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No. 9 Florida State holds off Winthrop 87-76

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Terrance Mann and Phil Cofer helped No. 9 Florida State keep its impressive start to the season going and finish its nonconference schedule nearly perfect.

Mann scored a season-high 22 points, Cofer added 14 and the Seminoles beat Winthrop 87-76 Tuesday for their seventh straight victory. Florida State improved to 12-1 for the fourth time in school history.

“I’m glad that we got the non-conference part of the schedule out of the way,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The most positive thing I can say is that we can feel good about the fact that we’re 12-1 and I really believe we have still a lot of upside with this team.”

Mann shot 10 of 11 from the floor, scoring 14 second-half points and grabbing seven rebounds. Cofer made four of his five shots in the first half but missed all three in the second.

The Seminoles’ only blemish so far while matching its best start was a six-point loss to Villanova on Nov. 25. Florida State even did it while playing 10 games without Cofer, the leading scorer from last season’s Elite Eight team, after the senior forward missed nearly seven weeks with a foot injury.

Florida State has long been known as an athletic and deep team. The Seminoles had 39 points from its reserves against Winthrop, and regularly receive significant contributions from their sixth through 11th players. And now with Cofer back from injury, they are arguably one of the deepest teams in college basketball.

“Just to see shots falling for him after what he’s been through has been key for us,” Mann said. “His energy is back on the defensive end, the vocal energy, and that’s just what we needed.”

Florida State was 8 for 16 on 3-pointers in the first half en route to taking a 52-36 lead. Winthrop came into the game as the No. 2 team in the nation in 3-point shots made per game but was just 1 of 10 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished 26.1 percent (6 of 23).

The Seminoles held a 56-38 lead early in the second half but Winthrop pulled to 63-61 with 11:50 left. Florida State, however, never lost the lead and stayed in control.

“They’re Noah’s Ark,” Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey said. “They got two of everything. They got NBA prospects. They’re long, athletic, physical. They play very team-oriented basketball.”

The Seminoles shot 46.9 percent (30 of 64) from the floor.

Adam Pickett scored 19 points and Charles Falden added a season-high 15 points for Winthrop (8-5), whose four-game winning streak ended. The Eagles made 49.2 percent (29 of 59) shots from the floor.

Winthrop played without its top player, Nych Smith, and Bjorn Broman was limited to 14 minutes because of injury. Smith, a senior guard, is averaging a team-high 16 points this season was out with an ankle injury.

“We just didn’t want to risk it,” Kelsey said.

TIMELY DEFENSE

Florida State limited Winthrop to just six 3-pointers, less than half of the Eagles’ per-game average. Anthony Polite scored eight points but had three critical steals, contributing to the Seminoles’ season-high 13 steals.

“He gave us a lot of energy on the defensive end,” Mann said. “And mean and aggressive offensively, not thinking too much and playing his game.”

Florida State also had a season-high eight blocks, including four by Mfiondu Kabengele.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida State returned after a nine-day layoff and impressed with a 52-point first half. But the Seminoles’ best chance to move up will come in the ACC opener on Saturday against No. 4 Virginia.

BIG PICTURE

Winthrop: The Eagles got 40 points on layups, at times driving to the basket with ease. Winthrop, however, was hurt by 21 turnovers

Florida State: The Seminoles were dominant for stretches but nearly squandered an 18-point lead. But they still secured their 32nd straight non-conference victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

UP NEXT

Winthrop: Begins its Big South schedule at UNC Asheville on Saturday.

Florida State: Opens Atlantic Coast Conference play at Virginia on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Kelsey named coach at UMass

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After five seasons at Winthrop, Pat Kelsey is headed to UMass.

The 41-year-old was announced as the Minutemen’s newest coach Tuesday.

“UMass is a national college basketball brand with a proud, powerful tradition,” Kelsey said in a statement released by the school. “As a player in the A-10 (at Xavier), I saw first hand what the potential is there. I look forward to the challenge of making UMass a major factor on the national level once again.”

