The morale of the Hoops teams, high hopes for a successful season


The FGCU women’s basketball team has a fleet of returning talent, a likely first pick in the WNBA draft, four solid transfer additions, and even a former returning starter to the list.

But Eagles coach Karl Smesko has an important reminder for those who think his average power is automatically destined for a very special campaign in 2021-2022:

The Eagles are not alone.

In light of the competitive upheaval caused last season by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA has chosen to grant student-athletes an additional year of eligibility and allow transfers to play immediately without having to be absent from school. ‘a usual season.

This means that many teams – maybe even most – will be in boats similar to the FGCU women and men, who are also considering a return to their former glory with a seemingly strong squad as well.

“We have a lot of talent and good returning players,” said Smesko, whose team went 26-3 last season, won his eighth ASUN tournament title in 10 seasons and finished the year in the top 25 of the two main polls for only the second time in the history of the program.

“But what people maybe don’t realize is that most teams do. The majority of players take advantage of the extra year. It’s not at all uncommon for teams to have all five returning starters, as well as those they’ve signed. I think the level of play is going to be very high across the country. ”

With just one year of getting past the loss of 90.6% of their top scorers from a previous season, the Eagles enter 2021-22 with the reverse scenario in place: so many experienced talent that handling the consistently high expectations of the program can be a primary task. .

Four transfers – two seniors and two graduate students – join a roster that brings in 95 percent of last season’s score, led by 6-foot-1 junior Kierstan Bell, Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year last season and senior point guard Tishara Morehouse.

Fifth-year senior starters Tyra Cox and Emma List, junior Aaliyah Stanley and graduate student Andrea Cecil also return to a program that once again welcomes former starter Kerstie Phills, a graduate student who retired last season. due to COVID issues.

The overwhelmingly veteran roster consists of six seniors and four graduate students with just two juniors, three sophomores and no freshmen.

“I think we got better for sure,” Smesko said of the transfer additions: Karli Seay of LSU, Kendall Spray of Clemson, Kaela Webb of Detroit Mercy and Milan Schimmel of Cincinnati.

“We have a lot of very good players who started and played important minutes at high levels. A lot of people may have to sacrifice some of their individual score or their individual playing time for team improvement. The team is going to have to be the top priority.

FGCU faces two new obstacles. The first is the addition of three schools to ASUN: Central Arkansas, from the Southland Conference, and Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State from the Ohio Valley Conference. While none come close to the FGCU women’s success story, the newcomers – drawn to ASUN in part by the league’s efforts to secure a playoff-eligible FCS football league in the future. close – increase the number of teams vying for a single automatic NCAA. Tournament place. The additions bring the league’s roster to 12 schools.

“I think it will definitely make the league harder,” Smesko said. “I think it will be more difficult for anyone to try to get through this conference season without a few losses.”

The other change directly impacts the FGCU’s business card. Citing record attempts and 3-point conversions last season, the NCAA has reduced the perimeter arc this season to 22 feet, 1¾ inches. This matches the 3-point lines of the WNBA, international and men’s colleges, which also dropped from 20ft 9in two seasons ago. 33% mark last year, when COVID limited practice time.

“We had a lot of new players and not a lot of training,” he said.

For Bell, the team’s results could have an impact on an important decision they make after the season.

Following the FGCU’s loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March to an under-seeded Michigan team, Bell aspires to a historic playoff run for the FGCU as much as anyone.

Given projections that she might have been one of the top picks in the WNBA Draft even after her FGCU debut last season, another year of significant team and individual success could be decisive.

“Right now it’s more 50/50,” she said. “I’m not really fixed on it but I am thinking about it.”

Along with obvious improvements on the pitch, the focus on diet and conditioning has also been a big part of Bell’s diet at the FGCU – for the sake of herself and the team.

“This year I think we will be even better than last year,” she said. “I know I’m excited. I know the team is excited. We have worked hard.

