I had the opportunity to interview Luis Rosado from Gainsville high school over the phone this morning. Rosado seems really excited about his chance to play college football for the Panthers. Below is a Q&A I put together.
Q. How did you hear about FIU?
A. My dad is really into college football and he was looking for schools that are the best for me. He would go on the internet and fill out questionnaires for all the schools in Florida. I’ve always wanted to play college football in Florida. I told him I really wanted to play down south. There are three schools down south, Miami, FAU and FIU. Before I knew it, FIU offered me last year during spring.
Q. Have you ever watched them play?
A. Oh, yeah! FIU is on the rise. They can only get better.
Set up two interviews for bright an early tomorrow morning. I spoke with Robinson coach Mike DePue a few minutes ago. DePue said he would be happy for me to talk with FIU commitment Richie Reay. I also spoke with Gainsville coach Ryan Smith about getting Luis Rosado on the phone. Both said early tomorrow would be best. Trying to get someone for today. Check back soon.
Quick update: FIU got two more commitments this weekend, OL Derrick Thorpe and DB Kenneth Proctor, according to ESPN.
Thorpe's highlights below.
No one can deny that it has been a roller coaster ride for the men's hoops team. Starting the season - missing several key player - FIU lost 7 of it's first 12 games (granted the nonconference schedule was stacked with some tough teams).
Beginning with the 89-66 loss to FSU, the Panthers dropped six of their next eight games, including three consecutive road losses against Louisville, Marshall and Jackson State.
FIU was able to overcome its early season woes, putting together a 4-1 stretch before the recent four-game losing streak.
Coach Isiah Thomas (left, Miguel A. Olivella, Jr., AP) seems confident his team will be able to start playing better with the help of Dominique Ferguson, Alex Legion and newly arrived Phil Taylor. Ferguson and Legion have only played in nine and 10 games, respectively. Both Legion and Ferguson (right, Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff) have logged a good amount of minutes - since joining the team - with each averaging over 22 minutes a game (Ferguson 22.7 and Legion 28.1). Taylor played for the first time against South Alabama, after being activated on Thursday. Taylor played eight minutes off the bench, going 0 for 2 from the field.
"Hopefully, it will give us a back up point guard that can come in, that’s really a point guard and not someone we are trying to convert to the point guard position," Thomas said about Taylor. "If [Taylor] can get acclimated to the things we are doing and we can gel over the next month or so, hopefully by tournament time, we can become a good basketball team. As of right now, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Legion looked impressive coming off the bench. Legion played 16 minutes against UALR last week, contributing 10 points, four rebounds, a steal and an assist.
Thomas extended Legion's minutes in FIU's 86-78 loss to South Alabama this weekend. Legion played 37 minutes and had 23 points and six rebounds for the night.
From what I saw on against the Trojans, FIU looks like a solid team that needs to learn how to play with one another. I left that the UALR game thinking FIU might have something with this squad. You have to give credit where credit is due. The Panthers bounced back from a 15-point halftime deficit to make it a four-point game late.
The South Alabama game was similar with the Jaguars taking 13-point lead into halftime. The Panthers battled back in the second half, outscoring S. Alabama 52-47.With time running out, FIU held on to a brief two point lead after Marvin Roberts hit a free-throw shot. The Jaguars ultimately proved to be too tough for FIU, going on a 10-0 run with a little more than a minute to play.
In both games FIu struggled defensively. The Jaguars shot 49 percent on Saturday. South Alabama shot 53 percent in the first half. UALR shot 51 percent.
It is an understatement to say this team is still a work in progress. Coach Thomas was quick to point out to me last week, that this team has only been playing together for a few games and needs to learn how to "gel." Thomas hopes by the Sun Belt tournament, this team will be playing together. FIU still has nine games to improve before the postseason. Thomas has done a good job of getting the pieces necessary to build a legitimate team. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers can put it together and go on a nice run towards the end of the season. FIU fans need to be patent and give Thomas time to get the team to where he wants them. It is easy to sound the alarm when things do not seem to be going right.
I have little doubt this team is capable of playing at a high level. How high? Is yet to be determined.
Let's face it, last night was pretty ugly for the Panthers. After the game, coach Isiah Thomas seemed frustrated (I would be too) with the performance the guys showed against UALR.
