller, Morant, Hovey, and Blake are not established offensive threats, but are capable of finishing at the rim and causing havoc on the defensive end. Getting out in transition will have to begin with solid backline defense, which should be attainable from this group. I believe the use of Hicks, Noreila, Hovey and Moeller and their shooting ability can draw out the opposition’s bigs to create more space for the guards to attack the basket. It will be interesting to see how these guys are utilized, and after the first few games it will be easier to gauge how Dooley will approach this part of his club.

The third and final B to look at are the names Brett and Bernard. The two have started the majority of their careers at FGCU, and have established a relationship that is infectious to how the team dynamic can be established. I believe a stronger bunch in the locker room will emerge from this year’s team with the leadership on and off the court from Comer and Thompson, with no question the taste of the defeat in the A-Sun title game still in their mouths. I will find it hard to believe these two will allow the rest of the team to slip up mentally for any game this season, particularly in conference and going towards the conference tournament as March becomes closer. It has been a pleasure watching these two come in as freshmen and develop as players and as people, and it will be a lot of fun watching them do what they need to do to lead this team as far they can.

A quality non-conference schedule awaits the Eagles, highlighted by trips to Xavier and Pittsburgh at the end of December. An in-season home and home series with UC Santa Barbara and a meeting at Iona will be fun matchups on the mid-major side of the schedule. Plenty of road games to gain experience for the newcomers should be valuable heading towards conference play, and a well-tested bunch should be ready to take on the conference’s best teams as the calendar turns. Do not be surprised if at one point in January, the Eagles get on national radar if they are able to go on the road and score big wins in tough environments, as I believe this team is capable of doing. As Eagle fans saw in Andy Enfield’s second season, big things happened. A second season under Joe Dooley, with many of the eligible transfers having a year of practice under their belt, should lead to better play out of the gates and greater continuity throughout the whole roster.
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Nov 9, 2014

FGCU 2014 Minor League Season Wrap Up

By: Bryan Cooney

With the World Series ending a few weeks ago, and the San Francisco Giants coming out on top over the Kansas City Royals for their third championship in the last five years, the baseball season is officially complete. Minor league affiliates finished their seasons months ago with 15 former Eagles scattered across the professional baseball system in 2014. The performance of the most recognizable FGCU alum Chris Sale, of the Chicago White Sox, is the gold standard for these aspiring Major Leaguers. Sale’s stellar season consisted of a 12-4 record with a 2.17 ERA over 174 innings and 26 starts, compiling 208 strikeouts. His 0.966 WHIP and 10.8 K/9IP ranked second and first respectively in the American League and will certainly look appealing to place him in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting, which will be revealed in the next week.

Many former Eagles in the minor league system also had solid performances in 2014. The most notable performance was from Casey Coleman. Coleman pitched for the Chicago Cubs from 2010 to 2012. He began 2014 with the Iowa Cubs (AAA), but was granted his release at the start of the season. He signed with the Royals and his performance with Triple-A Omaha earned him a promotion to the Royals, where he appeared in 10 games. If the Royals had won the World Series, Coleman would have been the first Eagle to have a World Series ring, but that hunt will have to wait until 2015.

Casey Coleman (KC) Iowa Cubs/Omaha Storm Chasers/Kansas City Royals
Major League Statistics: 10 G, 1-0 W-L, 12 IP, 5.25 ERA, 5K/6BB
Minor League Statistics: 35 G, 5-1 W-L, 68 IP, 2.65 ERA, 54K/28BB

Richard Bleier (TOR) New Hampshire Fisher Cats/Buffalo Bison
35 G, 5 GS, 6-5 W-L, 86 2/3 IP, 3.95 ERA, 45K/11BB

Jacob Barnes (MIL) Huntsville Stars/Brevard County Manatees
26 G, 21 GS, 2-6 W-L, 113 IP, 4.06 ERA, 83K/38BB

Tim Roberson (BOS) Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
231/.294/.369, 10 HR, 26 2B, 52 RBI in 111 G

Stephen Wickens (MIN) New Britain Rock Cats/Fort Myers Miracle
.242/.296/.301, 1 HR, 8 2B, 24 RBI in 72 G

Brandon Bednar (SF) San Jose Giants/Augsuta GreenJackets
261/.307/.340, 6 HR, 16 2B, 40 RBI in 122 G

