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Aug 28, 2014

FGCU Freshman Guard Zach Johnson To Redshirt 2014-15 Season

Florida Gulf Coast men's basketball freshman Zach Johnson will redshirt the 2014-15 season due to an undisclosed medical reason, the school announced on Thursday.

“This is a challenging time for me as I was really looking forward to starting my playing career at FGCU,” Johnson said in the release. “But I understand this decision is in my best interest, and I’d like to thank everyone who has advised and supported me through the process, in particular coach Dooley, my teammates and my high school coach Lawton Williams. Right now I’m just going to do everything the doctors tell me to do, and hope that I can get back on the court soon.”

After exploding onto the high school scene during his junior season, the 6-foot-2 guard committed to FGCU last fall. Most recruiting outlets ranked him as a three star prospect and his phenomenal play landed him on the All-State 1st Team.

“I’m saddened to learn that Zach won’t be able to play this year. He and his family have been unbelievable during this whole process, and Zach and his mother, Irose, have been, and will continue to be, an extremely important part of our program,” Dooley said. “I wish Zach and his family nothing but the best during this difficult time. Though he’s only been with us for short time, Zach has been a tremendous competitor who has made everyone better, and he’s done it with a smile and terrific personality. We hope that he’s able to get back on the court, but in the meantime he will continue to be a valued member of our program.”

With Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson entering their senior seasons, as well as Julian DeBose and Brian Greene Jr. coming off redshirt years, it was unlikely that Johnson would have seen a heavy load of playing time this year.

Johnson will still be eligible to practice and should have a good handle on the Eagles system come 2015-16. Given his potential, the explosive point guard should be a force in the A-Sun in the coming years.
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Aug 21, 2014

Chris Sale: FGCU's Best is now one of MLB's Best

When I hear "Florida Gulf Coast University athletics" come up in a conversation, two immediate thoughts pop into my head. The first topic is of course Dunk City. If you haven't been living under a rock for the past two years, then you are at least somewhat familiar with the FGCU men's basketball team's miraculous run to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament. The second topic, but definitely not any less noteworthy, is Chris Sale.

I would hope that anyone that reads a sports website on Florida Gulf Coast University is familiar with who Chris Sale is. If you are familiar with Chris Sale, good, he's a spectacular pitcher in Major League Baseball. If you are not familiar with Chris Sale, then strap in, keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times, and prepare to become familiar with the three time MLB All Star. Regardless of whether you know who he is or not, Sale is having a masterful 2014 season, and there are plenty of statistics that verify that.

Sale is from Lakeland, Florida. He attended Lakeland Senior High School where he played baseball. His fastball generally sat between 83 and 86 MPH, while his change up sat high 70s and his curveball high 60s. The skinny southpaw always had goof stuff, but was not heavily recruited out of high school because of his odd "inverted-W" throwing motion. In 2007, after his senior year in high school, Sale was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 21st round of the MLB First Year Player Draft. Instead of signing the contract to play pro ball at the age of 18, Sale opted to go to college to play at FGCU.

Chris Sale pitched for the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles from 2008 to 2010 and was named the college baseball National Player of the Year in 2010. In three seasons at FGCU Sale threw 228.2 innings with a 2.53 ERA, 293 strikeouts, and only allowed 51 walks. What's even more impressive are his peripherals. Sale had an absurd 11.57 K/9 rate (strikeouts per nine innings), a minuscule 2.01 BB/9 rate (walks per nine innings), and a low WHIP (walks + hits per inning) of 1.11. Yeah, that's a pretty darn good three year run.

Many of those great numbers were in part because his 2010 National Player of the Year campaign was off-the-charts good. In 2010 Sale appeared in 17 games, 15 of which he started, and totaled 103 innings. He had an ERA of 2.01, walked only 14 batters, and led the country in strikeouts with 146. Once again his peripherals back up his dominant season. In his final season at FGCU Sale had a 12.76 K/9 rate, a 1.22 BB/9 rate, a 7.25 H/9 rate (hits per nine innings), and a WHIP of 0.94. Yep, those are the kind of statistics that get you labeled as the best pitcher in college baseball.