The Trojans manhandled FIU the entire game, easily winning 78-70. FIU was down from the start, falling to a 43-28 halftime deficit.
"They played a really good first half. Their movement was excellent,'' Thomas said, after the game. "We didn't play the way we practiced."
Defensively, FIU (8-10, 3-3 SBC) had no answer for UALR, letting the Trojans get uncontested looks at the rim the whole game. The Trojans' defense shutdown the Panthers in the first-half, limiting FIU to only 25 percent (6 of 24) from the field.
"We were out of rhythm, out of sync on offense," Thomas said.
The first-half was made even harder for FIU, when leading scorer Erik Frederick picked up two early fouls. Thomas pulled him soon after, with Frederick playing only 4 minutes in the first period. Frederick returned in the second half, scoring 5 points in 22 minutes of play in the game.
"It made a huge difference," Thomas said about Frederick. "He's our inside threat."
FIU was able to outscore UALR, 42-35 in the second-half, but by then the game was almost out of hand. FIU cut the Trojans' lead to four points late in the game twice. Both times, it looked FIU might have enough to take the lead, but UALR proved to be too much.
The one bright spot for FIU came on the foul-line. The Panthers shot 29 of 33, including 13 of 16 in the second half.
"We were able to manufacture points from the foul-line, which was a good thing," Thomas said. "Again, we were in such a hole the first-half, that everything you tried to do in the second half, you had to be perfect."
Guard Jeremy Allen had a game-high 18 points and was 7 of 7 on free throws. Allen was essential in the Panthers short lived come back, scoring 9 points in the second half. The Panthers had 5 players in double digits.
UALR used the three-point shot effectively, helping to keep the Golden Panthers at bay. Earlier in the week, coach Thomas spoke about the need of having to defend the three-pointer. Even though the Panthers limited UALR to a season-low 7 three-pointers on 18 attempts, the shots the Trojans made were huge.
FIU was terrible from beyond the arch, hitting just one shot on 13 attempts.
Of concern for FIU is the fact that a smaller UALR out rebounded them, 37-26. FIU had a size advantage at every position, except point guard, Thomas said after the game. The disparity was even greater in the first-half, with UALR leading 26 to 11 rebounds. The lack of rebounding helped UALR get multiple second-chance baskets. UALR lead 12 to 4 on offensive rebounds at halftime.
"We didn't do a good enough job on the rebounds," Thomas said.
FIU improved in the second period on rebounds, winning 15 to 11, including 7 to 3 on the offensive glass.
Right before tonight's game Phil Taylor was activated.
The FIU men's basketball team faces the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Thursday night at U.S. Century Bank Arena. The game is set for a 7 p.m. start.
The live blog will start a few minutes before the game begins.
The Golden Panthers are coming off two consecutive road losses against two of the top teams in the SBC, Denver 79-70 (OT) and North Texas 87-77.
FIU was competitive in both games, losing on late rallies. The Panthers narrowly missed a chance to upset Denver (9-9, 5-0 SBC), failing to convert multiple late-game free-throw opportunities.
The Panthers were ahead for much of the game till late in the second-half when the Pioneers took a 59-58 lead. FIU stayed on the attack, battling back to send the game to overtime. Denver outscored FIU in the extra-period 14-5, picking up its fifth SBC win.
"We played a good basketball game with the exception of converting from the foul-line," FIU coach Isiah Thomas said. "If we can get better from the foul-line those [games] can become wins."
The Panthers shot 20 of 36 from the free-throw line. FIU ranks seventh in the SBC in free-throw percentage.
Junior guard DeJuan Wright had a team-high 21 points against North Texas and senior guard Phil Gary had a team-high 22 points against Denver.
With 11 games to play before the conference tournament, FIU is hoping to end its two-game conference skid against UALR.
The Panthers (8-9, 3-2 SBC) are second in the East Division of the SBC standings, trailing rival FAU (14-6, 6-0 SBC).
"We are a couple of free-throw shots away and a couple of turnovers away from being undefeated in the conference," Thomas said.
The Trojans (11-9, 3-2 SBC) are on a three-game winning streak, beating Troy, ULM and ULL.