UMass went 15-18 last season under Derek Kellogg, who took the Minutemen to the NCAA tournament as a six-seed in 2014, but saw the program languish around .500 the last three seasons.

Kelsey went 102-59 at Winthrop, going 26-7 this past season and taking the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament since 2010. Prior to his five-year stint with Winthrop, Kelsey was the associate head coach to Chris Mack at Xavier. He also previously worked at Wake Forest under Skip Prosser and Dino Gaudio. He played in three NCAA tournaments while a player at Xavier.

“Pat has been an important piece of some highly-successful programs throughout his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement, “including the last five years leading the basketball program at Winthrop University.

“Coach Kelsey has a detailed plan for every phase of our program and a passionate work ethic providing fuel to reach our goals of building a championship-caliber program.”

Butler has no problem with Winthrop

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As a former Cinderella itself, Butler didn’t treat a potential one too kindly Thursday.

The Bulldogs, of course, are underdogs no more.

Fourth-seeded Butler dominated No. 13 Winthrop from nearly start to finish to win 76-64 in a first-round matchup at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

The Bulldogs showed no ill effects from the two-game losing skid they entered the tournament on after dropping games to Seton Hall and Xavier. They struggled some on both ends of the floor in those two games.

That was no issue against the Eagles.

Butler shot 49 percent from the floor and made 8 of 19 from beyond the arc while holding Winthrop to 40 percent shooting overall.

Every shot Avery Woodson put up was from the 3-point line, and he made 6 of 10 to finish with 18 points. Andrew Chrabascz had 12 and Keelan Martin added 10.

Winthrop’s dynamo point guard Keon Johnson scored 17 points, five below his season average, but was clearly bothered by the length and athleticism he rarely saw from Big South opponents. He was 7 of 19 from the field. Xavier Cooks tried to help pick up the offensive slack, scoring 23 points, but he too was inefficient, going 10 of 22 from the field as the Eagles just couldn’t find consistent footing against their Big East foe.

Up next for the Bulldogs is a Round 2 matchup with the winner of Minnesota-Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.

Introducing Cinderella: Winthrop Eagles headed to NCAA tournament

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Conference: Big South

Coach: Pat Kelsey

Record: 26-6, 15-3 (T-1)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 114
RPI: 70
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: The Eagles are likely headed to a seed in the 14 range. They have just one win of serious significance – at Illinois in November – and home losses to Radford and High Point depress their seeding ceiling.

Names you need to know: The offense is centered around Keon Johnson and Xavier Cooks in a big way. The 5-foot-7 Johnson, the Big South player of the year, is averaging 22.4 points per game and shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range. Cooks is at 16.2 points per game and also pulls down nine boards per night.

Stats you need to know: 43.4. That’s the percentage of its shots Winthrop take from 3-point range. The Eagles convert at a 38 percent clip and have four players shooting 33 percent or better, with two Johnson (40.0) and Anders Broman (45.9) at 40 or better. That amount of shooting makes them dangerous to higher seeds.

Big wins, bad losses: The Eagles knocked off Illinois in Champaign in November, 84-80 in overtime, for their only top-100 KenPom win, though they do own victories over Furman (109) and UNC-Asheville (104). Losses to Radford (295) and High Point (269), both coming at home, are pretty serious blemishes.

How’d they get here?: They blasted Charleston Southern in their first game of the Big South tournament before surviving overtime against Gardner Webb in the semifinals. The Eagles avoided a rubber-match with Big South co-champs UNC Asheville when the Bulldogs lost in the semifinals to seventh-seeded Campbell, which was throttled by the Eagles, 76-59, on the Winthrop campus Saturday to capture the Big South title.

Outlook: Johnson, Cooks and the team’s 3-point shooting could give the Eagles a fighting chance, but the high-major opponent they’ll undoubtedly be matched up against will likely have plenty of length and defensive versatility to try to bottle up the 5-foot-7 Johnson. It’s a tough ask for any 14 seed to make it through the first round, but Winthrop’s 3-point shooting makes than an intriguing team. Also, the Eagles have been on the NCAA doorstep for the last three years, losing in the conference title game, so there’s a serious foundation there under Kelsey, who could be a coach bigger programs target once the coaching carousel gets spinning.

