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Once Upon a Time in FIU Basketball. . . .

O

n the Pharmed Arena court on the beautiful campus of Florida International University, two giants arrived to provide hope for Golden Panthers basketball.

Then a pair of animals emerged to also help with the FIU basketball cause. And over yonder beyond the 3-point arc and in the paint, a trio of archers - one of them a Redd sharpshooter - returned to supply the bulk of scoring to lead the Golden Panthers to what can be one of their best seasons and maybe a fairy-tale ending where FIU finishes the 2007-08 season living happily ever after wearing a Sun Belt crown.

Back in the present now, October 2007, sat down with FIU hoops coach Sergio Rouco the other day and Rouco_2 the 4th-year coach has high hopes for what can possibly be a special season for FIU basketball.

"This is my most talented team from 1 through 11," Rouco said. "It's the tallest team I've had. It's the team that I've had more players returning on our roster. I like my group. The question mark is at point guard. If we can get the job done at the point, we have a chance to win the conference."

Giant_2  The high hopes, no pun intended, for this season can be found in Giant_4 "SR's Two Giants" - 7-foot, 244-pound junior Russell Hicks and 6-11, 235-pound junior Badu N'Diaye.

"The first thing that comes to people's minds are the two giants," SR said. "Russell is a presence on both [offense and defense]. Badu is one of the quickest big men I have ever coached. When we run sprints we put him with our guards, because he just blows away from the big guys. Russell has a 7-6 wingspan. Badu has 7-4. We are going to score in the paint. We've never scored in the paint. It's been a while. Badu is a cat in the paint."

Hicks arrived last year from Pepperdine after making the All-West Coast Conference Freshman team. N'Diaye, no relation to former FIU guard Ismael N'Diaye, comes from Southeastern Iowa CC where Ivan Almonte, one of the best Golden Panther hoopsters ever, attended.

Helping the 2 giants, are a pair of "animals". Guard Erick Nsangou and forward Nikola Gacesa. The sophomores, according to SR, are two of the strongest Golden Panthers.

"Erick has to play, because he's an animal," SR said. "We feel he can play any position, but the post, because he's so strong and athletic. Nikola is probably the most-improved physically and basketball-wise from last year. He's another animal. He's ripped. He's strong. He went from 215 to 235."

SR said Nsangou (6-1, 220-pounds) is so fast and strong that he may lend him to MC to play running Amned back.

SR thinks the main scoring is going to come from the trio of Alex Galindo, Chris Fuller and newcomer and former Texas A&M guard Kenneth "Redd" White.

"Those three can combine for 50 points a game," SR said. "I think those three guys can carry us offensively and all the other guys are threats as well."

Soto_2 While FIU waits for former Florida State point guard Josue Soto to be eligible next season after transferring from Tallahassee, senior Michael James and freshman Tremayne Russell will handle the point guard duties this season. Nsangou could fill in at the point if James and Russell struggle.

"Mike is going to get the nod and should be the starting point guard," SR said. "Tremayne will back him up, but we always have Erick there."

FIU has 17 home games this season and plays at Purdue and Kentucky at the end of 2007. "If you don't play them, you can't win them," said SR, about playing the two hoop powers.

This basketball story begins, Monday, Nov. 12 against Florida Tech, but we won't know how it ends until early March 2008, where there may be Madness on the Pharmed Arena court or in Mobile, Alabama, site of the Sun Belt championship.

"We won 3 of our last 4 to close the regular season," SR said. "We battled everybody. We won some or we were right there. This year you have two giants and another year of experience. This could be a good year."

PANTHER PAWSE Gppaw

Was going to have the FIU baseball blog before the basketball, but rain cancelled yesterday's intra-squad scrimmage. Look here for the baseball blog in the next few days after I check out some of the scrimmages.

UltimateFIUFan: Turtle inherits some hitters, but he needs to recruit and stockpile pitchers. FIU hit last season and I believe they will hit again this year.