Chris Sale's success led to him being drafted 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 2010 MLB First Year Player Draft. After logging a mere 10.1 innings in the Minor Leagues in 2010 Sale was called up to the Chicago White Sox on August 4th, and made his Major League debut on August 6th out of the bullpen. In his rookie season Sale logged 23.1 innings of work with an ERA of 1.93, along with 32 strikeouts.
Today, Chris Sale finds himself as the ace of the White Sox pitching staff. He is widely regarded across baseball as one of the top 10 pitchers in Major League Baseball, and one of the top 3 left handed pitchers. Although the South Side Sox find themselves in fourth place of the American League Central Division, Chris Sale has kept on performing at an exceptionally high level. Sale has been nothing short of spectacular since coming to the big leagues, but 2014 is proving to be his best season yet.

Chris Sale has made 20 starts in 2014, and has totaled 136 innings. All of the following statistics that I am about show you are the best of Sale's career since becoming a starter in 2012. Sale has an ERA of 2.12, a K/9 rate of 10.46, a BB/9 rate of 1.72, a H/9 rate of 6.55, and a WHIP of .92. Every single one of those categories is in the top 5 for starters in the MLB except for his BB/9, which is in the top 15.

There is another statistic that I like to use to measure the performance of a pitcher called FIP, or fielding independent pitching. FIP measures what a pitcher's ERA would be if he had a league average defense behind him. Sale's FIP is 2.42, which is good for 4th in Major League Baseball among starting pitchers, and another stat that is the lowest of his career. A few reasons behind Chris Sale's low FIP is that he is striking out 29.9% of the batters he is facing (highest of career), allowing a 18.3% line drive rate (lowest of career), and a 42% ground ball rate (lowest of career), so he's not leaving a whole lot for his defense to potentially mess up.

Put simply, Chris Sale has been taking care of business on the mound his entire life, and he is only getting better. The lanky lefty that use to sit 86 MPH is now sitting 96 MPH, and his slider that use to be a pitch he needed to work on is now widely considered one of the nastiest pitches in all of baseball. If Sale hadn't missed starts between April and May with a strained flexor muscle in his left arm, he'd be right in the thick of the AL Cy Young conversation. Even with his injury Chris Sale has been worth 4.5 WAR (wins above replacement) which is good for 6th in the American League.

Still, an AL Cy Young award is probably in Chris Sale's future. Sale is an established pitching power house in Major League Baseball, and he is only 25 years old. If recent history tells us anything about pitchers, then Sale hasn't even reached the age of his prime yet. It's hard to imagine Chris Sale getting any better, but with the way he is consistently improving his statistics every season, and as he continues to refine his pitches, he very well could keep improving. I would not be the least bit surprised if in a year or two I am writing about how the FGCU product is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.

Written by Cameron J. Kaiser
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Aug 19, 2014

FGCU Minor League Wrap: Mid-August Edition

(Courtesy of Minda Haas)
With the middle of August upon us, the majority of the minor league seasons are drawing to a close. Across the country, there are currently 13 former Eagles in the minor league baseball system. All of these players are hoping to reach levels of stardom that arguably the most famous alum of Florida Gulf Coast University, Chris Sale, is experiencing. Sale’s last outing resulted in a frustrating no-decision after a sparkling 12 strikeout, two hit performance in eight shutout innings against the Giants. Sale’s 2.01 ERA ranks third in all of the majors, and he's also tallied 150 strikeouts in 130 innings.

Casey Coleman, RHP, Kansas City Royals/Omaha Storm Chasers/Iowa Cubs

Coleman has spent time with the Royals this season, allowing an earned run in 3 2/3 innings, but has played the majority of the year in AAA Omaha. There, he has posted a 2.45 ERA in 58 2/3 innings. His performance in short and long relief, as well as past MLB experience could make him a candidate to move up with Kansas City when the rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Jacob Barnes, RHP, Huntsville Stars/Brevard County Manatees (Milwaukee Brewers) 

Barnes has spent the majority of the year in AA Huntsville, posting a 2-5 record with a 4.61 ERA in 91 2/3 innings, a .249 OBA, and a 67-38 K/BB ratio. I got a chance to see Barnes in action on the CBS Sports Network Game of the Week on August 7th against Birmingham where he threw extremely well in seven innings of work, allowing four hits and an earned run. 

