FGCU men’s and women’s basketball organize their first training sessions of the 2021-22 season

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The FGCU men’s and women’s basketball teams have common goals.

Go back to the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles officially began training on Tuesday morning, with the women starting early and early. The men followed just before noon.

Men’s coach Michael Fly, who recently signed a contract extension that will take him through the 2023-24 season, was excited about this year’s squad, which is more experienced than the year before.

“Obviously we’re returning a big percentage of our score in terms of guys coming back,” Fly said. “Caleb (Catto) and Cyrus (Largie) had caliber numbers every championship last year, if we could have played all the games they would have had these recognitions. We have familiar faces that have been big contributors. last year, but we added a crop of transfers that were productive at Division I level. “

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The transfer group is led by 6-foot-11 tall man Kevin Samuel, who left TCU and the Big 12 Conference to play in his fifth year at FGCU. He is joined by Austin Richie (Tulsa), Carlos Rosario (McNeese State), Tavian Dunn-Martin (Duquesne) and Matt Halvorsen (Western Carolina). Andre Weir, who joined the Eagles in the middle of last season, is also expected to make a contribution.

Samuel, originally from Barbuda in the Caribbean, chose FGCU for a variety of reasons, including the attractiveness of Florida’s climate.

“Just with Coach Fly, the culture they have here,” Samuel said. “And they just want to keep winning. I wanted something new, so I could make a fresh Big 12 start at ASUN and play for Dunk City. I love the weather in Florida. come from the Caribbean so the weather was a bit the same. “

Members of the FGCU men's team including Kevin Samuel, center right, and Caleb Catto, right, practice at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Catto, SFCA graduate and 2017 The News-Press Boys Basketball Player of the Year, is in his fourth season with the FGCU and has made great improvements since joining the Eagles in 2018. Afterwards averaging 4.1 points per game on 33.3% shots from distance in first year, Catto averaged 13.3 points, his career best, while adding 4.7 rebounds and 30.4 minutes per game, while shooting 39.2% beyond the arc.

“The most important thing is the experience,” Catto said of the new additions to the team. “Even with the guys coming back we’re just more experienced. It’s always good to have experience coming off the bench, more depth, older guys, guys who have been through the process will definitely help us. on the road.

Members of the FGCU men's basketball team, including Caleb Catto, right, practice at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

“It’s a little fuzzy. It’s a little crazy to think this is my fourth year. It’s awesome. I’m so grateful to put on the FGCU jersey, play Fort Myers and be close to my family. a blessing, and I am grateful for it. “

Fly, who is entering his fourth season at the helm, spoke about a key difference with this year’s squad – the team’s high IQ in basketball, in part due to his experience at the division level. I. Of the team’s 16 players, 11 are juniors, seniors, graduate students or fifth-year players, giving Fly a luxury he hasn’t had.

Members of the FGCU men's team including Kevin Samuel, left, and Carlos Rosario train at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

“It’s different from last year,” Fly said. “We were dealing with a lot of freshmen, college guys, a lot of guys who never played Division I basketball. My first two years in particular, and even some year round. last, there was a lot of teaching.There was a lot of the first time, here are our defensive principles, it is bulletproof defense.

“With this group we were able to do a lot more scrum and play a lot earlier because if I tell them what we want to do offensively or defensively, they know the terminology, they’ve been through games. It’s just different with an older group in terms of what you’re able to work on without doing a lot of basic stuff. “

The men will have an ambitious non-conference roster, which includes USC, Loyola-Chicago and Rhode Island before entering conference Jan. 4 against North Florida.

FGCU women's basketball team member Kierstan Bell trains with her teammates at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Winning is the wait

On the women’s side, the Eagles’ first-round loss to Michigan in the NCAA tournament is what pushes them to do even better this season, according to junior Kierstan Bell.

“It feels good to be back, to get back into the game,” said Bell, reigning ASUN Player of the Year. “We lost to Michigan last year, and that concerns us a lot this year. We focused on the details, the little things, and the coach is big on efficiency, so we got stuck there- on it. That was a key word. “

Following:FGCU Women Playing in MAAC / ASUN Challenge at Disney

The FGCU women are emerging from a 26-3 campaign where the team was ranked No.24 in the AP poll while finishing No.25 in the USA Today / WBCA Coaching Poll.

Karl Smesko, entering his 20th season as the Eagles coach, described the first day as a first basic training.

“I thought there was a lot of enthusiasm today,” Smesko said. “Everyone likes to start official training. It was a bit like a typical first training session: full of energy, but also full of mistakes. The key is to be able to keep that energy and to be able to move forward every day, to correct some of the things that we have done wrong. “

Karl Smesko, the coach of the FGCU women's basketball team, coaches his team at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Fifth-year senior Tyra Cox knows mid-majors like the FGCU often don’t get the credit they deserve, saying even a bad win could put the Eagles down one place or maybe out of the game. Top 25.

“It’s always great to be recognized and seen, but we also realize that we are in a unique position,” said Cox. “We can start really high, but all it takes is one game. It could be an ineffective win, and it could be the end of us being ranked or being on some people’s lists. .

“It’s great, but it also reminds us that we have to go even harder. We can win games and still give up, but that’s just the FGCU, something that we deal with every year.”

Unlike last year, the Eagles are bringing back 90% of their scores, including Bell, but also TK Morehouse, a unanimous selection of the fully ASUN first team.

Women's basketball team member TK Morehouse trains with her teammates at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Cox is also very excited about the potential success of Kendal Spray. Clemson’s transfer ranks first nationally in 3-point attempts (943) and second in 3-point-per-game attempts (7.79) while posting a career percentage of 0.385 over long distance.

“I’m really, really excited for Kendall,” Cox added. “I came here with (Taylor Gradinjan) and Jess Cattani. She’s probably one of the best shooters I’ve seen at the FGCU, which says a lot.”

Smesko and the Eagles will have an immediate road test, traveling to Baton Rouge to play Kim Mulkey and LSU. Mulkey is the third-most victorious Division I head coach of all time (0.859), while Smesko is fifth (0.823). This is the very first confrontation between the two coaches.

The Florida Gulf Coast Women's Team practices at the Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

“We have an extremely difficult non-conference schedule,” Smesko said. “Even names you don’t know, these are teams that are likely to win over 20 Division I games. All of our non-conference Division I competitions are exceptional, and there are obviously some big names in LSU, Michigan State. and Princeton, which was in the Top 25 the last time we played.

“We’re going to be tested early and we’re going to learn a lot about our team. If we’re going to be able to get a good seed, if we’re lucky enough to be in the NCAA tournament, you’ve got to win some of those games. That’s where you get our ranking. Even if you think of the non-conference as a learning experience for mid-majors, it’s more important than that. “

Follow Southwest Florida sports writer Alex Martin on Twitter: @NP_AlexMartin. For the best sports coverage in Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.



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