How do I know you?: Winthrop got the Big South’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory when as an 11-seed the Eagles defeated six-seed Notre Dame, 74-64, in 2007.

Big South Preview: Can John Brown take down Coastal Carolina?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big South Conference.

A month before the Big South Tournament started, seven teams were tied for first place in the conference standings. Once the tournament began, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds were bounced in the quarterfinals. Despite all the parity and chaos in the league, the tournament champion remained the same.

Coastal Carolina is eyeing a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament in its final season in the Big South before moving to the Sun Belt Conference.

The Chanticleers bring back Elijah Wilson, the Big South Tournament MVP, point guard Shivaughn Wiggins and power forward Badou Diagne. That trio could make a three-peat possible. Coastal Carolina boasted one of the conference’s most efficient offenses and defenses, and tops in both offensive and defensive rebounding 2014-15. The production of graduating guards Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron won’t be easily replaced, but if they defend and crash the boards like they’ve done in the past, the Chanticleers will be in a good position when they host the Big South Tournament again in March.

Like the Chanticleers, many of the teams across the Big South have lost start players. Of the 15 players named to the all-conference teams last March, only two of them return this season.

One of them is High Point senior John Brown, the ultra-athletic and physically imposing forward. Through his first three years he’s averaged 18.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s helped the Panthers win at least a share of the last three regular season titles, but has no NCAA tournament appearances to show for it. Click here and check out some of the dunks he’s thrown down over the years. Now imagine him playing on the first Thursday or Friday of the NCAA tournament. Fun, right? Surrounded by a cast of upperclassmen, Brown could finally get that shot this spring.

Winthrop graduated two double-digit scorers, including first-team selection Keon Moore. Keon Johnson will be the key holder over in a new-look perimeter that could feature not one, but two Division II transfers. Jimmy Gavin’s amazing journey was chronicled back in May. Roderick Perkins, a 6-foot-5 wing, was the second-leading scorer in all of D2 in 2013-14. Winthrop’s defense, rated as the most efficient in the Big South, returns a pair of shot-blockers — Xavier Cooks and Duby Okeke — the frontline. Zach Price, the former Louisville and Missouri big man, is eligible this season, as well.

Longwood could be a dangerous team, especially if the Lancers can get quality play from the back court. The Lancers have one conference’s best front courts. Shaquille Johnson is one of the league’s top athletes. Lotanna Nwogbo, the 6-foot-8 forward, is back after missing the last 17 games of conference play with a thumb ligament tear. In three full Big South contest, he was averaging 19.3 points and 12.0 boards per game. Gardner-Webb is dealing with the loss of Jerome Hill and Tyler Strange, but returns six of its top nine scorers, including Tyrell Nelson. Radford should be another potential sleeper. YaYa Anderson is joined by senior Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones, the potential breakout star of the league.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “In my mind, it would probably be High Point. There will be several teams that have really good players back, but High Point has several really good players back and John Brown has been one of the top players in the league for the last three years. Probably the team with the most experience, top to bottom, coming back is Coastal. I think they have four starters back, but I think they lose two really good players. On paper, as you look at it, Coastal makes sense to pick first.”
  • Sleeper: “I think a lot of people would say Longwood. I think they have a talented roster and they have a player on their team (Lotanna Nwogbo) I think a lot of people would talk about having a chance to be one of the better players in the league. He got hurt the second or third game in the conference season.”
  • Star to watch: “I’d say John Brown should be the favorite for preseason player of the year. There are a lot of good ones, but he’s definitely been really good for a long period of time. I think it starts with his motor and how hard he competes and how physical he is. He just stays after it every possession. He really plays so hard on both ends. He’s great at working at working on catching the ball at the rim and using his size and athleticism to score in the paint. Then he’ll get stuff in transition and on the offensive glass. He’s a monster.”

