Nov 24, 2014

FGCU Defeats Marist, 58-43, In DeBose's Debut

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
By: Cameron J. Kaiser

It wasn’t pretty at times tonight, but the Eagles are 4-0 for the first time in the Division 1 era. FGCU took on the Marist Red Foxes tonight in their first of three games in the Gulf Coast Showcase, and won by a final score of 58-43.

Despite being a solid defensive team that thrives in the Princeton-zone set, Marist did not have a primary source of offense due to injuries to their starting backcourt.

Even with the loss of senior Jamail Jones due to a three game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules, this was the type of game that seemed destined to be blowout in the Eagles favor. 

FGCU got off to a rough start against the Red Foxes, making only one field goal in the first six minutes of the game. Marist led 11-4 all the way till the 10:15 mark in the first half when a jumper from Bernard Thompson ignited a 10-0 run that was capped off by a monster dunk from Marc-Eddy Norelia with two Marist defenders draped on his back. However, FGCU was not able to keep the pace up and pull away. As unlikely as it seemed, the Eagles went into the half with the score tied at 21.

Whatever FGCU head coach Joe Dooley said to his crew at halftime must’ve worked, because the Eagles came out looking like the team we have seen for much of the first three games.

Fresh off his three-game suspension, red-shirt junior Julian DeBose got the scoring started for FGCU in the second half with a corner three for his first bucket as an Eagle, then followed that up with a monster put-back, and-one dunk for an old fashioned three-point play. FGCU went on a 13-0 run to start the half, and never took their foot off the gas pedal.

From then on, the game became a showcase for FGCU to show off why they’re known as Dunk City. Sophomore Demetris Morant had a high flying jam courtesy of a nice inside pass from Norelia to push the lead 18, then sophomore Brett Comer brought the house down with a two handed jam off a fast break that he started with a steal.

DeBose, who led the Eagles with 15 points, closed the casket on the Red Foxes with a steal on an inbounds pass that led to an exuberant dunk with 50 seconds left. FGCU outscored Marist 37 to 22 in the second half.

“From the beginning we turned it over, we missed some easy ones around the rim, and then we got sped up and took some poor shots,” said coach Dooley in regards to his team’s slow start. “I thought that once we settled down and got the ball to the high post, once we settled in offensively we played a little bit better.”

The Eagles will play the winner of Hawaii against San Francisco on Tuesday night at 8:30. Both teams are considered much better than Marist, so FGCU can’t afford to get off to another slow start.

When asked if FGCU will come out with a higher level of energy on Tuesday, Brett Comer responded, “I think we have to. We will lose if we don’t come out with more energy.

FGCU is the first team in the Atlantic Sun conference to start 4-0 since Central Florida in 2004.
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Performance of the Week: Brett Comer vs. UCSB

(Courtesy of Captive Photons)
Every Monday our own Cameron J. Kaiser will write a weekly review of both the men's and women's basketball teams, and will choose a "performance of the week" to analyze.

It’s here, it’s finally here! After eight months of eagerly waiting, FGCU basketball is back, and the Eagles are looking as good as ever! Both the men’s and women’s teams started their respective seasons, and both are off to hot starts.

The FGCU women of Raining Threes kicked off their season on Friday the 14th, while the men of Dunk City started on Saturday the 15th.

The women opened their year against a talented George Washington team by winning 88-75. In their second game, which was mainly a tune-up for them, against Florida International, the Eagles won by a lofty score of 97-49. The FGCU ladies faced a big early season test against Auburn, and played well, but couldn’t finish the job on the road and lost 72-69. Sunday night in their fourth game, the Eagles faced Ave Maria at home. FGCU took care of the lady Gyrenes by winning 102-54 recording their largest margin of victory since beating Warner by 69 in November of 2012.

The men underwhelmed against Nova Southeastern in their opener, but still won 63-51. In their second game the Eagles faced California Santa Barbara, a team anchored by a strong post presence. In a back and forth contest, FGCU gutted out the W in overtime by a score of 81-75. For their third game in five days, FGCU faced a daunting task in taming the Bobcats of Ohio. In front of a sold out crowd at Alico Arena, the Eagles ran the Bobcats all the way back to Athens with a 79-62 victory.

The first week of basketball season featured four standout individual performances from the FGCU men’s and women’s basketball teams. Marc-Eddy Norelia burst onto the scene in the men’s season opener against NSU, while Bernard Thompson broke the school’s individual game D1 scoring record with 34 against Ohio, and despite losing on the road to Auburn, Stephanie Haas of the women’s team went off for 30 points.

However, the inaugural title of “performance of the week” goes to Dunk City’s facilitator, Brett Comer for his efforts against California Santa Barbara. Last Monday night, Comer came out and shredded UCSB for 28 points and 11 assists, shooting an astounding 11-14 from the floor.

In a game that FGCU won in overtime, the Eagles needed every bit of Comer’s monster night.

The Gauchos took a 49-47 lead with eight minutes remaining in the second half as Brett Comer waited at the scorer’s table to check in. After that, he didn’t check out. In those final eight minutes of the half, Comer took over the game scoring 10 of his 12 second half points, including a step back jumper to temporarily give the Eagles a temporary two point lead with six seconds left.

If it weren’t for Alan Williams making 2 free throws with a second left in regulation to send the game to overtime, Comer’s step back would’ve been a perfect way for him to end his spectacular night. Instead, overtime just gave him five more minutes to showcase his greatness.

In overtime, Comer added 8 more points, including a huge free throw that gave FGCU a 4 point lead with only a minute left to play. The Eagles won the game in thrilling fashion 81-75.

When asked about his big second half and overtime, Comer answered intelligently. He cited reasons such as players in foul trouble for UCSB, and their inability to defend the on ball screens he was getting as to why he was able to take over down the stretch.

“I was in an area to attack, so I was attacking, and if I had a layup I’d shoot it and if not I would kick it out to an open teammate for a shot.”

Brett Comer was named to the Atlantic Sun preseason First Team, and he is already showing why he is considered to be one of the best point guards in conference history. Included in the crowd that realizes Comer’s greatness are his own teammates, most specifically Bernard Thompson, who helps him form the most prolific backcourt in the NCAA.

“He has a hard work ethic. He goes in, gets shots up, he pushes himself to be a better player. It’s been good just watching him develop as a player, as a person, and I’m very proud of him,” said Bernard Thompson in praise of his teammate and fellow A-Sun preseason First Team Selection.
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Nov 21, 2014

2015 PG Reggie Reid Signs NLI To Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast landed their third commitment of the 2015 class on Friday when the school announced that Harlem, Ga. point guard Reggie Reid had signed his NLI to the Eagles.

Rivals and 247Sports rank the 5-foot-11 floor general as a three-star recruit. Multiple outlets have reported that he also held an offer from Appalachian State.

After averaging 27 points per game as a sophomore at Harlem HS, Reid transferred to Elev8 Sports Instituite in Delray Beach, Fla for his junior year. However, the 2x All-County Player of the Year is reenrolled at Harlem and has set high goals for his senior season.

“Make it back to state, get past the first round and try to get a ring,” Reid told the Columbia County News-Times.

Reid joins point guard Elijah Long (John Carroll HS, Md.) and small forward Rayjon Tucker (Northside Christian Academy, NC) in Dunk City's 2015 recruiting class. All three have signed their NLIs, and the Eagles still have one scholarship open for the 2015-16 season.

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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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