With head coach Andy Enfield now running things at USC and leading scorer Sherwood Brown out of eligibility, some may have doubts as to whether or not FGCU can build on its’ impressive 26-win 2012-13 season. But first-year head coach Joe Dooley wasn’t left with a bare cupboard, with one of his key returnees being 6-8 senior forward Chase Fieler.
As a junior Fieler, a native of Parkersburg, W.Va., averaged 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest for a team that reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. And during the offseason Fieler continued to show signs that he’s both willing and able to carry the FGCU banner both on the court and in the community, according to Seth Soffian of the Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press.
Whether on court helping FGCU become the first No. 15 seed in NCAA tournament history to reach the Sweet 16, in the stands leading cheers for other FGCU teams or off campus working or lending his time to others, Fieler has won over legions of fans in his four years in Southwest Florida.
“When I have a son or a daughter, I want them to grow up and be like him,” said FGCU associate head coach Marty Richter, who has known Fieler since joining FGCU’s coaching staff 2½ years ago. “I’m going to use him as an example to show my kids one day. He does everything.”
From his sophomore to junior season Fieler improved his scoring average by more than five points per game, and his field goal percentage jumped nearly nine points up to 56.3%. Having a player of Fieler’s caliber (as well as guards Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson, to name two other returnees) is a major asset for coach Dooley, but not only because of the on-court skill. When a player with the influence of Fieler is in the new coach’s corner, establishing your own program while building on the recent run of success becomes a more manageable task.
What can FGCU do for an encore? Four of their five starter from last season return to Fort Myers, and the Eagles will have a challenging non-conference slate that should have them prepared for a run at the Atlantic Sun regular season title (FGCU finished a game behind Mercer last season). And if FGCU is to accomplish the goals they’ve set out for themselves, Fieler’s leadership will be a key factor.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.