Mike Reeves (TOR) Vancouver Canadians/Lansing Lugnuts/Dunedin Jays
.213/.312/.257, 1 HR, 6 2B, 16 RBI in 63 G

Sean Dwyer (COL) Tri-City Dust Devils/Modesto Nuts
.240/.331/.367, 8 HR, 27 2B, 58 RBI in 122 G

Ricky Knapp (NYM) Savannah Sand Gnats
22 G, 20 GS, 7-9 W-L, 120 1/3 IP, 4.34 ERA, 92K/39BB

Harrison Cooney (LAA) Burlington Bees
25 G, 22 GS, 9-8 W-L, 129 IP, 2.65 ERA, 91K/51BB

Brandon Bixler (MIN) Cedar Rapids Kernels
41 G, 7-4 W-L, 74 IP, 2.68 ERA, 77K/37BB

Jason Forjet (SF) Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
15 G, 14 GS, 7-1 W-L, 87 IP, 3.10 ERA, 87K/16BB

Michael Suchy (PIT) Jamestown Jammers
.236/.331/.333, 1 HR, 8 2B, 17 RBI in 66 G

Zach Tillery (MIN) Elizabethton Twins/GCL Twins
12 G, 5 GS, 2-3 W-L, 38 IP, 2.37 ERA, 27K/9BB

Ryan Atwood (SD) AZL Padres
1 G, 0-0 W-L, 1 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1K/0BB
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Oct 21, 2014

FGCU 2014-15 Non-Conference Schedule Preview

By: Sterling Thomas

FGCU has always strived to play a competitive non-conference schedule year in and year out. This year however it proved to be more difficult thanks in large part to the Eagle’s recent success. To many schools in bigger conferences, playing a team like FGCU is a scary prospect. Not only because they may lose and hurt their strength of schedule (SOS), but they are also most likely paying for the game and would prefer the easy win so their fans can go home happy. Coach Dooely and Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh worked together to craft the best schedule possible with the limitations of being a top mid-major program this season.

The season begins with three games within the cozy confines of Alico Arena. The first of which will be a tune up game against Nova Southeastern on November 15th. The Sharks (D-II) return their top six scorers from a squad that went 13-17 (8-8) with a 77-59 win over FIU. While they should be an improved team, and will give FGCU all they have, Nova just does not have the horses to run with the Eagles. As a team that only went seven deep last year, the Sharks must capitalize on every opportunity they’re given or they will be overwhelmed by the size and depth of the Eagles.

Next up, the Eagles play the first half of an in-season home and home series with UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos return six players that played at least ten minutes a game as they went 21-9 (12-4) last season. Prior to coming to Alico, UCSB will stop in Kansas to play the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. Alan Williams is the player to watch in this matchup. The 6-foot-8, 265 pound senior averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds a game last season. He will be one of the best big men the Eagles will see all season and if he can be contained in the post, it bodes well for FGCU.

In the final game of their home stand, FGCU will be hosting Ohio Bobcats. The Bobcats lost a lot of talent off of last season’s 25-12 effort, but they should still be squarely in the thick of things in the MAC this season. The talent on this team begins with the big man Maurice Ndour, who averaged 13.8 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game. Ndour is a force on both sides of the ball with his extremely long frame. The biggest question for Ohio is can all the newcomers do enough to help supplement the returnees efforts.

Florida Gulf Coast leaves Alico Arena for it’s first game away from home, but they won’t have to travel far. The Eagles will be playing down the road at Germain Arena for the Gulf Coast Showcase. They're guaranteed three games in the event and are matched up with Marist in the first round. Even though Marist went 12-19 last season, the Red Foxes return some very good players in 6-foot-5 wing Chavaughn Lewis and last season's MAAC rookie of the year Khallid Hart. The duo combined to average over 32 points per game and will prove to be a tough test for the Eagle’s defense. The other six teams in the tournament are Hawaii, San Francisco, Green Bay, ECU, Fresno State, and Evansville. Playing so close to home, FGCU should be the favorite to win the event.

The Eagles play their first true road game of the season when they travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take on the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University.The Jackrabbits are in a bit of a rebuilding year after losing not one, but three players who scored 1,000 points in their careers. This doesn’t mean it will be an easy win for FGCU. SDSU has some very capable players that will be looking to make their mark on the program. Cody Larson has been an excellent inside presence, averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds a game, ever since he arrived from Florida and figures to be one of the main options going forward. The other player to watch is Deondre Parks, a JUCO All-American.