Richard Bleier, RHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats/Buffalo Bison (Toronto Blue Jays)

Bleier has pitched for AA New Hampshire the majority of the season, posting a 4-5 record and a 4.28 ERA in 77 2/3 innings. He has primarily pitched in long relief while also making five starts this season. 

Stephen Wickens, INF, New Britain Rock Cats/Fort Myers Miracle (Minnesota Twins)

Wickens earned a promotion to AA New Britain after posting a .310 average in 58 ABs in June at A(Adv.) Fort Myers. He has found consistent playing time harder to come by, with a .209 BA in 115 ABs.

Brandon Bednar, INF, San Jose Giants/Augsuta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants)

Bednar has had the best year of any offensive former Eagle in the minors this season, earning a promotion from A Augusta after posting a .275 BA in 291 ABs. He has adjusted well at A(Adv.) San Jose, recording a .282 BA in 131 ABs, while playing multiple positions on defense. He recently had a 13-game hitting streak, spanning from July 20th to August 3rd. 

Mike Reeves, C, Vancouver Canadians/Lansing Lugnuts/Dunedin Jays (Toronto Blue Jays)

Reeves has had an interesting trek through the Blue Jays system this season, starting out at A(Adv.) Dunedin and posting a .196 BA in limited action. He hit .223 at A Lansing in 92 ABs, and is currently at Short Season A Vancouver, and is 3-13 in three games.

Harrison Cooney, RHP, Burlington Bees (Los Angeles Angels)

Cooney has had an impressive season in his first full year as a starter at A Burlington. The former Eagle was a Midwest League All-Star, aided by a complete game shutout on May 30th against Peoria, striking out eight. Currently sporting a 8-7 record, posting a 2.73 ERA in 112 innings while allowing only a .221 OBA, he has struggled his last two outings allowing 9 earned runs over 9 2/3 innings.

Brandon Bixler, LHP, Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins)

Bixler has posted an impressive season to date: going 6-4, and posting a 2.61 ERA over 65 1/3 innings. With a 70/34 K/BB ratio and a sparkling .191 OBA, Bixler has put up particularly solid numbers against righties. Right-hand hitters are only hitting .200 in 45 2/3 innings, and he only has allowed two home runs all season to Midwest League batters.

Ricky Knapp, RHP, Savannah Sand Gnats (New York Mets)

Knapp has posted solid numbers at A Savannah, going 7-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 112 innings, with a 88/38 K/BB ratio. Has posted a 3-0 record in August, with a 3.00 ERA in 18 innings. Opponents are hitting .278 against Knapp, in a historically hitter-friendly league.

Sean Dwyer, OF/1B, Tri-City Dust Devils/Modesto Nuts (Colorado Rockies)

Dwyer struggled at A(Adv.) Modesto, posting a .204 BA in 274 ABs, but after being sent to Short Season A Tri-City, he has registered a .276 BA in 116 ABs. The ex-FGCU star has heated up his last 10 games, with a .389 BA in 36 ABs, and a .820 OPS at Tri-City.

Tim Roberson, 1B, Greenvile Drive/Salem Red Sox (Boston Red Sox)

Roberson has split time with A(Adv.) Salem and A Greenville this season, posting a .219 BA in 151 ABs at Salem, and a .234 BA in 231 ABs at Greenville. He has a combined 25 doubles and eight home runs in 2014 to date, registering a .656 OPS in 382 ABs.

Michael Suchy, OF/1B Jamestown Jammers (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Suchy started slowly with Short Season A Jamestown, but has picked up his average to .249 in 181 ABs. The 5th round pick in this past year’s draft by the Pirates has posted a .294 BA in his last 10 games, but still is looking for his first professional home run.

Zach Tillery, RHP, Gulf Coast LeagueTwins (Minnesota Twins)

Tillery has posted a strong start to his professional career, with a 1.69 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. The former FGCU stud has only allowed 16 hits for a OBA of .178 with a 21/8 K/BB ratio in nine appearances, making four starts.

Written by Bryan Cooney, a recent addition to our FGCU Eagles Nest staff.

Greetings, Eagle fans! My name is Bryan Cooney, a recent graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University (sociology). I currently live on the east coast of Florida in Vero Beach and have spent the last three years at FGCU - finishing up my courses this past summer. I am the third in my family to have come to FGCU, following my older brother and younger brother, Harrison Cooney, who played on the baseball team from 2011 to 2013. Harrison was drafted in the 6th round by the Angels in 2013, and is currently in his second season in the minor leagues.