UALR is lead by senior guard Solomon Bozeman, who is averaging a team-high 15.7 points a game and is shooting 48 percent from three-point land. Bozeman dropped 26 points on ULM last week.
"It's going to be tough game for us. They shoot the three-ball well," Thomas said. "We have to do a good job of contesting the three-point shot."
The Trojans are shooting 43 percent from three-point range.
Covering womens' hoops tonight from U.S. Century Bank Arena on the campus of FIU. The Golden Panthers tip off against conference foe University of Arkansas at Little Rock at 6 p.m.
FIU (7-12, 2-3) is coming off a double digit win at Denver on Saturday. The Panthers used a trio of players to knock off Denver, with junior Rakia Rodgers and freshman Jerica Coley contributing 23 points each. Michelle Gonzalez add 18 points.
The Panthers are looking to rebound from a sluggish start to the new year. FIU is 2-3 in the month of January.
I had a chance to talk with quarterback Loranzo Hammonds from South Carolina. I put together a little Q&A from our interview. As most of you know, Hammonds is one of FIU's verbal commitments this year.
Q. How did you hear about FIU?
A. When I was sending out my type. I sent out my tape to all the schools in Florida. Since I've been a little kid, I've wanted to play in the state of Florida. When they offered to me, it was a big dream come true to me since I'd have the chance to play football in Florida.
Q. What is it about Florida?
A. I like the weather, the state itself. The culture down there.
Q. Football in Florida?
A. The state has some of the finest athletes in the sport of football. It will give me a chance to showcase my stuff.
Q. What is your style of play?
A. Duel threat. I can do both easy [pass and run]. I'd rather throw a touchdown before I run, though.
Q. Have you seen FIU play?
A. I watched them play in the bowl game. They run the same type of offense we run.
(Like I wrote in the headline, VERBAL COMMITMENT breakdown, this post is intended to give a little background information on some of the commitments FIU has already received. I plan on having recruiting updates nearly every day leading to Feb. 2. Please comment on the bottom if you have trouble playing any of the videos.)
From what is known so far, FIU has about 16 verbal commitments for next season, not including the two junior college transfers that have already signed national letters of intent, Tevin Blanchard and Jordan Hunt. (There are a few discrepancies among the recruiting sites).
Roughly, that includes three quarterbacks, four receivers, two tight ends, a running back, two safeties, three line backers, a corner back, an offensive lineman and a defensive end.
FIU is losing 16 players to graduation (8 starters) and will be looking for help in several key spots:
FIU will probably take the biggest hit in the defensive backfield, losing Ash Parker and Anthony Gaitor. It was nice to see Parker playing again after enduring such bad luck. Parker made some big plays and had some monster hits this season. Anthony Gaitor is a special player that will be hard for FIU to replace. There is a good chance Gaitor will be playing on Sundays in the future.
The Panthers will also be losing Kreg Brown, Marquis Rolle and Dezariah Johnson. The Panthers have a ton of defensive backs on the roster, but like I said before, losing a player of Gaitor's caliber will be tough. The defense was much improved last year but at times seemed susceptible to big plays through the air.
FIU has gotten verbal commitments from Bay Senior corner back T.J. Lowder (5-11, 175.) Lowder played both ways this season, taking snaps at receiver and DB. Lowder's offensive highlights below show he is a soild athlete.
Lowder is considered a a two-star recruit, that will add more depth.
Expected to join Lowder, are safeties Luis Rosado from Gainsville and Tevin Blanchard from Itawamba.
Rosado (6-2, 215) is listed as a safety, but has played some at line backer. There is a good chance Rosado will be a line backer in college. Rosado was selected as the Class 2A-5A defensive player of the year by the Gainsville Sun (as a line backer).
Blanchard is a junior college transfer that has already signed a national letter of intent and will take part in spring practice. Blanchard had two picks and 9 break ups last season.
I expect Blanchad will be getting some playing time early in 2011.
So far, FIU has landed only one offensive lineman, Richie Reay from Tampa Robinson. Like many of you have commented, the offensive line will need some help after losing cornerstone Brad Serini and big Cedrick Mack. It's going to be interesting if O-line coach Alex Mirabal will be able to duplicate the success the Panthers had last year without Serini. One thing Mirabal has in his favor is that FIU has some solid o-linemen returning that should have a big impact.