Next up, FGCU returns home to play Florida Tech. The Panthers have two very dynamic guards in Chris Carter and Jermaine Jackson. Both players are Division-II preseason all-americans and know how to score the ball. Carter makes his presence felt in every aspect of the game, averaging 17.3 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game. Not to be out-shined by his counterpart Jackson, who averaged 19.5 points and 4.1 rebounds last season.

The Eagles hit the road for Massachusetts where they will face the first of three 2014 NCAA Tournament teams. The game against the Minutemen will be played in Springfield, Massachusetts for the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase Game. UMass plays a very uptempo game and plans to press teams this season. The question for the Minuteman is who will step up to be the go-to-guy. Four different players averaged between eight and twelve points last season, and if they want to compete for back to back tournament bids then one of the quartet must step up. At 6-foot-10, Cady Lalanne is the biggest returning player from last year’s squad. He averaged 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds a game and used his length to block 71 shots last season.

FGCU travels back home where they hope to get some revenge against FIU. Last season, the Eagles had a 56-48 with 7:20 left in the game. From that point on the Panthers went on a 24-5 run to close the game and win 72-61. The Panthers lose their top two scores from last season but bring in a few transfers in the hope of making up for their loses. Adrian Diaz from Kansas State is a big man who knows how to finish around the rim. In his final season with K-State he averaged 3.0 points a game in limited minutes. Ray Rodriguez also transferred to FIU, and should provide a weapon from outside. Ray attended UNF his freshman year and played a combined 21 minutes against the Eagles in the 2012-2013 season. The final transfer is JUCO All-American Tashawn Desir, who averaged 13.1 points and 4.5 assists a game last season. He should provide some much needed depth in the backcourt for the Panthers.

Furman comes to Dunk City a season after losing a thrilling game at home to the Eagles. Brett Comer hit two free throws with six seconds left in the game to give FGCU the one point win. Led by Stephen Croone, who averaged 19.1 points per game, the Paladins will be looking to return the favor and beat the Eagles at home. It will be a bit of a homecoming for big man Kendrec Ferrara, a Mariner High School alum. The big man from Cape Coral averaged just under 10 points a game as a sophomore and is primed to step into a bigger role this season. After Furman, the Eagles will hit the road for its longest road trip of the season, and the first stop is New Rochelle, New York to take on Iona. The Gaels were one of the highest scoring offenses in the nation last season, averaging 83.5 points per game. That should be the case again this season with Iona sporting four different double digit scoring returnees.

Next stop on the trip is Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Musketeers lose their top two scorers from last season and must find someone to fill the void left behind. This year they will be a younger team with a talented group of six freshmen, including two ESPN Top-100 players. Both Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura averaged over 30 points per game as high school seniors. If they can provide a scoring punch as freshman, Xavier could challenge for the Big East title and return to the NCAA tournament.

The final and likely toughest test on the trip is at Pittsburgh. Pitt has made the NCAA Tournament in ten of the last eleven season so the Panthers are no strangers to success. They will rely on its experience with senior guard Cameron Wright and junior guard James Robinson. The pair will give Pitt a little of everything but may make their biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball (119 steals).

The Eagles finally return home just in time for the new year and are greeted by the Gyrenes of Ave Maria. The NAIA club finished 12-19 last season. In last season’s matchup, FGCU won, 79-56, in dominating fashion. Although the Gyrenes return their top two scorers in Matt Chattin and Wendell Powell, expect this season’s game to be much like last year’s with the Eagles winning this one comfortably.

FGCU finishes their out of conference with a familiar foe in UC Santa Barbara. This time however the Eagles will travel out to California for the matchup. This game will be the farthest west the Eagles have traveled since they went to Hawaii in 2005 when they were a D-II school.
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Oct 13, 2014

Canadian PG Elijah Long Commits To Florida Gulf Coast

2015 point guard Elijah Long (John Carroll HS, MD) committed to Florida Gulf Coast after a weekend visit to Dunk City, he announced Monday.

“I just felt it was the best fit for me...the style of play - they play exactly how I play with fast tempo, lot of screens." Long said of his decision. "Coach Dooley connected with me on the visit. He was very open about life, not even about basketball. He's very serious on the court and a funny guy off the court."