For this website, I will look to specialize in covering the former Eagles in the minor league system, tracking their progress during their seasons, and providing in-depth interviews. During my time at FGCU, I conducted a research project covering international student athletes that attended FGCU. I conducted interviews talking about their experiences, and I hope to expand upon this with interviews to get a perspective of these athletes. I am always interested in covering different angles and stories that viewers would find interesting. The presence of international student athletes has been something I noticed when I first came to campus, and I found it very cool to see at a young university such as FGCU. I will look to cover stories surrounding FGCU Athletics as they arise, with basketball being a primary focus as both the men's and women's teams look to reach the NCAA Tournament with strong rosters this upcoming season. 

You can follow me at @Coondog16 on Twitter, as I often share information about FGCU sports and former Eagles when I come across it, and also discuss things you may like to see covered in our articles! I look forward to contributing to the site and am really excited for our seasons to begin starting with the soccer teams and volleyball this month!
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Aug 14, 2014

Chase Fieler Signs Pro Deal In Spain

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
Former Florida Gulf Coast star Chase Fieler signed his first professional contract on Thursday when he inked a deal with Club Ourense Baloncesto, of the Spanish LEB League.

"The conversation I had with the coach, the confidence and strong interest he had in me [led me to sign there]," Fieler said. "Obviously the league is one of the better leagues in the world with a lot of upside and potential to grow."

The FGCU program leader in field goals made, rebounds, and blocks will be joining a Ourense squad that finished last season with a 8-18 record in the LEB (Oro) Gold division.

"Being my first year playing professionally, I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can to produce enough to help the team win more games than last year," Fieler said. "Then try to get into the playoffs and make a run."

Each year the top two LEB teams, the regular season champions and post-season champions, are promoted to the ACB, Spain's top league.

"I was also interested in the ability to get to the ACB in Spain - which is a league I'd ultimately like to play in," Fieler said.

Although the season begins on Oct. 3, the Parkersburg, WV reports to Ourense on Aug. 22 or 23 to begin his eight month, fully guaranteed contract. In preparation, Fieler has talked with fellow Eagle Sherwood Brown, his agent (David Saltzman of Pro Partner Sports Management), and numerous coaches.

"They said I need to make sure my perimeter game is a strength that I use to maneuver the league and use it to my advantage," Fieler said. "It's kind of something I went away from this season."

"I've been working a lot more on footwork. The FIBA rules are a little bit different than the NBA and NCAA. They take your pivot sliding out a lot more seriously...any movement there is a travel," Fieler continued.

Although there are adjustments to be made when transitioning to the pro level, expectations seem to be high for Fieler.

"He is a very complete player - who can take the ball to the ground and runs well in transition," said Ourense head coach Gonzalo Garcia Vitoria. "We add something that is very spectacular...a player who can engage with the crowd. Also, he has has hunger and ambition, two key values ​​for our project."
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FGCU Transfer Eric McKnight Officially Added To LBSU Roster

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
After almost landing at Tennessee under new coach Donnie Tyndall, former FGCU center Eric McKnight has now officially been added to the roster at Long Beach State. He will be eligible immediately.

"Eric gives us excellent experience at the center position, something we were lacking after the graduation of Dan Jennings," head coach Dan Monson said in a release. "He's had the experience of starting for a team that reached the Sweet 16, and that will be valuable for this team."

McKnight, who graduated in May, originally transferred to play for the Volunteers. And although the NCAA approved his graduate transfer waiver, the South Eastern Conference denied his request.

Eagles head coach Joe Dooley kicked the Raleigh, NC native off the team following a string of suspensions due to a violation of team rules.

After being on the receiving end of numerous alley-oops during Dunk City's Sweet Sixteen run in 2013, McKnight is now headed to his third school. Coincidentally, he will meet up with former USC forward Rochson Prince, who also played under Andy Enfield.

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Aug 12, 2014

Hi! I'm the New Guy...

Hello to all of the readers of the website FGCU Eagles Nest! My name is Cameron J. Kaiser, and I am a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University. I am from Toledo, Ohio, so I am about 1,200 miles away from home.

