Joe Dooley

Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley, right, looks back at the bench as Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, left, watches the action in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 71-54. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

INTRODUCING CINDERELLA: Meet the FGCU Eagles

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Conference: Atlantic Sun

Coach: Joe Dooley

Record: 20-13 (8-6)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 171
RPI: 216
AP/USA Today: Unranked

Seeding: 16, likely headed to Dayton for the First Four

Names you need to know: F Marc-Eddy Norelia (17.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg), G Christian Terrell (12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Zach Johnson (11.2 ppg, 3.2 apg), G Julian DeBose (8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

Stats you need to know: FGCU entered Sunday averaging 77.0 points per game, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three. Norelia is the headliner for this group, and he’s got help in the front court from players such as Antravious Simmons, Demetris Morant and Filip Cvjeticanin. On the perimeter Terrell and Johnson, who missed all of last season with a heart ailment and was no lock to return to the court, are the top scorers with the experienced DeBose having started all 32 games he’s played in. Also of note is the fact that FGCU is one of the nation’s best at defending the three, as opponents shot just 30.9 percent from deep on the season.

Big wins, bad losses: FGCU doesn’t have a single win against a team ranked in the Top 150 of the RPI, and four of their 20 wins came against non-Division I competition. Their best wins: a season sweep of Atlantic Sun regular season champion North Florida and a home win over UMass. As for the losses, FGCU was swept by Jacksonville and also suffered conference losses to Lipscomb and Stetson.

How’d they get here?: FGCU was the four-seed in the Atlantic Sun tournament, and they opened with a win over No. 5 Kennesaw State. That set up a semifinal matchup with UNF, and the Ospreys (who are highly reliant on the three) went ice cold from deep and FGCU won by 33 on the road. And with the two and three seeds being eliminated in the quarterfinals, FGCU hosted Stetson in the title game. FGCU won 80-78 in overtime, with a Zach Johnson blocked shot in the final seconds preserving the victory.

Outlook: Given the fact that the last FGCU team to reach the NCAA tournament did so much damage, some may assume that this group is on par with the 2012-13 team that reached the Sweet 16 and earned the nickname “Dunk City.” But that team played a far tougher schedule outside of the A-Sun, even picking up a win over that season’s ACC champion (Miami). Going to Dayton would give them a shot at winning a game in the tournament, but it’s tough to expect much beyond that.

How do I know you?: As mentioned above this is FGCU’s second NCAA tournament appearance, and the first trip was an incredibly fun one. In 2013 the Eagles beat No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State in Philadelphia before falling to No. 3 Florida in the Sweet 16. As for this particular team there are two connections to top-ranked Kansas. Head coach Joe Dooley was a long-time assistant of Bill Self’s before taking the FGCU job, and DeBose joined Kansas (as did SMU’s Nic Moore) for the World University Games in South Korea last summer.

FGCU senior guard joins Kansas’ World University Games roster

Florida Gulf Coast v Pittsburgh
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With Devonte’ Graham going down with a partially torn quad tendon, Kansas head coach Bill Self stated that he wanted to add another guard to his roster in advance of next month’s World University Games in South Korea. Saturday the coach did just that, with FGCU senior guard Julian DeBose being the addition according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

DeBose, who plays for former Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, averaged 11.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Eagles in 2014-15. The 6-foot-4 guard shot 43.1 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc last season, and his addition gives the team some additional depth on the perimeter.

“He’s a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard who has been playing for Joe so he understands at least in theory what we are trying to do both offensively and defensively, Self told the Journal-World.

“Joe wanted us to take him all along,” Self added. “We decided to take our guys plus Nic (Moore, SMU). Then when Devonté got hurt (quad injury) we obviously needed to add somebody. He’ll be here today and be involved in everything starting tomorrow.”

With Graham and Brannen Greene (hip) out due to injury and Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine) unavailable, Self was in a position where he needed to add another piece on the perimeter for this trip. DeBose joins Moore, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, LeGerald Vick, Evan Manning and Tyler Self as the guards headed to South Korea.

Before heading abroad the Jayhawks will play two exhibition games against Canada, the first of which being scheduled for Tuesday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

FGCU announces addition of former VCU power forward

VCU v George Washington
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FGCU’s taken advantage of the transfer market in recent years, and on Friday the program announced the addition of another big man to Joe Dooley’s roster. Antravious Simmons, who played sparingly at VCU, has decided to transfer to the Atlantic Sun program. According to FGCU the Miami native will be eligible to compete at the end of the Fall 2015 semester.

