The remnants of Dunk City have finally moved in Fort Myers, Florida and for the first time it seems like the 2015-16 version of the Eagles will truly be Joe Dooley's team.
FGCU ended last season with their first back-to-back home losses since January of 2011. First came the devastating Atlantic Sun semifinal loss to USC Upstate and later came a first round CIT loss to Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Last year was supposed to be "the year" with the Eagles talented seniors Brett Comer, Bernard Thompson, and Jamail Jones. All three are gone now and so is 38 combined points per game between the three of them.
With the huge losses present on and off the court, can the FGCU Eagles fly again in a new look Atlantic Sun this year?
The biggest piece of the puzzle returning for FGCU is senior Julian DeBose. DeBose returns after posting nearly 12 points and 4 rebounds per game a year ago. DeBose spent the summer as an honorary Kansas Jayhawk representing Team USA at the World University Games. He played about 10 minutes during the tournament for Bill Self and finished averaging 4 points and 2.3 rebounds per outing.
DuBose is one of two seniors alongside big man Filip Cvjeticanin. The 6'9 Croatian is a bit of a wild card this year though after sitting out last year due to back surgery. Two years ago he was a solid role player for Dooley though and was contributing nearly 7 points and 3 rebounds per night.
Cvjeticanin will have to primarily battle for minutes with three talented, former transfers. Demetris Morant (UNLV) and Marc-Eddy Norelia (Tulane) both played as sophomores fro FGCU a year ago combining for 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Expect those numbers to grow as both are expected to hold down the frontcourt for at least the first half of the season.
The biggest newcomer to watch is 6'5 four star recruit Rayjon Tucker who turned down schools from the ACC, Atlantic 10, SEC, and others to come to Fort Myers. The Charlotte native was ranked as a Top 100 recruit by some and is known for his uber athleticism. He'll likely get a chance to play right away as he's the only traditional small forward on the Eagles roster and there isn't much threat of three guard sets with FGCU's backcourt being rather weak.
Dooley's frontcourt will get quite the shot in the arm after first semester when VCU transferAntravious Simmons becomes eligible for the Eagles. Simmons only suited up for eight games for Shaka Smart but folks in Fort Myers are hoping the 6'9 former offensive lineman will have a Justin Tuoyo-like effect for the Eagles.
The biggest question in Fort Myers is who brings up the ball for the Eagles? DuBose is certainly capable but he's a big guard who has traditionally played off the ball. The other options on the roster with experience are Christian Terrell and Brian Greene Jr., a combo that combined for just four points a year ago. Freshman Zach Johnson could be the guy after redshirting a year ago. Johnson was thought to be one of the best guards in Florida coming out of high school and had offers from some major programs. Johnson is a bit of a wildcard though because it was never disclosed what was wrong with him a year ago. The school was vague on his redshirt and just said it wasn't his knees, ankles, or legs.
As always, the Eagles have an interesting non-conference slate this year and one that won't take them away from Fort Myers too often. After finishing up a series at Ohio to start the year the Eagles will then host the Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Classic for a three game tournament against Bowling Green, North Dakota, and Youngstown State. The Eagles will then close November with a trip to Florida and by hosting a non-Division I team in Alico Arena.
December features three road games starting with Texas A&M and Florida International. Later in the month the Eagles will travel to Sioux Falls for a "neutral" floor contest against South Dakota. The home portion of FGCU's December schedule is where it gets interesting as they host UMass, South Dakota State, Louisiana Tech, and LaSalle. We'll really good gauge of where FGCU is at with so much mid-major talent coming through town.
The Eagles have just as much talent as anyone in the ASun on paper but can it all come together with so much inexperience and injury question marks on the roster? FGCU will most definitely be picked among the best in the conference come media day but is there big man rotation enough to vault them over defending conference champion North Florida and conference newcomer NJIT? Both teams have loaded rosters coming back and for now the Eagles will likely be looking up to them until they can prove themselves in what should be a fun 2015-16 campaign.