I am an avid sports fan. I grew up in a household that revolved around baseball. I follow Major League Baseball religiously. I cheer adamantly for the Detroit Tigers, but also have a soft spot for the Chicago Cubs. However, baseball is not the only sport that I follow. I watch both college and professional football in the fall, and I cheer for the Michigan Wolverines and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. I'm not a huge NBA fan, but somehow find myself watching the Detroit Pistons every night in the winter. College basketball is my favorite sport next to Major League Baseball, and I'm sure you can guess the team that I cheer for (Dunk City hint hint).

Although I was never a very good baseball player, I stayed involved in my high school's baseball program for four years filling various management roles. This is not the first website that I have ever written for. In 2012 I started the Detroit Tigers blog T-Town Tiger, and am still writing it today. I have also written articles for the Toledo Free Press, and the baseball statistics website Fangraphs. I am a statistics nut. I will do everything I can to incorporate advanced metrics into my articles on here, whether it be about baseball or basketball. I don't have very much experience writing about basketball, but I can promise you I will be voicing my opinions loud and clear on the men's upcoming season.

With that being said, baseball is still my specialty. Once the 2015 baseball season rolls around you will be hearing a lot from me on the progression of the Eagles. I will do my best to keep you all updated on recruiting news along with some recaps of big games, but the majority of my work will be statistical analysis. As I stated previously, I am crazy for statistics. I have a vast understanding of advanced metrics in baseball. I will use my understanding to analyze the team and individual players throughout the season. I'm a big believer in sabermetrics, and I'm going to conduct my analysis in a way so that you, the reader, can understand the points I will try to make. I want you to learn more about the wonderful game of baseball as you read my work. It's a beautiful game, and it only gets better the more you understand about it.

I am looking forward to writing on this website, and I hope that you are excited to follow along! Go Eagles!

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
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Aug 6, 2014

Karl Smesko Staying At FGCU, Negotiating Contract

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
Despite being contacted by Indiana for their head coaching position, Florida Gulf Coast women's basketball coach Karl Smesko is committed to his future with FGCU, per a school release.

As the FGCU Eagles Nest first reported, Smesko and the Hoosiers talked following the resignation of IU head coach Curt Miller. After hearing he was no longer a candidate a few days later, Smesko was reportedly back in the mix early this week. Finally, he put this subject to rest on Tuesday by pulling his name out of consideration for the job.

“I am happy to be at FGCU,” Smesko said in the release. “Ken [Kavanagh, Director of Athletics] and President Bradshaw were great during this process. I really like and respect everyone I have met at Indiana University; however, the timing just wasn’t right to make this move.”

This isn't the first time Smesko was considered for a high-major position. The program's founding coach was reportedly a finalist for head coaching positions at Oregon State, Illinois, and Indiana over the past five years.

“We are extremely pleased that Karl has decided to remain an Eagle and will continue to serve as such a tremendous teacher and ambassador for FGCU,” Kavanagh said int the release. “He has established a program from scratch that has rightly earned its place amongst the finest in the nation based on our ladies’ collective accomplishments on and off the floor. In turn, we look forward to many more celebratory occasions well into the future under Coach Smesko and his outstanding staff.”

Florida Gulf Coast and Coach Smesko are currently "working on renogiating his contract", a school spokesperson informed the Eagles Nest. There are no finalized details yet. According to the News-Press, he is currently in the fifth year of a seven year contract that pays him around $200,000 this season.

Smesko has racked up over 300 wins and five Atlantic Sun regular season championships. After a heart breaking overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the Eagles only suffer the departure of senior Sarah Hansen. Whitney Knight leads a plethora of returning players that should be contending for another NCAA berth.
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Aug 5, 2014

NCAA Approves Waiver For Demetris Morant To Play Immediately At FGCU

 The NCAA approved a hardship waiver for UNLV transfer Demetris Morant, allowing the 6-foot-9 forward to play immediately at Florida Gulf Coast. Morant transferred to FGCU in order to be closer to his father who suffered a stroke and lives in Miami.

“I’d first like to thank our Director of Compliance, Alex Masse, for all of his diligent work in filing the waiver and helping Demetris get cleared to play,” head coach Joe Dooley said in a release.. “I also would like to thank Dave Rice (UNLV head coach) and his staff. They went above and beyond the normal protocol in situations like these and we’re extremely appreciative of all their efforts.”