PRESEASON BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Brown, High Point

Brown, maybe the best dunker in all of college basketball, returns for his senior season after averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 2014-15. The 6-foot-8 nightmare matchup plays with a consistent motor. He understands angles and where to position himself on the floor in order to get easy buckets. Brown also creates opportunities for himself in the open floor and offensive glass.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON BIG SOUTH TEAM:

  • Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: The 6-foot-7 center was top-10 in the Big South in both scoring and rebounding at 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a night.
  • Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina: Had a strong finish to last season, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors. The 6-foot-4 guard is the top returning scorer at 11.3 points per game.
  • Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: The best athlete in the conference not named John Brown, Johnson averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season.
  • DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: The Blue Hose will rely heavily on the 6-foot-5 sophomore, who recorded five double-doubles during conference play last season.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @BigSouthMBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Coastal Carolina
2. High Point
3. Winthrop
4. Longwood
5. Gardner-Webb
6. Radford
7. Charleston Southern
8. UNC Asheville
9. Campbell
10. Presbyterian
11. Liberty

23-year-old Jimmy Gavin earns Division I scholarship having never played a varsity sport

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On Monday, 23-year-old Jimmy Gavin committed to Winthrop University after two all-conference seasons at the Division II level.

His transfer won’t be met with any kind of Twitter buzz from college basketball types, but Gavin’s journey to becoming a first-time Division I scholarship basketball player was anything but typical.

As a sophomore in high school, Gavin was 5-foot-4 and 90 pounds. He was never able to play a varsity sport in high school as he was dealing with Crohn’s disease, which made him progressively weaker. Three years after last playing organized basketball, the tragic death of his younger brother brought Gavin back to Chicago from Mississippi State.

This spring he heard from nearly 50 Division I schools during the recruiting process. Now he’s earned his chance to play college basketball at the Division I level in his final season. A far cry from a player who became winded after four possessions of a game during his later years of high school.

“There’s a difference in people wanting you to succeed and people believing that you actually can,” Gavin said. “And I think a lot of people doubted me.”

—————————–

Jimmy Gavin was a promising but scrawny and undersized starting point guard on the freshman team at Prospect High School during the 2006-07 season. Hailing from Arlington Heights, a middle-class suburb northwest of Chicago, Gavin was coached on the freshman team by John Camardella, a young and energetic former Division III player at Illinois Wesleyan. Camardella would soon be promoted to the varsity head job at Prospect by the summer of 2007.

Gavin and Camardella never had the chance to re-unite on the varsity level.

In his second year of high school, Gavin made the sophomore basketball team, but he had became noticeably slower. He was reluctant to share the struggle that he was going through.

“I had kind of started to get sick my freshman year. By sophomore year, it was kind of at its worst,” Gavin said. “I was about 90 pounds; about 5-foot-4.

“Sophomore year, I was on the team and I was getting sick non-stop. But I did finish out the season. I definitely missed time, but I was still a member of the team.”

During the winter of his sophomore year, Gavin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a bowel ailment that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract.

Crohn’s can cause abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. The malnutrition and constant struggle to retain nutrients leaves many Crohn’s patients weak and makes them lose weight. The disease can be painful; at times debilitating. Life-threatening complications can arise. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but medical treatment options and lifestyle changes can help prevent issues from regularly recurring.

Gavin tried different combinations of medications to help with Crohn’s but each one came with unique side effects. Things started to get better once Gavin found the proper combination of medication and diet to reduce the inflammation caused by the Crohn’s. Gavin had to get rid of things like bread, soda, foods with seeds and fried foods from his diet, but it helped to limit the effects of Crohn’s.

By his junior year of high school, competitive basketball really wasn’t an option. As a senior, the 5-foot-11 Gavin admitted he “halfheartedly” tried out for the Prospect varsity team but he wasn’t physically ready to compete at such a level. He ended up playing in a local park league and spent some time in intramurals. Gavin never played a minute of high school varsity basketball or any other varsity sport at Prospect. His body, and his battle with Crohn’s disease, wouldn’t let him. Gavin came up near his normal weight by the end of high school, but it was already too late.