(video below on how Reay was offered a scholarship to FIU)
FIU fans are just going to have to wait till NSD to find out what progress has been made on the offensive line. Herald recruiting guru Larry Blustein had Northwestern's Everett Slocumb as a possible commitment but that seems up in the air now.
Running backs, quarterbacks and receivers
For the most part, FIU already has a starting QB, three really talented running backs that can be used differently in certain situations and probably the best WR core in the Sun Belt. Could the Panthers use more help at the skill positions?
Of course they could.
FIU landed South Carolina signal caller Loranzo Hammonds earlier this year, joining Dylan Warner from Oklahoma.
Hammonds is a duel-threat QB that can hurt you equally with his arm and his legs. Hammonds ran for over 600 yards and 14 TDs. Passing, Hammonds had 2,446 yards and 21 TDs. Hammonds was named the Augusta Chronicle's 2010 South Carolina football player of the year.
According to the Chronicle, one of Hammonds main reasons for coming to FIU, is that coaches have promised him a chance to compete for the starting job right away.
I think it is still a little early to tell wether or not Carroll will still have the starting job next season. Hammonds seems like a solid fit for Cristobal's spread offense. (Hammonds' video below)
The Panthers will need to do some work to replace Toronto Smith and Jarvis Wilson. Both players were key to the 2010 season, with Wilson leading the team with 9.5 sacks. The Panthers are fortunate to have Pooh Bear, Aaron Davis, Winston Fraser and Franklin Brown all back. Pooh Bear should be fully recovered from his broken ankle and could be a big part of the defense.
The Panthers have three line backer commitments, with Northwestern's Lyndon Edwards and Demetrius Allen in the mix.
Allen had a monster senior season, with over 100 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles. (These stats are from his highlight video, so they might be a little inflated.)
There is still some question if Allen is still verbally committed to FIU. Allen would be a big help to the LB core. Reportedly, Allen seems to leaning towards Western Michigan.
I found this searching on the internet, thought it would be of interest.
Sometime this weekend, former FIU basketball player Freddy Asprilla informed Kansas State University that he would be leaving the team. According to the Manhattan Mercury, Asprilla decided to end his college basketball career and play pro in his native Colombia. The Mercury quotes one of Arpilla's former coaches Art Alvarez saying "Freddy Aspilla is turning pro to help his very ill mother." Full story here.
From FIU: There is no new news on Phil Taylor.
I'm planning on talking to coach Thomas after practice tomorrow. Check back for a basketball report.
Inquiries abound FIU’s vacant defensive coordinator position have poured in from far and wide, and Mario Cristobal’s biggest challenge might be finding time for all the interviews.
Cristobal has spoken to “lots of real good candidates” about the position, and expects to chat with several more before deciding on a replacement to Geoff Collins, who left the team last week to take a similar position with Mississippi State.
Out of respect to the candidates, Cristobal declined to make the names public, but at least one high-profile coach has expressed interest in the job.
He’s looking at coaches at all levels, and is intrigued with a couple of guys from the Division I-AA level, because of their familiarity with spread offenses, which is the predominant system in the Sun Belt.
The unprecedented level of interest is a reflection on just how far the program has come in the last year, with its first conference title and bowl win.
FIU Women at Denver When/Where: Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Magness Arena TV/Radio: None Of note: The Golden Panthers (6-12, 1-3 Sun Belt) play on the road for the second time in three days, having lost at North Texas 76-69 on Thursday. ... FIU has dropped 10 of its last 12 games, and is 2-6 on the road this year. ... Junior Fanni Hutlassa tallied a career-high-tying 23 points and added 11 rebounds at UNT. ... The Pioneers (11-6, 3-1) are led by Kaetlyn Murdoch, a two-time Sun Belt Conference player of the week. Murdoch averages a team-best 16 points and 6.9 rebounds this year.
FIU Men at Denver When: Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Where: Magness Arena TV/Radio: None Of note: The road woes continued for the Golden Panthers (8-8, 3-1 Sun Belt), who fell to 1-6 away from U.S. Century Bank Arena with an 87-77 setback at North Texas Thursday. ... DeJuan Wright scored 21 points (10 of 14 shooting) in the loss, his fourth 20-point output of the season. ... After facing Denver, three of FIU's next four games are at home, beginning next Thursday against Arkansas Little-Rock. ... The Pioneers, winners of six straight, are 8-9 overall, but sit atop the West Division at 4-0.