The Mississauga, Ontario native is widely considered one of Canada's best players in the 2015 class and averaged 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on the EYBL circuit with CIA Bounce this summer. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, are just a few of the storied alums of the Toronto based AAU program.

"When I was nine or ten years old, very few people from Canada made it to the NBA," Long said. "As I grew older, there was Wiggins, Bennett, Ennis. I never thought they would make it to the NBA because I just thought it was a whole other level. I couldn't believe it. "

"When I see a bunch of those guys making it to the pros, not even in the NBA, it really opens my eyes and shows me it's not just a dream. It's a reality and you work hard and do the right things you might end up in the NBA or playing pros overseas," Long continued.

Verbal Commits ranks Long as a two-star prospect. He held an offer from Old Dominion with interest from other schools such as Purdue and George Washington.

"I'm a pass first point guard. I can score the ball when I want, but I tend to get everyone else involved," Long said. "My strength is, believe it or not, to get to the cup. I drive a lot. I never had a jumper when I was younger so I was always driving. Now that I developed a jumper, it opens up the lane for me."

Elijah developed his game playing at a young age with his brother and current Iowa State guard Naz Long. The junior averaged 7.1 ppg in 20 mpg last season as the Cyclones advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

"We were never the best players when we were younger," Long said of he and his brother. "I just saw how hard he worked. It's a blessing for him and an eye opener for me: work hard and you can achieve your goals."

The determined floor general becomes the second commitment of FGCU's 2015 class as small forward Rayjon Tucker gave his pledge to the Eagles in late September. Assistant coach Jamill Jones was the lead recruiter for both prospects.

With a slew of seniors graduating at the conclusion of this season, the Eagles have two remaining scholarship spots for the 2015-16 season. There will be a lot of minutes up for grabs next year as Long, and many other new faces in the program, seek to build on Dunk City's success.

"I'm definitely trying to put Florida Gulf Coast on the map with my teammates, even more so than it is now. Try to make it to the Sweet Sixteen and be the loudest team in the tournament," Long said of his goals in Fort Myers. "Basically, I just want to grow on the court and off the court...with my coaches and educationally."
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Sep 30, 2014

2014/15 FGCU Basketball Positional Preview

On paper, FGCU has more talent than ever before. The Eagles return 58% of their scoring, 57% of their rebounding, and 66% of their assists. Going into the season, Florida Gulf Coast is the prohibitive favorite to win the Atlantic Sun and return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.  In addition to the players that FGCU retains, the Eagles also bring in a ton of new talent in a quintet of transfers from Rice, UNLV, Tulane and Auburn, as well as one of the best recruiting classes in the conference.

Unfortunately there will always departures to go with the additions, most notably, Chase Fieler. Fieler was integral to FGCU’s success last season averaging fourteen points and seven and a half rebounds a game. Other departures include the transfers of Dajuan Graf and Eric McKnight, and walk-on Kevin Boyle, and the season long injuries to both senior forward Filip Cvjeticanin and highly touted freshman guard Zach Johnson.

Point Guard
Starter: Brett Comer
It’s no secret in Dunk City that Brett Comer is back again to command the offense in his final season at the helm of the Eagles, so it should come as no surprise that Comer is closing in on the Atlantic Sun all time assist record at 623. “Agent Zero” is fourteen assists from the record and will spend a majority of the season cushioning his record. Comer is a preseason All-Conference guard and likely one of the best mid-major point guards in the entire country. Without Comer, the Eagle’s offense would likely stall and truly put a damper on the season.

Backup Options:
Although the starter is well established, the backup point guard has yet to be determined. The early candidates are Auburn transfer Brian Greene, who is better described as a combo guard, and freshman Christian Terrell, who is more of a scorer and slasher than a distributer. Fellow freshman Zach Johnson was brought in to be Comer’s heir apparent, but due to an undisclosed injury he will redshirt this season. The early advantage would have to go to Greene due to the fact that he has a year in the program and should know the playbook better. This battle could possibly run over into the season and depending on how they play, we may not have a definitive backup point guard until December rolls around.

Shooting Guard
Starter: Bernard Thompson
Thompson has been an integral part of the offense since the day he stepped on to the sunny campus of FGCU. Combining with Comer to create one of the most experienced backcourts in the country, the all time leading scorer for the program comes into the season with high expectations on both sides of the ball. Not only is Bernard already in the top fifty all time in the conference for scoring, but he is also twelfth all time in the conference for steals.