During his redshirt freshman season with the Rebels, Morant averaged .6 points per game and 3.8 minutes a game. After a weekend visit to FGCU in May, Morant committed to Joe Dooley and the Eagles.

Prior to his time at UNLV, Morant played alongside UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad at Bishop Gorman HS. The two standouts captured two state titles and Morant, a top-150 recruit coming out of high school, held a plethora of high major offers including UNLV, his eventual choice, and Texas A&M, Memphis, and New Mexico.

“I’m very happy that the process is over and was completed before the school year even started,” Morant said. “I’d like to thank everyone who worked on the waiver to get me eligible for this season. I’m excited to get to work, and I’m looking forward to contributing to this year’s team.”

The former UNLV forward rounds out a talented front court that includes JUCO transfer Eric Moeller, redshirt senior Nate Hicks, who is recovering from a torn ACL, Tulane transfer Marc-Eddy Norelia, and redshirt freshman Logan Hovey.

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FGCU Makes Cut For Power Forward Mustapha Traore

Power forward Mustapha Traore, of the Phelps School and Team F.O.E., recently cut down his list of college choices to Fairfield, Monmouth, Saint Peter’s, Wagner, Fairleigh Dickinson and Florida Gulf Coast. All of the schools have offered except for FGCU.

According to COBL, the 6-foot-8 big man plans to take unofficial visits to each of the schools and then cut his list to three. He will then officially visit those three schools and make a decision by mid-October.

In the same article, his grassroots coach Skip Robinson said this of FGCU:

“Coach Joe Dooley was one of the assistants at Kansas that recruited the Morris twins, so I know coach Dooley for seven or eight years now, and Jamill Jones is a Philly guy, played in the Philadelphia Public League, he knows a lot of the same people. One of the mid-major schools that is on the rise.”

With the live period over, August is popular month to take college visits. Providence forward Ladarien Griffin will be taking an unofficial visit to FGCU on August 23 while Baker County shooting guard Charles Ruise is planning an official #DunkCity visit in early September.

For more on Florida Gulf Coast recruiting, check out our 2015 FGCU Recruiting Board.
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Aug 2, 2014

World Cup Craze Fuels Former FGCU Star Stanese

Born in Queens, NY and raised in Pitt Meadows, BC, Daniel Stanese holds US and Canadian citizenship. With Romanian heritage, he speaks fluent English, Romanian, and French, and is working on German as well. The young soccer star is quite the well versed and well traveled twenty-year-old and in 2012, his exploits took him to Florida Gulf Coast University.

In his time as an Eagle, Stanese and the FGCU defense recorded eight shutouts en route to an 11-5-3 record, Atlantic Sun Championship, and NCAA Tournament berth. His play landed him on the A-Sun All Freshman First Team and NSCAA All-South Region Second Team. Despite all the personal and team accolades, Stanese learned something that he put to use off the field as well.

"Honestly, I didn't think people could be so open. I made a lot of good friends there. My roommates and I share a really good bond, and I still keep in touch with them to this day," said Stanese, who also spent time in the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program. "We really came together as a team really quickly. I feel that I've learned how to be really open to people and really supportive."

After the season, the former FGCU standout quickly signed with FC Nuremberg, becoming the program's first player to ink a contract with a Bundesliga team.

"It was very hard for me to adjust to the style of play at the very start because they play a whole different system compared to how we played in Florida. They still pass and move the ball like we do but the whole positioning and tactical awareness (was different). It took me some time but I've gotten use to it over a year of playing," Stanese said.

"It was a culture shock as well. Places here close at 8 o'clock on weekdays. There's nothing open. A lot of people do speak English, but it's more our generation - younger teenagers or 20s. The language is a hard thing to learn also. I'm slowly starting to get it. I'm speaking it everyday as much as I can with the guys on my team."

After making 13 starts and netting one goal with the Nuremberg U-19 team, Stanese transferred to FC Augsburg II, of the Regionalliga Bayern.
"I just felt that it was time for me to move on. I wasn't really enjoying myself at that club. It had nothing to do with the coaching staff or anything. I just wasn't in my right state of mind," Stanese explained. "I heard that Augsburg was a really good team at the time, and I heard it is a good place for young players like me to go so I went. I've enjoyed it since I've been here."