(BEFORE YOU WATCH - Please be kind on the quality of the video, still learning on this dinosaur of a camera I have. A few notes before you watch. The video is a little long at 7:44, but I felt Larry made some good points and I did not want to take them out. Wait till the end when Larry talks about Northwestern WR Rhymes and the work Cristobal has done in recruiting the Bulls. Just in case you have trouble playing the video on the blog, click here.)
Like I promised on Wednesday, I met with Miami Herald recruiting guru Larry Blustein at the Dade vs. Broward All-star game at Traz Powell Stadium, Friday night to talk about local recruits and how the 2011 class is sizing up for FIU.
Larry was quick to point out that it is still early in the process and that decisions could change quickly on some of the top recruits in South Florida. Blustein is optimistic that FIU will be able to land a few "big" recruits this year but how many is still unknown.
Larry said he has gotten a nice response from FIU fans on the column he wrote a few weeks back on FIU and wanted to thank those who wrote emails.
Some of the players Larry thinks might end up at FIU:
QB Rakeem Cato (right, photo Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff) 6-0, 175, Central, Blustein feels there is still a chance, if slim, that Cato picks FIU over Marshall. It's been reported that Cato has already verbally committed to Marshall, but Blustein still think there might be a last minute change of heart.
Blustein was quick to praise the work coach Mario Cristobal and his staff have done luring a large group of verbal commitments from Northwestern. LB Lyndon Edwards, 6-1, 195; OL Everett Slocumb, 6-4, 265; WR Dominique Rhymes (left, preparing to catch a pass against Central at FIU Stadium, photo Charles Mostoller, Miami Herald Staff), 6-3, 205, WR Clinton Taylor, 5-8, 165. Have all verbally committed to FIU and should sign letters of intent on National Signing Day (Wed., Feb. 2)
Blustein feels Rhymes is a solid wide receiver that might move over to tight end in the future. Blustein said that Rhymes will create defensive problems for any Sun Belt team that has to face him. (Blustein spends a good two minutes talking about Rhymes late in the video.)
In Broward and Palm Beach, Blustein feels FIU could potentially get Boyd Anderson DB Corey Tindal (right, photo Jim Rassol, Sun Sentinel) (5-10, 165) and Delray Atlantic WR Ezekiel Turner, (5-10, 170).
Tindal would be a nice player for FIU to get, helping to fill a void in the defensive back field left by the departure of Anthony Gaitor.
Turner and Northwestern WRs Rhymes and Taylor could only add depth to an already stacked receiver core, that will need some help getting over losing T.Y. Hilton in 2012.
From around Florida
RB Shane Coleman, 5-8, 180, Green Cove Springs Clay
TE/DE Ya'keem Griner (6-3.5, 200, Starke Bradford County
Just got off the phone with Montverde assistant AD/basketball coach Alton Clark, who gave the GPP a scouting report of FIU hoops' latest recruit, Joey De La Rosa. Hoping to talk to the recruit himself this afternoon.
"This is his first year with us. He’s originally from the Bronx. A 6-11 center, really skilled, a traditional post player. In today’s game, it’s hard to find true centers anymore. You can put him on the block, likes to bang down low, use the jump-hook. I think FIU is getting a really good player.
"Joey provides a lot of energy. He’s from the East Coast. They play a different brand of basketball than everyone else. Physical, without being out of control. I think [FIU] did a really good job of communicating with Joey, how he will fit into the offense, fit into the offense. I think they did a really good job of nailing him down.
"He had interest from Big East schools like St. John’s and Georgetown. He had offers from FIU, Manhattan, UCF. FAU showed some interest too."
For some reason, neither by Joey De La Rosa story -- nor our recap of FIU's 87-77 loss in North Texas, for that matter -- made its way onto our website, so here ya go ...
BY ADAM H. BEASLEY firstname.lastname@example.org
It might be the peak of football recruiting season, but FIU basketball was busy as well Thursday, locking down a commitment from one of the best centers in Florida.
Joey De La Rosa, a 6-foot-10 post player from Montverde Academy near Orlando, decided this week to play for the Golden Panthers, the Miami Herald has learned.