Yandro: Glad to have you back on the GPP. The baseball roster is not set, because TT is still evaluating what he has. The FIU baseball signing class is announced on Nov. 21 - national signing day for baseball.

sunblazer69: The FIU witches love the Golden Panthers baseball team. Remember they helped in Chrd_3 finding TT to come on over here and lift the baseball program. The girls haven't been around the GPP lately, so here they are.

CJ: MC and his staff are going after every position. They need to stock as much talent as possible and they know that.

Quijote: As far the APR issue for FIU, nine scholarships have been forfeited. If FIU has to surrender more after the recent NCAA letter of allegations, the athletic department will find out in February when they meet with the NCAA.

Crazy Cane & Andy D: Appreciate your enthusiasm for the GPP and don't want you to curb it, but let's Curb_2 Yanks_2 leave all the sucking to the Yankees.

CrazyPanther & FIU Alumni Relations: Welcome to the GPP. 

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Men's Basketball... nice... especially because there's something to look forward to this year other than crappy play!

I like our team this year. Last year's team could have contended in the Belt with some decent post play, and if we get that from Hicks and N'Diaye, we're going to be top 3 in the conference at least. Bet on it. And that's not factoring in White. Never really seen him, but from all I heard, he could lead the team in scoring this year. That could put us over the top.

These guys impressed me a lot last season while I was sitting courtside. Especially the guards. I think James will be fine at the point, and if he can't do it, I think Nsangou can. He may not be a natural PG, but he can do it. He's tough as nails, too, and has a great attitude.

I'm glad to hear about Gacesa. He's the one guy from last season who I didn't like much. I know he was a frosh, but he was SOFT physically. That extra 20 pounds of muscle should help, and I do think he showed some willingness to mix it up at the end of the year, so I'll hold out hope. Just curious, though... what about the Soul Man, Pete? I really think Essola improved a ton as last year went along. Has he bulked up any? He needed it worse than Gacesa did.

Sergio's gotta get it done this year. He's recruited well and really dug FIU out a hole talent-wise... 4 years ago, he was in the spot Mario Cristobal is in now... but this is the year he must deliver. We got a favorable schedule and he's got the guys he recruited.

I'm pulling for him big-time, and not just because he's at FIU. He's a really nice guy and a pretty good coach, I think. Plus, anyone who tells me I'm a good announcer gets my vote! ;) Seriously... get it done, Sergio. You can do it!

glad to hear about the basketball team.. i saw the schedule we have 9 homegames to start the season... when you include exhibition.. thats one way to start it off. lets hope we can get a good jump on the season.

and pete thanks for the update on recruiting i figured everyone /position would be recruited but i was wondering more of whos on the radar. S.FLA kids you might possibly know are on the radar.

Messod Bendayan, couldn't agree with you more. Not only is SR a good B-Ball coach he is the most down-to-earth coach / human being you will ever meet. We all want him to suceed because good things happen to good people.

I'm an alumnus of FIU. I'm purchasing their special Season Ticket package of FIVE court-side seats for $144. Any non-student who likes Div-IA basketball, whether and FIU alumnus or not should JUMP on this deal!

GO FIU!!!

Love FIU b-ball, thanks Pete. So the starting 5 will be?

C-Hicks
PF- Fuller
SF-- Gallindo
SG-White
PG-James

I'd like to see:

C-Hicks
PF- N'Diaye
SF-- Gallindo
SG-White
PG-Fuller

The Sun Belt wouldn't be able to match up with that much height and scoring power. And wasnt that freshman point guard All-Dade, get him lots of minutes.

GO Rouco!

anyone heared about something goin down for basketball on oct. 24... my friend started telling me something about it and didnt finish

CJ, heard the same. I think its a dinner and then scrimmage between a group of the mens & womens BBall team against the other half of the mens & womens team. I think two fans will be allowed to coach the teams. One of the team's assist. coach will SR and the assist. coach of the other team will be the womens coach Cindy Russo (CR).

GO FIU!!!