“I was kind of a stubborn kid, so I never really told anyone what was going on,” Gavin said. “It had to get so bad where it was physically obvious that I needed some help. I just felt that basketball would kind of pass me by.”

“He just wasn’t himself,” Camardella said. “He just wasn’t and you could tell. He was giving everything he’s got.”

As Gavin graduated from Prospect, he moved on to college as a student at Mississippi State. He had no ambitions of attempting to play competitive basketball even though he still had a love for the game.

“I would still go play pick-up sometimes. But it was hard for me to watch basketball and even sometimes play,” Gavin said. “I still knew how to play, it was just hard to be connected to the game because I knew how much I loved it. It was tough. There was definitely a period where I wouldn’t watch basketball at all.”

———————————

Everything changed for Jimmy Gavin on March 24th, 2011, a month before the end of his freshman year at Mississippi State.

Sitting in the passenger seat as his friend drove, Jimmy’s younger brother, John “Jack” Gavin, was killed in a one-car accident. Jack Gavin was 16 years old, just a sophomore at the same high school Jimmy had gone to.

Jimmy had an urge to be there for his family during a time of need. He felt like he needed to be at home, so during the fall of his sophomore year, he opted to withdraw from Mississippi State and returned home to Arlington Heights.

“Everything kind of came to a halt for me. It was a lot of pain that I had to go through,” Gavin said. “Nothing can prepare you for a pain like that.”

At home in Arlington Heights, Gavin began attending community college in the spring semester. As a way to keep his mind occupied in his free time, a healthier Gavin, who had grown to over 6-feet tall, decided to start playing basketball again. By learning to get plenty of rest, eating a proper diet and balancing medication, Gavin was able to reduce the effects of Crohn’s disease enough to consistently be on the court near full strength.

The promising ability Gavin showed early in high school started to return. Finally showing signs of returning to full health, Gavin began playing basketball again on a regular basis by working out on his own.

“There’s definitely a lot of motivation to succeed just to kind of honor [my brother] — and my whole family,” Gavin said. “I kind of wanted to play just to put a smile on my family’s face, for one thing.”

A taste of success, every improvement, added fuel to Gavin’s fire. Camardella said Gavin would show up any time basketball was being played at Prospect just to get some time in at the gym. When that wasn’t enough, Gavin would travel all over the Chicagoland area to get a run in. Getting better, playing whenever possible, it became an obsession, not just because he was trying to cope with the loss of his brother, but because Gavin, quite literally, was never able to play before.

“Jimmy was everywhere when it comes to hoops,” Camardella said. “He was at Prospect, then all the sudden he’d be in the city, then he’d be going somewhere else for an open gym. And someone would be like, ‘Hey, I saw your guy Jimmy at this place.’ He was non-stop.”

During the summers, Gavin played in open gyms with high school players and ran summer-league games in Chicago with NBA players like Patrick Beverley and Shawn Marion. His goal was to soak up every bit of knowledge that he could. Former college basketball stars like Jerome Randle and Jeremy Pargo played against Gavin. Whenever he played with talented players of any background, Gavin would pick their brain to see how he could add moves or learn about operating a certain play.

By chance, while running pick-up ball at a local XSport Fitness health club, Gavin ran into Kyle Miklasz, a guard at local NAIA Roosevelt University. The duo grew up in Arlington Heights and played in youth leagues together as kids. Miklasz was soon calling his trainer and former AAU coach at Full Package, Steve Pratt, asking if he could bring Gavin with him to workouts.

Pratt was initially hesitant to work with the now 6-foot-2 Gavin. As the trainer of professional, college and competitive high school basketball players, Pratt didn’t know how a player with no varsity basketball experience would acclimate to high-intensity basketball training.