De La Rosa is a two-star recruit according to ESPN.com, which lists the Bronx native the 39th-best center nationally.
FIU coaches and staff are prohibited by the NCAA from commenting on any potential recruits until they sign a letter of intent. Basketball’s spring signing period begins April 13.
De La Rosa, who reportedly had offers from several Big East schools, including St. John’s, becomes the fourth high schooler verbally committed to enroll FIU this fall. He joins forward Darnell Harris and centers Chris Coleman and Yvan Ngirabakunzi – all of whom are 6-8 or taller.
As some of you astutely noticed, FIU has a new commitment at quarterback, North Augusta (S.C.) star Loranzo Hammonds, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
Hammonds, at 6 feet even and 185 pounds, is unrated by Rivals.com, but was the paper's South Carolina player of the year after completing 71.6 percent of his passes for 2,446 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior year. Georgia Tech and Appalachian State were his other choices.
The move does not come without at a small red flag. He and his dad Loranzo Sr. were cited by police back in July after a traffic stop went haywire. Loranzo Jr. was cited with minor in possession of beer and failure to wear a seatbelt, while his dad was hit with disorderly conduct. Apparently there was a beer in the car. Seems pretty small potatoes, and clearly nothing near enough to scare off FIU.
So what does this mean for Central stud Rakeem Cato, the county's all-time passing leader who committed to FIU over the summer but has wavered in recent weeks? We're trying to reach Cato and get it from the source.
Stay tuned ...
UPDATE: Yes, I know Cato has reportedly committed to Marshall, but he's changed his mind before...
FIU Women at North Texas When/Where: Thursday at 6 p.m., The Super Pit TV/Radio: None Of note: The Golden Panthers (6-11, 1-2 Sun Belt), who beat South Alabama 48-43 Saturday are coming off just their first win in eight games and second in last 11. ... All-Sun Belt selection Elisa Carey, who missed the first 14 games due to a knee injury, led the Panthers with 8 points and 10 rebounds against USA. ... The Mean Green (3-14, 0-4) allows 76.4 points per game, and has made less than 38 percent of its shots.
FIU Men at North Texas When: Thursday at 8 p.m. Where: The Super Pit TV/Radio: None Of note: The Golden Panthers (8-7, 3-0 Sun Belt), winners of three straight, would move into a tie with Florida Atlantic atop the East Division with a victory. ... While FIU has won seven of its nine home games, the Panthers are 1-5 on the road. ... The Mean Green (13-3, 2-1) is led in scoring by Tristan Thompson, who entered the week averaging a league-best 17.3 points-per-game. ... UNT leads the all-time series 9-3, beat FIU 68-66 in the team's last meeting (Feb. 6, 2010).
Sentimentality is a luxury not afforded to Division I football programs, so it should come as no surprise that interviews for FIU's replacement to newly departed D-coordinator Geoff Collins begin today.
Mario Cristobal plans to interview three candidates Thursday -- less than 24 hours after Collins took a job at Mississippi State -- and eight by this Sunday.
The program has not yet released a list of candidates, but we're working on it.
Cristobal mentioned the Golden Panthers would consider internal applicants, but with Collins gone, FIU's depth of defensive assistants has thinned.
Cedric Calhoun leads the defensive line, but has never been higher than a position coach at any level, and has only worked at the Division I-A level for one season. Juan Navarro (D-line/linebackers asst.) and Jeff Popovich (secondary) also might be a few years removed from such a job.
We're hearing there's a strong chance that FIU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will accept a job offer from the Mississippi State -- perhaps as early as today.
Collins, who helped transform one of the NCAA's worst defense into the Sun Belt's best, has been linked to the Bulldogs' co-coordinator job.
The feeling around the program is the Panthers will almost certainly lose Collins to the SEC.
Should Collins accept the job, FIU would consider internal candidates, but also conduct extensive interviews from the outside. With the Panthers' recent success, the job has become a more attractive position nationally.
"Geoff has shown the type of immediate impact he can bring to a defense by what he did at Florida International last season," head coach Dan Mullen said. "He’s a smart young coach that has great experience, and he’ll bring the same kind of aggressive attitude and philosophy that we expect from our defense at Mississippi State."