Backup Options: 
The early consensus is that Rice transfer Julian DeBose will be Thompson’s primary backup this season. The 6’4” guard averaged ten points a game two years ago, so he is already something of a known quantity. Not only did he score well at Rice, but he was also a solid rebounder from the guard position. The other contenders for minutes at the backup shooting guard position are again the versatile Greene and Terrell. Both players are solid scorers and if given the chance they will both finish with authority at the rim despite their relative lack of size.

Small Forward

Starter: Jamail Jones
Jones came to FGCU as a transfer from Marquette and after sitting out the 2012-2013 season, started thirty-two games as a redshirt junior. After a somewhat slow start while he adjusted to his third coach in as many years, Jamail came on strong and scored double digits in ten of his final thirteen games. The senior is the team’s leading returning rebounder and will continue to bring energy every time he is on the court.

Backup Options:
Much like how Greene and Terrell could play both guard positions, DeBose could also be a backup option at the small forward position if the Eagles choose to go small at any point in time. His main competition for those minutes would be the highly touted redshirt freshman Logan Hovey. Hovey was expected to contribute last year, but unfortunately his season ended before it could even begin thanks to a stress fracture in his leg.  The walk-on transfer from Auburn, Nick Peller, could also grab some spot minutes if the situation calls for it.

Power Forward
Starter: Marc-Eddy Norelia
This is where things get a little hairy for the Eagles. Gone is all time leading rebounder Chase Fieler. Tasked with filling the void left by Fieler is a talented group of transfers. The early leader is Norelia who is an athletic jumping jack who could provide the same kind of spark as Fieler in transition and slashing to the hoop.

Backup Options: 
Two other transfers, Demetris Morant from UNLV and Eric Moeller from Missouri and College of Central Florida (JUCO), will battle Norelia for playing time. Morant is very much like Norelia in the fact that he jumps out of the gym and can finish with power around the rim. If he is able to learn the playbook he could be a big time factor throughout the entire season. Moeller is a walking mismatch given his height (6’11”) and his ability to shoot the three. If he can prove effective playing on the perimeter on offense and provide a defensive force on the other side of the ball, he could soften the loss of senior forward Filip Cvjeticanin - the team’s leading three point shooter last season. The final big man in play for minutes at power forward is none other than the Mayor of Dunk City himself, Marcus Blake. He has been in the program for a long time and has tasted success and knows what it takes to get there. Marcus will give you everything he has whenever he is on the court and can always be counted on to rally the troops if things are not going well.

Starter: Nate Hicks
Hicks went down in the final game of the season last year with an ACL tear in his left leg. When Hicks is healthy, he is an imposing player on the defensive side of the ball accounting for over 33% of the team’s blocks by himself. Though his stats don’t suggest Nate had a good year, that has more to do with the fact that he split time at center with Eric McKnight and because FGCU is more of a perimeter oriented team.

Backup Options: 
It might be more center by committee with so many talented post players.  All four of the bigs could see time manning the middle depending on if the game plan calls for it. If the coaches are looking to push the tempo, then both Norelia and Morant would be great options for Comer to throw lobs to in the transition game. The same could be said for Moeller if the coaches are looking to spread the floor on the offensive side of the ball. In all likelihood all four of the bigs could finish between fifteen and twenty-five minutes a game.

Written by Sterling Thomas
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Sep 24, 2014

2015 SF Rayjon Tucker Commits To FGCU

Florida Gulf Coast landed their first commitment of the 2015 class on Wednesday when Rayjon Tucker (Charlotte, NC) gave his verbal pledge to the Eagles.

"They just built a relationship with me and my family from the start," Tucker said. "I like how family oriented they are. I just felt like I was part of the family from day one. That was the main thing that pushed them to number one."

The small forward out of Northside Christian Academy took an official visit in late August and now a month later has announced his decision to continue his basketball career at FGCU in the fall of 2015.

"The campus is great and beautiful. It's not too hot. Most people think being in Florida is really hot," Tucker said. "The people and facilities are great. It's just a family environment."

While FGCU assistant Jamill Jones was on the lead for Tucker's recruitment, Joe Dooley traveled to Charlotte on Wednesday to watch the explosive wing. The Eagles ended up landing quite possibly the highest rated commit in FGCU history.