“Kyle brought him to the gym; had [Jimmy] come to the gym. We started training,” Pratt said. “Jimmy’s a freak athlete — and really slippery. But he was really raw, like a pick-up player. And we worked on tightening up his handle and really working on his shooting mechanics to help him become a great shooter.”

“When I was working out that summer, I was trying my hardest to create opportunities for myself,” Gavin said. “But they’re hard to come by because the basketball world is small. I was pretty much an unknown commodity with zero resumé or experience. So I ended up working out with Full Package’s gym.”

Working out with Pratt nearly every day, Gavin showed athleticism that nobody back at Prospect ever believed he would have. The full-time workouts and being in better shape transformed Gavin into a completely new athlete and basketball player just a few years after he couldn’t physically compete in a high school varsity game.

“I remember when [Jimmy] came down he jokingly said, ‘Hey, I can dunk now.’ And I said, ‘No you can’t, no you can’t, no you can’t.’ And he goes up and just hammers one,” Camardella said. “That’s the number one thing that just blows me away. The speed, the strength, the athleticism out of a kid that, back in high school, couldn’t get up and down the court three times without looking winded. And now you’ve got a kid who is able to windmill dunk.”

After taking the year to be home with family, Jimmy looked to enroll back in school with a chance at playing college basketball. Gavin went to a few local coaches, including Pratt, asking for potential opportunities at a college basketball program. Pratt recently had a guard from Full Package’s AAU program, Ka’Darryl Bell, go to in-state Bradley in Peoria. Braves head coach Geno Ford agreed to let Gavin play in an open gym with his players.

“I explained to Geno, the kid has never played varsity basketball and he’s sick,” Pratt said. “And I go, ‘But he’s really good…'”

All Gavin needed was a chance to prove himself. Ford was shocked by the results.

“[Geno] calls me up and goes, ‘I can’t believe what I’m watching. It’s like the movie ‘The Natural,'” Pratt said. “‘[Gavin] just went, like 15-of-20 3s scrimmaging with our guys. What’s his story? Who is this guy?’ And we were just laughing.”

Ford offered Gavin a chance to walk on at Bradley. Gavin accepted and returned to college full time in central Illinois. After dealing with illness and family tragedy, Gavin would finally have a chance to re-start his basketball career as a Division I walk-on.

It was a great first step for Gavin but he still had dreams of ascending as high as he could within college basketball. It was about continuing to build confidence as he looked to reach his professional basketball dreams.

“It’s all about rebuilding that confidence in yourself. Because at one point, I don’t know that anybody probably believed I could do it besides myself,” Gavin said.

—————————–

Starting anew at Bradley, Jimmy Gavin joined the Braves for the 2012-13 season as a 6-foot-2, 180-pound walk-on guard. His first season of competitive basketball since his sophomore season in 2007-08 when he began to miss time with Crohn’s. With the Braves, he began lifting weights while attempting to get into proper basketball shape for the first time.

Gavin had completed a year of coursework at Mississippi State and some classes at a local community college for a semester and was a considered a sophomore at Bradley with four years of eligibility remaining.

At the Missouri Valley program, Gavin made 10 appearances during the 2012-13 season and averaged 1.8 points per game. His season ended after having an intestinal resection procedure to help with his Crohn’s disease. The intestinal resection removed the Crohn’s-affected section of Gavin’s intestinal tract and his healthy intestines were attached back together.

He hasn’t had any problems with Crohn’s since the operation.

Having a potentially limited basketball career due to Crohn’s made Gavin seek out more playing time than his situation at Bradley. He sought out scholarship opportunities in hopes of getting a chance to prove himself with consistent minutes. Wisconsin-Parkside, fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance at the Division II level, was the only school to offer Gavin a full basketball scholarship. He was a risk; Gavin hadn’t completed a full season of basketball since his freshman season in high school.

“You could see the ability,” UW-Parkside coach Luke Reigel said. “When we signed him we didn’t know if we could even get a full year of basketball out of him. With everything he had battled from Crohn’s, we really rolled the dice and hoped that he could stay healthy. Because from an ability standpoint, we saw the potential was there to be an all-conference type of player. We didn’t know if three games in, 15 games in, if he’d be done playing.”