The FIU website has more details on the Oct. 24 event, CJ. It is what UFF said, though.

Fuller should not be at the point. I'm not saying he can't do it, but I've not seen any indication that he can play PG. Granted, being a SG/SF/occasional PF with a small lineup doesn't give him much opportunity to show those skills, but I don't really see a need to find out. Fuller's pretty good on D, he can drive, and he'll break out every once in a while and score a bunch if his jumper's working. That, to me, makes him 6th/7th man off the bench along with Nsangou. James has the skills to run the point... he just has to avoid the turnovers. And Nsangou can run this offense, too. Don't forget Tremayne Russell, the kid from South Dade, and this Taylor kid is supposed to be able to run point. Someone's gotta step up PG-wise, but if we're going to Fuller at the point mid-way through the year, I'm willing to bet that will NOT be a good thing.

Haven't seen much inside info to feel confident as to who the starting 5 will be... but Hicks should be the starting C for sure. I'd like to see N'Diaye at PF too, ideally, but he's also the backup to Hicks, so I think what you'll see is alternating lineups based on who we play and who's hot. If he's bulked up any, Essola would be a great fit at PF alongside Hicks or N'Diaye at C. Galindo at the 3 would be just great, but I could live with him at PF every once in a while if Fuller's the SF. I know that's not his game, but Alex did show better skill at banging inside than I thought he had last season.

As for the guards... James at PG followed by Nsangou, White followed by Fuller at SG. I'd like to see Gacesa be the backup to Galindo at SF... that boy can shoot... but I see him being used along with Essola at PF. That's a bigger need on this team. We could use an extra big body on this squad, but otherwise, I think this team's got who they need to possibly go dancing if we win the Belt.

Definitely big size returns....Here's the preseason starting 5. I've heard Ndyie is a beast of an athlete, running with the guards at preseason conditioning drills. Let's see how (and if) that translates into production on the court. Somehow, his stat production at Southeastern was pretty low and minimal....

C-Hicks
PF- Galindo
SF- Fuller
SG-White
PG- James

Ndyie is slate to split time with Hicks at this time, particularly since Hicks has to reduce his tendency to get in fould trouble. However, sometimes we will see a "twin tower" set. Galindo will play a lot of power forward, for the most part. However, at times he will move back to his comfortable small forward position at times, I hope...

Fuller will start at the small forward, most likely. He is an intense defender, and has improved his offensive skills every year so far. He could be also used at the shooting guard when (if) we sport a big lineup. White is slated at the shooting guard, and James as the starting point guard at this point. Nsangou is a competitor, a hell of an athlete, and tough as nails, so I expect to see a lot of him, hopefully much improved. Russel needs to get in better shape to be a factor at this level.

Once again, we have a small roster size due to the situation revolving FIU athletics. I would have hope to have another 3-type guy to be in the roster, but we don't. I hope the best for the team and for Sergio, who is a nice guy.

Hey Pete are BBall practices open to the public? Let us know.

Forgot to end my post my way!

GO FIU!!!!

Can't wait for the BasketB season to start, specially the UCG game. I think we can beat them with no problem. Be careful Sergio, if you beat them they'll come back with the usual excuse "we won't play you". After FIU beat Leonard "the most overrated coach in America" Hamilton they wouldn't play us the next 8 years. Go get them Rouco.

I would love it if we get into the NCAA.

GO FIU!!!!

Also, paid for my life time membership to the Alumni Assoc. Former Panthers, jump on that and lend your support.

one thing is standing in FIU's Path TO Destiny or at least a tournament bid..FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY..we knocked you pesky cats out of the Sunbelt Tournament last year, and we'll be more than happy to do it again. Remember that. WE ARE BETTER. Nuff said.

one thing is standing in FIU's Path TO Destiny or at least a tournament bid..FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY..we knocked you pesky cats out of the Sunbelt Tournament last year, and we'll be more than happy to do it again. Remember that. WE ARE BETTER. Nuff said.

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