The Runner Sports

Dunk City Is Alive And Well

Four years ago you would be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Southwest Florida who had heard of Florida Gulf Coast University. That all changed when Andy Enfield and his Eagles made history by becoming the first fifteen-seed to ever reach the Sweet Sixteen. However, it wasn’t just the fact that the Eagles reached the Sweet Sixteen, it was how they did it that brought them to the national spotlight. Just in case you forgot here is a reminder:

After that season, Andy Enfield took at job at USC and Joe Dooley replaced him after spending the previous decade as an assistant at Kansas under Bill Self. Dooley brought a more intense focus on defense and has continued his predecessor’s success since his arrival, winning at least 20 games in each of his seasons on campus. He also led the Eagles back to the tournament for the first time last season where they destroyed Fairleigh Dickinson in the play-in round 96-65 before being down only one at halftime to eventual national runner-up, North Carolina.

The Eagles tested themselves early this season with tough games against Florida (down one with 12:20 to play), Baylor (down one with 2:41 to play), and Michigan State (one-point loss after a clock malfunction) in their first four games  of the year. FGCU was missing Marc-Eddy Norelia for each of those game, which made a big difference in the Eagles’ ability to score down low. Norelia was an All-Conference performer last season after averaging 17.1 PPG and 9.3 RPG. While they didn’t win any of those games they proved that they are capable of playing with the big boys.

This season, Dunk City is back and better than ever with the Eagles already breaking the 2013 team’s record of 148 for dunks in a season with 157 in four fewer games. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that FGCU is 13th in the nation on two-point shooting percentage at 55.6% on the season. The Eagles are a deep and talented team with five different players that could score 20 on any given night, and nine different players that will get in the game on any given night. This allows FGCU to keep their players fresh and allows them to press opponents and be aggressive on defense.

FGCU’s biggest weakness this season has been their inability to convert from the free throw line, where they shoot 69.5% as a team. Brandon Goodwin is the only Eagle shooting over 75% from the line and that could come back to haunt the Eagles if they are in a close game late.

Backcourt

Brandon Goodwin has been the star this season in Fort Myers, averaging 18.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 4 APG to pace the Eagles. Goodwin redshirted last season after transferring from UCF, and many people around the program expected him to perform at this level from day one this season. He did not disappoint, setting FGCU’s single season scoring record with 601 points and claiming the Newcomer of the Year in the Atlantic Sun, as well as a spot on the First Team All-Conference team.

Joining Goodwin in the backcourt are sophomore point guard Zach Johnson and junior shooting guard Christian Terrell. Johnson is a bull of a guard with a knack for making highlight plays. Last season he blocked a shot with time running down in the championship to defeat Stetson and send FGCU to the big dance for the second time in school history. He can drive fans crazy because he is a player that runs extremely hot or cold, there is almost no middle ground for him. This season, Johnson has reached 15 points ten times, while also failing to reach 10 points on twelve different occasions.

Terrell is the third guard that starts for the Eagles, and is a heady guard who is sneaky athletic and can also throw down some monster jams when he wants. However, this season he has been utilized more as a floor spacer and takes 4.5 threes a game. He has an extremely high basketball IQ and is vocal on the court and getting his teammates in the right place on defense.

The Eagles have a pair of sophomore guards in their rotation that come off the bench in Rayjon Tucker and Reggie Reid. Tucker, who is FGCU’s sixth man, is a high-level athlete with a 48 inch vertical and extremely quick first step. He put all 48 inches to good use in the Atlantic Sun Championship when he threw down a dunk so vicious it knocked out the shot clock. Tucker is also a very good shooter who leads the Eagles in three-point shooting percentage at a 45% clip.

Reggie Reid handles point guard duties when he comes in the game which allows either Johnson or Goodwin to slide to the shooting guard spot and focus more on scoring. While Reid isn’t a huge threat to score, he is lighting quick and is very good at getting in the lane and dropping the ball off to the bigs. He doesn’t play a ton, but he is very good at what he does and has 65 assists to only 32 turnovers on the season.

Frontcourt

FGCU’s frontcourt is made up exclusively of transfers this season with seniors Demetris Morant and Marc-Eddy Norelia handling starting duties. Norelia transferred into the program from Tulane after his freshman season and is the team’s energy guy. Don’t be shocked if he is the guy you see pumping up the crowd after a big play. This season, however, he has been a bit of an enigma. After performing at an All-Conference level as a junior, Norelia has struggled to find that form this year. Unfortunately, a broken hand kept him out of action early. After working his way back into the lineup over the next seven games he left the team for personal reasons and missed the next six games. He finally returned for good on Januuary 12, but has never quite gotten back to the Marc-Eddy of last year.

Demetris Morant is the uber-athletic starting center for the Eagles who transferred from UNLV after his freshman season. He is enjoying his best year as a senior this year and is averaging 10.7 PPG and 8 RPG while leading the conference in blocked shots. He is the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year this season to cap off a great year. Meech is second in the nation in field goal percentage at 76% and dunks just about anything he can get his hands on. This is mostly because he has no range outside of five feet and shoots the ball from his chest even on free throws.

The Eagles bring two bigs off the bench with Antravious Simmons normally being the first big subbed in. Simmons transferred back home to Florida from VCU after playing only nine minutes as a freshman. He is very good friends with Johnson and that’s what led him to FGCU. He is the Eagles’ biggest body at 6’9, 250 lbs and is not afraid to bang down low with anybody. He also has a soft touch out to about 17 feet and is not afraid to take a jump shot if defenders sag off of him.

The other big off the bench is Kevin Mickle, who is a junior college transfer originally from Brooklyn. He is not much of a threat on offense, but will give you everything he has every time he steps on the court. On the defensive end, he may be the Eagles’ best defender and is very good at getting in opposing player’s head and forcing turnovers.

Sterling Thomas

Sterling Thomas

Born in Littleton, Colorado, Sterling moved to the heart of ACC country when he was young and developed a deep passion for basketball.

Fast forward to college where Sterling had the opportunity to work with the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team under Andy Enfield and was apart of the 15-seed Eagles that made a historic run to the Sweet Sixteen and was dubbed Dunk City.
Sterling Thomas