2008-2009 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Basketball Preview
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles - Atlantic Sun
2007-08: 10-21, 6-10, 8th
2007-08 postseason: none
Florida Gulf Coast’s first year at the Division I level was not as successful as they are used to seeing in Fort Myers. The Eagles had a great run over the last five years at the Division II level, but the schedule caught up with them. But there were still highlights. The team played a schedule made up entirely of DI teams and won ten games, including a home game against Penn and a road victory over Gardner-Webb…the same Gardner-Webb that beat Kentucky earlier in the season. But if the Eagles were going to make a big splash during their first few years in the Atlantic Sun conference, it was going to be the 2007-2008 season. The recruiting is getting better now that the team has found a home, but the Eagles had a ton of seniors and a ton of transfers that are now gone.
Who’s Out for the Eagles:
Just how bad are the defections? FGCU played 13 guys last year…and two of them return. That makes this list of 11 players extremely significant. Two-year starting point guard Rob Quaintance was the leader on the floor and dished out 5.6 assists per game during his senior campaign. Casey Wohlleb was the scorer on the wing and led the squad with 16.5 points and 2.0 three-pointers per contest. Yavney Neptune, Casey Pond, Kyle Matheny and Harris Gelin provided a majority of the backcourt depth and have either run out of eligibility or opted to transfer. The frontcourt quartet of Landon Adler, Adam Liddell, Terike Barrowes and Mbainai Narmbaye was one of the best in the conference last year. Adler fell into Coach Dave Balza’s doghouse and opted to transfer after his junior campaign. He only started nine contests, but Adler averaged 11.6 points and a team high 6.7 rebounds. Adam Liddell was equally effective in the scoring department. He could not stretch out the defense with his outside shooting like Adler did, but he did do the dirty work in the paint. Barrowes was the glue guy and Narmbaye was a major presence on the defensive end. When those four guys needed a rest, Tyler Rodriguez would provide the depth. Now the frontcourt has to virtually start over.
Florida Gulf Coast is rebuilding with some transfers and a decent crop of incoming freshmen. One position that should end up being in good hands is the point. Reed Baker, a transfer from Michigan, is eligible to play after sitting out last season. Baker made two starts with the Wolverines during the 2006-2007 campaign and averaged 2.5 points per game. Ben Vega and Reggie Chambers are not handing the job over to Reed. Vega’s two years at Gulf Coast Community College give him the most experience of any point guard on the team and he has the leadership skills to emerge as the heart and soul of this team. Chambers will likely fill that role in a couple of years. The jet quick true freshman is a true point guard and an unselfish one at that. He can score when he has to, but Chambers will earn more minutes this year if takes care of the ball first and foremost. Shooting guard Addison Smith, another incoming freshman can handle the ball as well. FGCU would like to have multiple ball handlers on the floor whenever possible and Smith provides that. There are a bunch of new forwards on the roster. Matt Baker, Ed Rolax, Eddie Murray, Anthony Banks and Derrick O’Neil give the team plenty of options. Banks, a true freshman, and O’Neil, a transfer from Florida Community College at Jacksonville, are the two that will likely make the biggest impact right away. However, with a fresh start, there are minutes to be earned by everybody else. Kyle Marks, George Erkvania and Christian Wolf will have to handle a majority of the minutes in the paint. Marks, a transfer from Nebraska, is ideally a wing but, at 6-7 and 230 pounds, he has more than enough size to play the four spot for the Eagles. Erkvania has experience playing against some quality competition at Pensacola Junior College. The 6-10 junior will not put up big numbers, but as long as he can use his size to grab some boards and alter some shots, he will be doing his job.
Who to Watch:
Delvin Franklin and Chad Lutkenhaus are the lone returning players and Franklin was the only one who played a significant role on the team last year. The 6-2 senior averaged 9.2 points per game and is a decent outside shooter. The only senior on the roster, Franklin has little choice but to be a leader of the team.
Final 2008-2009 Florida Gulf Coast Projection:
Coach Balza was the team’s first coach in 2001 and led the program into the A-Sun conference and Division I. Thus far the transition has been successful and the recruiting is on par with most other teams in the conference, but the former Michigan student assistant has a long way to go before FGCU will compete with a team like Belmont for a conference championship.
Projected Postseason Tournament: none
2008-2009 Florida Gulf Coast Projected Starting Five:
Reed Baker, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Delvin Franklin, Senior, Guard, 9.2 points per game
Derrick O’Neil, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Kyle Marks, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
George Erkvania, Junior, Center, DNP last season
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer
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