“We’re excited about Antravious joining the program,” Dooley said in the release. “He’s a quality, high-character person that we want. He’ll be a great fit into our style of play.”

Simmons joins a program that will lose two front court players at the end of the 2014-15 season in Marcus Blake and Nate Hicks, with the latter being the team’s third-leading rebounder. Also of note is the fact that FGCU will also lose their second-best rebounder in wing Jamail Jones.

Simmons joins a front court that will include the likes of leading rebounder Marc-Eddy Norelia, Demetris Morant, Eric Moeller and Filip Cvjeticanin, who sitting out this season as a medical redshirt after undergoing back surgery during the offseason.

All three of FGCU’s early signees in the Class of 2015 are perimeter players, with those additions expected to help the Eagles begin life without current senior guards Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson.

Florida Gulf Coast suspends senior for three games

Jamail Jones
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Florida Gulf Coast took a hit to its starting lineup on Monday as head coach Joe Dooley announced that redshirt senior forward Jamail Jones has been suspended for three games.

The 6-foot-6 Jones will miss all three games of the school-hosted Gulf Coast Showcase, which includes a Monday night game against Marist. Jones was suspended for a violation of team rules.

Losing Jones will certainly hurt the Eagles as he recorded a double-double the first two games of the 2014-15 season and is averaging a team-high 9 rebounds per game to go along with 14 points per game.

This obviously won’t hurt Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun, which they are favored to win this season, but it will be interesting to see how they play without him for this stretch.

Behind Thompson and Comer, Dunk City looks to take flight once again this March

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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Bernard Thompson received an alert from his phone on a Friday afternoon.

It was March 21, and the message was from the SportsCenter app, informing him that Mercer had defeated Duke, 78-71, on the second day of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Thompson, the all-Atlantic Sun guard from Florida-Gulf Coast, had elected not to watch the game after Mercer had dashed his team’s hopes of a return trip to the NCAA tournament by winning the A-Sun title on Florida Gulf Coast’s home floor 13 days earlier.

Moments after the monumental upset over the Blue Devils, Mercer cemented itself as the tournament darlings. Reserve guard Kevin Canevari did the Nae-Nae dance, head coach Bob Hoffman had an epic post-game interview and Coach K stopped by the Mercer locker room to personally congratulate the team.

The roles had been reserved for the two rival A-Sun programs. In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast went on the road and topped Mercer in the conference championship game before becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. The Eagles’ high-flying offense made them overnight sensations, being labeled forever as “Dunk City” (coined by a certain college basketball website).

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Chase Fieler has graduated, Eric McKnight and Dajuan Graf have both transferred and Filip Cvjeticanin is out for the season after undergoing back surgery, leaving the heralded senior back court of Thompson and Brett Comer as the only members from that 2013 Cinderella run on the FGCU roster this season. Despite a mostly new supporting cast, the original Dunk City duo is looking to put FGCU back in the national spotlight this March.

“I think the dynamics had changed a little. We went from a team that was really always an underdog and now the pressure had shifted. Now we were a team that had won the league,” second-year head coach Joe Dooley told NBCSports.com. “I think the experience of us having gone through that will help us this year.

“At our level it’s hard because it’s usual a single-bid league. The guys understand that trying to prepare to win the regular season in our league gives us the best change to play at home (in the conference tournament), but you can’t take anything for granted.”

Thompson, Comer and the rest of the FGCU program were fueled in the offseason workouts by the missed opportunity, understanding that a slow first half against Mercer, in which they spotted the Bears a 16-point halftime lead, meant the difference between the NCAA tournament and the NIT. Thompson, Comer and Jamail Jones, the third returning starter, give FGCU an experienced perimeter attack, but it’s the addition of the newcomers that should continue to make it an exciting brand of basketball to watch.

“I think this is going to be the most skilled team that’s been here,” Comer said. “Talent-wise it’s amazing here.”

In a league that’s thinned out as Mercer and East Tennessee State both defected for the Southern Conference, leaving the A-Sun with only eight teams, Florida Gulf Coast has stockpiled pieces around its three returning starters. Whether it be the playing style or the fact that the team’s home court, Alico Arena, is less than a mile away from the beach, Florida Gulf Coast has been a consistent landing spot for high-major transfers. Half of the roster began their college careers elsewhere before arriving in Fort Myers.