Something to prove

COVID hit every school last season. But for programs like the FGCU that pride themselves on doing things the right way and cutting corners on shortcuts, strict adherence to health and safety protocols meant more frequent or in-depth shutdowns of the company’s operations. team.

Luis Rolon of the FGCU scores 2 points against Bellarmine.
Luis Rolon of the FGCU scores 2 points against Bellarmine.

Considering how they played with a bit of rhythm, the FGCU men walked away from last season with chips on their shoulders – and great confidence in this season.

As with the FGCU women, it’s also thanks to a strong returning core and several key additions during the offseason. This includes “the most accomplished signer in the history of the program”. “If it hadn’t been for COVID, we were on track for one of the biggest turnovers in the country,” said Eagles coach Michael Fly, whose team earned a record. 10-8 and lost in the second round of the ASUN tournament last year after going under. 500 in his first two seasons, replenishing the roster.

Fall 2021 Fall issue of FGCU360

“We were really excited about our group last year, and we were really good when we were allowed to play basketball. This will be the second year to have some punch and experience coming back.

Top scorers Cyrus Largie and Caleb Catto, ASUN assist and steal leader Luis Rolon and league total blocks leader Dakota Rivers to lead the returning class, which also includes major contributors Zach Anderson and Franco Miller Jr.

Andre Weir, a 6-10 freshman transfer from Richmond, joined the FGCU too late in the spring to contribute last year, but adds size, touch and athleticism to a significant offseason transfer class.

Graduate students Tavian Dunn-Martin of Duquesne and Matt Halvorsen of Western Carolina add significant playing and shooting skills, respectively, in the backcourt. And 6-8 juniors Carlos Rosario of McNeese State and 6-6 seniors Austin Richie of Tulsa should bring their size, experience, efficiency, score and leadership to the first zone.

But the biggest offseason addition is Kevin Samuel, a senior fifth-year at 6-11, 255 pounds. A four-star rookie ranked in the top 10 of all Texas preparation prospects in 2017, Samuel started all 95 games in three seasons at TCU while leading the Big 12 in blocked shots for the past two seasons. Hailing from the Caribbean island of Barbuda, Samuel averaged 10 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in sophomore and 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in junior. But after going without an appearance in the NCAA in his career and not being screened as an NBA Draft selection last season, Samuel chose the FGCU over many major conference contenders to help him reach. team and individual goals as a senior, said Fly.

“He saw what FGCU was able to do for Brandon (Goodwin) and what Brandon did for FGCU,” Fly said of the former Eagles guard, who played for the FGCU after being transferred from the UCF and continued to play in the NBA. “We are excited about what he brings to the table.”

With so much experience and ability, it will be difficult to quickly mix new arrivals with returnees. And because injuries and last season’s COVID pandemic also hampered much of the FGCU’s efforts during Fly’s tenure, the Eagles’ former longtime aide is making no promises for this season. Yet, after several years of frustration, the FGCU may be on the verge of regaining the program’s old luster.

“I think internally we have a big chip on our shoulders based on what happened last year,” Fly said. “I think we all feel pretty confident in what we can do. “

Julia roddar
Julia roddar


Former FGCU women’s football player Julia Roddar (2012-14) became the first-ever eagle to win a medal at the Olympics as Sweden fell to Canada in a penalty shoot-out 3- 2 to win silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Japan in July.

Sweden scored the opening goal in the 34th minute and took a 1-0 lead in the half before Sweden equalized in the 67th minute via a penalty kick. After extra time, Sweden held a 2-1 lead in shots on goal, but missed their last three shots as Canada converted their last two for the win.

Roddar spent her freshman year in Wisconsin before joining the FGCU in 2012. During her three-year stint with the Eagles, she started all 62 games she appeared in, scoring four goals with 10 assists. The Falun, Sweden native also helped her National Women’s Football League team, the Washington Spirit, win their first-ever championship in November.

Roddar became the ninth Eagle to compete in the Olympics and was one of two featured this year. Current FGCU swimmer Petra Halmai helped her Hungarian team break a national record in the mixed 4 × 100 medley relay at the July games.

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