UW-Parkside was returning experienced wings in a three-guard offense. The Rangers needed an offensive spark off the bench and it quickly became apparent that Gavin could more than hold his own playing at one of the better Division II programs in the country. Reigel compared Gavin to noted former Detroit Pistons sixth man Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. Now at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Gavin played 30 games and started four in his first season at UW-Parkside, averaging 16 points per game while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.

In his first full-and-healthy season since the 2006-07 campaign, Gavin was a second-team all-conference selection for the Rangers during the 2013-14 season.

“There were multiple times early on where he’d have four or six points in the first half and was just trying to get a feel for the game,” Reigel said. “Then he’d have times where it was 16, 18, 20 points in the second half of games. And it was scoring every way possible. Getting to the rim, he was knocking down threes, scoring in transition. That’s when we knew he was at a little bit different level than maybe some other guys around the league.”

The Rangers once again made the NCAA tournament in Gavin’s first year with the team. Being the new guy in a college program was a tough enough transition, but Gavin still needed to pick up nuances to the game like help defense and the lingo that comes with playing in a basketball program. For as talented as he was, he was still a bit unpolished at the college level. After his first season at UW-Parkside, Gavin got in the gym again and wanted to improve his defense and using his right hand.

source:
(Kevin Poirier/Kenosha News)

To start his junior season, UW-Parkside made Gavin a starter in his second season with the team. Starting every game for a team that won 26 games, Gavin led the Rangers in points (17.4 ppg) and assists (3.0). He was a first-team all-conference selection and UW-Parkside once again made the NCAA tournament. He scored in double-figures in 28 of 30 games on the season.

“This year we asked him to guard the other team’s best player, get better on help defense and making plays away from the ball — which we talk about all the time. And he took a huge step forward this year,” Reigel said. “From his first year to his second year, he got much better defensively.”

He also put together a number of highlight-reel performances. There was the two-handed alley-oop that Gavin threw down. The 40-point performance on the road at Illinois-Springfield. Gavin also had some big performances in the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament. Playing an aggressive, attacking style on offense, Gavin wasn’t afraid to pull-up and shoot 3-pointers from anywhere within NBA range with his smooth left-handed jumper.

After two all-conference seasons in a row at UW-Parkside, the graduating Gavin faced a difficult decision with one year of college eligibility remaining. Would he leave behind a successful UW-Parkside program that gave him his shot at playing time? Or ascend to Division I immediately as a graduate transfer and do everything possible to play basketball at the highest level?

“For me, I know what I want. I know what my ultimate goals are,” Gavin said. “I want to become a professional. I want to do different things with it. I’ve been trying to make sure the situation [I’m going to] is good.”

After fielding calls from mid-major programs all over the country, Gavin officially visited Pepperdine and Winthrop this spring before opting to play in the Big South. Playing time was an important factor for Gavin and he wanted a good fit for his style of play. He’s also happy to pursue a Master’s degree in the liberal arts program as another fallback option for life after basketball. Gavin might be moving on to Division I but he’s thankful of the opportunity he had to play at UW-Parkside and play for Reigel when no other school would offer him a full scholarship.

“It’s been great,” Gavin said. “I’m really appreciative for the opportunities that Coach Reigel gave me. He took a chance on me when he didn’t have to. I’ve been fortunate to play with some talented players.”

The goal now for Gavin is to make an impact at Winthrop and, maybe, make some money playing professional basketball when he’s done. It sounds crazy, but Gavin doesn’t care.

“People have doubted him his whole life with regards to his disease and moving forward,” Camardella said. “He doesn’t really listen to the outside world telling him what he can and can’t do.”

“I’ve had to fight for every opportunity that I’ve had, and it just kind of puts this chip on my shoulder,” Gavin said. “It’s just… Why not? There’s nothing that someone can put in front of me that I can’t overcome.”