Jones (Marquette) and Nate Hicks (Georgia Tech) made their contributions last season as transfers. This year, Julian DeBose (Rice) and Brian Greene Jr. (Auburn) add depth to the perimeter. A trio of big men — all 6-foot-8 or taller — Marc-Eddy Norelia (Tulane), Eric Moeller (Central Florida/Missouri) and Demetris Morant (UNLV) give the Eagles a versatile frontline, allowing them to keep their fast-paced, highlight-filled style of play intact.

MORE: Atlantic Sun Preview Mid-Major Power Rankings | Mid-Major All-Americans

“We’re really excited about our frontline,” Dooley said. “Marc-Eddy sat out last year and was a real energy guy in practice. Nate played a lot of minutes. Demetris we were fortunate he was given a waiver by the NCAA, and he is long and as athletic as any guy I’ve coached. Then, Eric Moeller has very good skills and I think he has a big upside. They’re all young, they’re all sophomores. We have a bright future on our frontline.”

Dooley, who took over this team in 2013 after Andy Enfield left for USC, spent 10 seasons on the bench at Kansas. Despite the decade of dominance the Jayhawks have put forth in the Big 12, Dooley isn’t sure if he’s every coached a pair of first-team all-conference players in the same back court before. It’s a luxury to have, the foundation for the future with multiple high-major transfers is set, coupled with the experience of two of the most decorated players in the program’s brief history in Thompson, the school’s all-time leading scorer and Comer, the all-time leader in assists.

“It’s vital,” Dooley added. “Their our best players, their who were building around. They’ll carry us as our frontline big guys catch up.”

Despite not watching a minute of the Mercer-Duke game, both Thompson and Comer understood what their rivals were experiencing, as both can recall the sights and sounds from the Wells Fargo Center locker room after FGCU knocked off Georgetown and San Diego State in a three-day span back in March 2013.

“I was actually happy for them,” Thompson said. “I felt the moment. I know how it feels. I know the excitement and what they were going through. You live for moments like this, to upset big teams. Just to be in that type of atmosphere, it’s a great feeling.”

Just like how the whole Dunk City phenomenon began, two of the last remaining pieces want to go out with a bang. Come March, Thompson doesn’t want to follow the NCAA tournament through his phone like he did this past spring. He’d rather have his cell on ‘Airplane Mode’ because Dunk City intends on taking flight one more time.

2013 Sweet 16 run pays off in a big way financially for FGCU

2013 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic - Florida Gulf Coast v Radford
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For smaller college basketball programs, a trip to the NCAA tournament can be valuable for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, the team gets to play at least one more game and they’ll be doing so in front of a television audience that surpasses any they’ve managed to reel in during the regular season. And with that exposure comes added financial benefits, especially if the team can get hot and extend its stay in the NCAA tournament.

That was the case for FGCU in 2013, as the Eagles knocked off both Georgetown and San Diego State with an attractive style of basketball that captivated the country. And according to the Naples Daily News, FGCU’s basketball program has reaped benefits not unlike those felt by programs such as Butler, VCU and Wichita State after they made their respective runs in the NCAA tournament in recent years.

FGCU’s athletic department saw its revenue increase by 28 percent from the 2013 fiscal year to the 2014 fiscal year, with revenue from ticket sales increasing by 34 percent and revenue from fundraising events increasing by an impressive 74 percent. During the 2013 fiscal year fundraising events netted FGCU nearly $286K, with that figure jumping up to nearly $497K in the 2014 fiscal year.

“I want to commend everyone who has played a part in establishing this important fundraising benchmark,” Director of Athletics Ken Kavanaugh said. “This certainly includes our coaches and student-athletes cultivating an environment for giving to all those other staff members who worked tirelessly throughout the year to produce these much-needed additional externally-generated resources which supplement the terrific annual support we receive from our FGCU students.

“In particular, I want to commend Butch Perchan, Graham Diener, Denise Da Silveira, and Chad Lutkenhaus for their leadership,” Kavanagh continued. “Likewise, we are extremely appreciative of the tremendous contributions that were made by Eagles Club Chairman Brian Rasnick and our fantastic volunteer Advisory Board. We now look forward to doing our best to surpass these record 2013-14 results.”

After falling one win short of their goal of returning to the NCAA tournament last season, falling to Mercer in the title game of the Atlantic Sun tournament, Joe Dooley’s Eagles will look to avoid a similar fate in 2014-15. Mercer’s now in the Southern Conference, removing one tough competitor from the equation, and with the backcourt of Brett Comer, Bernard Thompson and Jamail Jones back for one more run FGCU won’t lack for talent or experience.

FGCU will have to account for the loss of forwards Chase Fieler and Eric McKnight, with Filip Cvjeticanin being their most productive front court returnee.