While he competes with Augsburg during most of the year, Stanese plays within the Canadian national team system as well. He began with the U-17 squad in 2011, when they participated in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship and U-17 World Cup.
Former FGCU star heads the ball in a recent match against SV Seligenporten
"I think that they have a lot of good coaches from the U-17 and younger staff. When you go with the national team its more tactical awareness than anything. When you're with your club it's more technical and physical part. It really helped me, the national team did a good job," Stanese said of Canada's ability to develop talent.

After another CONCACAF appearance in early 2013, this time with the U-20 team, the former Eagles star set another program 'first' by earning a promotion to Canada's national team for a friendly against Australia in October of 2013.

"I wasn't originally on the roster. A player got injured, and then I got a call the night before the camp started. I called my parents right away even though it was 3 a.m. in Canada," Stanese said. "It was a great feeling, and I'm always happy to be a part of any of the camps with the national team."

Stanese received another exciting call in May of this year, inviting him to the Canadian camp in Austria. Despite missing out on the 2014 World Cup, the roster is already working hard on the next goal.

"We want to go so badly to Russia. We have to wait and see how the team comes together," Stanese said excitedly of the 2018 World Cup. "I'm pretty sure we have a really good shot this time."

After watching the United States rally around a USMNT team that attained previously unseen success in this summer's World Cup, Stanese's motivation only grew.

"The USA did amazing and I was cheering for them in the World Cup. I got bummed out that they got kicked out."

With only one World Cup appearance in the record books, Stanese and company know their task is a large one. In their most recent string of international friendlies, The Reds finished with 1-1 draws against Bulgaria and and Moldova

"I think our consistency needs to be better. Whenever we do play well, we can beat any of the top teams around the world but the problem is it only happens once in a while," Stanese said, speaking mostly for the U-20 team.

It's no secret that countries such as the U.S.A and Canada have some ground to make up in regards to international soccer. As opposed to a plethora of other nations around the world, the sport is not deeply embedded in the culture.
Stanese avoids a tackle during 2011 U-17 World Cup
"It's very hard. In the USA the big sports are basketball, football, baseball, and hockey. Those are the kind of sports you grow up with in America. Soccer is kind of the not so cool sport, it's (considered) so weak," Stanese said. "The funny thing is, soccer is the most played sport in Canada for young people. It's just such an easy game to send your kids to on the weekends."

The United States' 2-2 draw with Portugal in World Cup pool play drew 18.22 million viewers, making it the most viewed soccer match in US history. That was until Germany's extra time victory over Argentina in the final shattered that mark and set a new record of 26.5 million people.

"I feel like the popularity has been going up quite a bit," Stanese said. "But it takes more time - I think 10 or 20 years before it becomes something like here. You can't accelerate it."

While a nation can't accelerate it, qualifying for the country's second every men's World Cup would certainly help.

Canada has friendlies scheduled with Jamaica and Panama for this fall, but Stanese is back in Augsburg and the 2014-15 Regionalliga Bayern season is well underway.

"The goals are to get a top four finish and hopefully win the league if we can and get to the third division if we can," Stanese said. "Over 60% of our team is born in 1995, which is the first year for U-23s. That plays a huge factor in our performance and confidence. Coming together as a team is a big goal for us as well."

Through four matches this season, the 6-foot-2 center back has made two starts but received a red card in the latter and was forced to sit out the next two contests.

"I'm really good at heading the ball defensively. I'm trying to work on my offensive game and score more goals. I'm a pretty brutal player," Stanese said when asked of his attributes. "I go into tackles hard and I'm O.K. with the ball. I'm pretty technical. I do whatever I can for my team no matter what happens."

This tough nosed nature was most notably put on display in a shutout win over Bayern Munich II, one of the most well decorated clubs in Germany.

"I played against Bastian Schweinsteiger's brother (Tobias) in the second to last game of the previous season. We ended up winning that game 2-0 and he got all pissed off because he had no chances and ended up kicking me," Stanese said.

Despite the swift kicks to the leg, Stanese embraced the opportunity to compete against childhood icons. "It's crazy when you actually play on the same field as them and when you sit far away and just watch. It's surreal."

With his talent and the way his career is headed, the former Florida Gulf Coast standout might have to become accustom to it.

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