Retooled Eagles picked second in ASUN; Lipscomb the favorite in conference

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This summer has been one of immense change for the FGCU men’s basketball team, with a new coach, several new players, and the departure of several key players from last year’s team.

Even with all of that turmoil though, they’re expected to be contenders in the Atlantic Sun.

Media and Coaches both picked the Eagles to finish second in the ASUN this year, in polls released Wednesday.

Not surprisingly it’s Lipscomb, returning several key players from last year’s conference tournament winning team, that is the massive favorite to win the conference this year, taking 7 of 9 first place votes in the coaches’ poll, and 44 of 50 in the media poll. FGCU and North Florida each had one first place vote by the coaches, while they each got two, along with Jacksonville, from the media.

Michael Fly, the longtime FGCU assistant who took over as coach this season after Joe Dooley’s departure to East Carolina, isn’t concerned.

“We have never worried about, or put any stock into pre-season rankings because they have no impact on wins and losses” Fly said.  “We are only worried about the process of getting better each day and trying to prepare for conference play and the ASUN tournament. Our guys know a standard has been set here and we try to live up to that every day both on and off the court.”

After FGCU, conference newcomer Liberty is picked third in both polls, which matched up completely with each other. North Florida is picked fourth, then Jacksonville, NJIT, Kennesaw State, Stetson, and the other conference newcomer North Alabama picked last.

Speaking of newcomers, Marquette transfer Haanif Cheatham was named to the ASUN’s preseason all-conference team. In a touch over two seasons at Marquette, Cheatham started in 63 games before leaving the program and joining FGCU last year. The senior guard averaged 10.1 points per game at Marquette, and shot just under 37 percent on threes.

Garrison Mathews from Lipscomb was picked at the preseason player of the year.

This year’s Eagles, in addition to replacing Dooley with Fly, lost several key players, including perhaps the best player to ever play for FGCU in Brandon Goodwin. Goodwin was waived by the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies earlier this week just before the start of the NBA season. Three-year starter Christian Terrell is now playing in Lithuania for BC Siauliai, while big man Antravious Simmons also graduated.

Zach Johnson, the other half of FGCU’s dynamic backcourt, graduated and transferred to Miami, while Michael Gilmore left as a graduate transfer to VCU. Sparingly used backup point guard Darnell Rogers also transferred after his freshman season and is currently at New Mexico Junior College.

Incoming this season are a pair of freshman guards in Zach Scott and Caleb Catto, along with junior college transfer Decardo Day and graduate transfer Schradac Casimir, who join returning players Christian Carlyle and Dinero Mercurius as seeking to retool the Eagles’ lineup at the guard positions.

Troy Baxter, a transfer from UNLV, is also eligible this season as a sophomore, joining returning forwards RaySean Scott Jr., Ricky Doyle, Brady Ernst, and Brian Thomas.

The last of the scholarship players on the roster, Malik Hardy, a 6-foot-2 guard, is sitting out this season after transferring from Nova Southeastern.

© 2018 Lee Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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