"The coaching staff likes how I play on both ends of the court...bringing intensity to the game and pushing everybody as hard as I push myself - just my work ethic," Tucker said.

Recruiting outlets evaluated the 6-foot-5 wing as a three/four star prospect and the sky is the limit for high-flying Charlotte product. 247Sports ranked him as the No. 111 player in the class of 2015.

Pretty impressive for someone who just started focusing on the sport two years ago. Tucker gave up football, where he played wide receiver, and started playing solely basketball his sophomore year.

"I just loved basketball more. The desire in my heart was to play basketball more than football," Tucker said.

He exploded onto the recruiting scene this summer and started attracting high major interest. Tucker held offers from Virginia Tech, Boston College, VCU, Clemson, and Auburn, among others. He attributed that to his multifaceted game.

"I'm a slasher, mid-range. I play defense and rebound the well and am great in open space," said Tucker, who also mentioned improving his ball handling and shot.

Remember how internet sensation and current FGCU freshman guard Christian Terrell seemed like a perfect fit at Dunk City for his above the rim antics? I think you can throw Tucker in that same category (just check out his mixtape)

"Without a doubt. That was what led me to my decision as well. The style of play is fast, up tempo - just like my high school and AAU teams. That's what I excel at most," Tucker said.

He plans on signing his NLI to FGCU during the early signing period in November (Nov. 12-19).
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Sep 22, 2014

Interview with FGCU Men's Soccer's Albert Ruiz

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
Last Friday morning I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down for an interview with FGCU men's soccer's own Albert Ruiz. Ruiz is a freshman forward that stands 6'2", 180 pounds, and has started all seven of the games for the Eagles so far. Albert hails from Barcelona, Spain, putting him about 4,730 miles away from his home.

Admittedly, I am not the world's biggest soccer fan, in fact the only time I watch is every four years when the World Cup rolls around. I'm sure that my definition of "football" is extremely different from what he knows as "fĂștbol." Despite that, getting to talk to Ruiz one on one was extraordinary to me.

I asked him why he came to America, a country that is not rich in soccer tradition, to continue his playing career. He explained to me that the economic situation in Spain is "difficult," and that there "is not much money in the soccer world." He went on to tell me how Bob Butehorn, head coach of the Eagles, came to see him play at his home, and how he visited FGCU in April where he cited the school, the players, and the climate as reasons he decided to attend. 

Like most athletes, Ruiz grew up playing his respective sport. As soon as he was walking, he was playing soccer. He talked about how his grandfather use to be a goalkeeper, and that he learned play forward by trying to score on him as a child. 

Considering that it is rarely easy for any new college student, athlete or not, to adjust immediately to a new setting, I asked Ruiz how he is adapting to life at FGCU. 

"It's not easy because I have always lived in Barcelona with my friends, family, my girlfriend. I have everything there, and suddenly I am here alone with myself. And you know it's not easy to do everything by yourself, you have to cook, you have to wash your clothes, you have to make payments, you have to do everything by yourself. It's not easy, but it's going well. Everyday is better than the other one."

Ruiz said that so far the decision to come to FGCU has been a good one. 

The Eagle soccer team currently has a record of 1-3-3, but was ranked #24 in the country before last weekend. Before Saturday's tie against Brown they had suffered three gut wrenching one goal losses in a row to San Francisco, St. Mary's, and #8 Washington. Despite the tough stretch, Ruiz is still confident in the team's ability to bounce back.
Courtesy of Captive Photons
"I think that the most important period will be November with the big games," said Ruiz, "we have to learn and grow to be there as good as we can. This is a process, we are still working. That is all. Big moments and big games will be in November. We are just learning how to win those games."

Although the past week has not gone as planned for the FGCU men's soccer team, coaches across the country have obviously seen something out of them that prompted them to vote the Eagles in the top 25. This is a very talented team that has yet to find its footing. They have scored a total of only 3 goals in 7 games, yet they average over 14.5 shots per game. Once they start finding the back of the net, wins will follow. When I asked him what his expectations were for the team going forward, Ruiz gave an inspired response. 

"Why not? We can go to the NCAA tournament, and when we get there let's see what happens." 

Funny he should answer like that. It reminds me of the attitude of another FGCU athletic team that made it to the NCAA tournament. 

Use the audio player below to listen to the entire interview. Special thanks to Albert Ruiz for making this possible!

By: Cameron J. Kaiser
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