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19 posts from February 2012

February 29, 2012

Hoop Teams: Coley Sun Belt Player of the Year; Hutlassa, Wright, Allen, Taylor All-Sun Belt

Sophomore guard Jerica Coley got voted FIU's first Sun Belt Player of the Year, the most significant individual honor as the All-Sun Belt teams were announced Wednesday.

Coley led the conference in scoring (24.0 per game), blocks (2.0 per game) and minutes (39.6 per game). Tuesday, I asked her if she could remember the last time she came out of a game. She seemed to recall a game about a month ago in which she got into foul trouble or fouled out. Actually, it was Feb. 2, a 65-41 win at Troy, when she went 11 of 16 from the field. She also led the Panthers in assists (4.1 per game) and rebounds (7.0 per game).

Senior Fanni Hutlassa, second on FIU in scoring, first in steals and first all time in games played, was an All-Sun Belt Third Teamer.

On the men's side, senior guard DeJuan Wright got voted to the All-Sun Belt Second Team while senior guard Jeremy Allen and sophomore guard Phil Taylor got Third Team honors.

Wright's 16.4 points per game led the conference. Allen's 2.7 steals per game led the conference and ranks No. 4 in nationally. Taylor's 3.1 assists per game were seventh in the conference.

That said, after the regular season finale, in which Deric Hill played point guard most of the night, had nine assists with no turnovers and FIU scoredx 81 points, Taylor might be a Third Team All-Sun Belt player coming off the bench in the conference tournament opener Saturday against Western Kentucky.

February 28, 2012

Women's soccer signings

The recruiting class for the 2012 women's soccer team:

Morgan Morris, forward, Chantilly (Va.) High School -- First Team All-District in a talent rich area.

Shelby Bowden, defender, Fort Collins (Col.) Rocky Mountain High -- ranked at three stars (out of five) by http://www.topdrawersoccer.com

Alexa Arrasate, forward, West Broward High -- First Team All-Broward forward, scorer of 22 goals as a senior.

Celeste Rios, defender, Gulliver Prep -- Two goals, two assists, ranked No. 4 defender in Florida by MaxPreps. No relation to current FIU player Nikki Rios out of St. Thomas Aquinas

Jazmin Jones, defender, Gig Harbor (Wash.) High -- Jones didn't play high school soccer the last two seasons, choosing to concentrate on club soccer and participation in the Olympic Development Program.

Marlena Stablein, midfielder, South Plantation -- First Team All-Broward as a forward and the county's leading scorer in 2011-12 with 33 goals and 17 assists.


February 27, 2012

Hoop Stuff: Wright Sun Belt POW, verbal commit from Chicagoland's Tim Williams

Senior guard DeJuan Wright's career-high 35 points and 13 rebounds Saturday night against South Alabama fueled FIU to its second home victory of the season highlighted a week of two double-doubles and earned Wright Sun Belt Player of the Week honors.

Wright also pulled down 10 rebounds while putting up 13 points in Thursday's loss to Troy.

Saturday, Wright set FIU records for free throws attempted in a game, 19, and made, 16. He finished the regular season averaging 16.1 points per game, leading the conference, and 7.7 rebounds per game, third in the Sun Belt.


FIU got a verbal commitment Monday from Class of 2012's Tim Williams, a 6-7 power forward out of Chicago's Homewood-Flossmoor High.


February 26, 2012

Sun Belt tournament openers: XYs vs. Western, XXs vs. Louisiana-Lafayette; indoor track

There won't be a third FIU-FAU men's match.

As the tiebreakers fall, FIU, the No. 10 seed, will open their Sun Belt Conference tournament against No. 7 seed Western Kentucky Saturday at 8:30 p.m. FIU split with Western, blowing them out in Bowling Green and losing a closer defensive struggle at The Branch.

The women's team's first Sun Belt Conference tournament game will be against Louisiana-Lafayette at noon on Saturday.


FIU's women finished third with 102 points, six points behind Sun Belt Conference indoor track champion Middle Tennessee State and five behind runner-up North Texas. The men picked up only 12 points, ninth among the nine teams competing.

Junior Marissa McElveen won the long jump by sailing 20 feet, 6.25 inches on her second jump. The women's 4x400 relay of three juniors -- Lashae White, Lakeisha Kelley, Nia Anderson -- and freshman Desmika White won in 3:47.62, 3.5 seconds ahead of Middle Tennessee State. Junior Benia Gregoire's conference record weight throw of 64-10 gave her an indivdual title

Raqurra Ishmar, second in the shot put, won the women's Most Outstanding Freshman honor after hoisting the big ball 45-7.



Sun Belt's individual swimming honors go to FIU; happy endings for ball; no fun on the bases

As a team, FIU finished fourth at the Sun Belt Swimming & Divsing Championships. But four individuals were judged the conference's best.

After winning her third individual conference title Saturday, the 200 backstrokes, freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir received the Sun Belt Swimmer of the Year honor. The Diver of the Year had exactly one contender, FIU sophomore Sabrina Beaupre, winner at 1-meter and 3-meters. Their coaches, Randy Horner and Chris Mantilla, respectively won the Sun Belt Swimming Coach and Sun Belt Diving Coach of the Year awards.

Sonia Perez Arau finished third in the 200 back, also with an NCAA qualifying time. Neither Perez Arau nor Gustafsdottir are guaranteed a spot in the NCAAs, however.


Before we get to seniors putting their things down on Senior Night, let's take a look at South Alabama women's coach Rick Pietri Saturday night against FIU. His explosions of reaction kept us entertained when the game degenerated into slop with players committing four fouls before getting called for one.

My two favorite moments escaped unshot (by me, at least). When the South Alabama defense didn't get out on FIU's Fanni Hutlassa and Hutlassa dropped in a three, Pietri jumped out of his squat and ran down the sideline, his feet kicking the air like some mad Eastern European kick dance. In the midst of this, he managed to whip his arm toward the scorer's table definitively enough that a player went to check into the game.

Another time, after FIU forced a shot clock violation, Pietri stomped a foot in triplicate, like he was in he road company of Bring in The Noise, Bring in The Funk.

At about the 1:35 mark...


Wait until 1:00 into this one, during the next-to-last FIU and South Alabama overtime possessions. 

Fifth year senior Fanni Hutlassa had nine rebounds, went six of six from the line and was three of 12 from the field, but hit the key three pointer that gave FIU some margin for error at 56-53 in overtime.

That's when FIU started trying to hand the game back to South Alabama with a series of oops! and what? actions. Hutlassa fouled out seconds after her three, but FIU's Kamika Idom come down with the rebound of the second consecutive missed Jaguars free throw -- like old coaches say, there are two things that don't last long: dogs that chase cars and teams that don't hit their free throws. Idom's transfer of the ball to Jerica Coley went about as smoothly as Piscarcik-to-Csonka and South Alabama got to within one on a Mary Nixon bucket.

Instead of a forced shot by Coley, Frozone from the field Saturday, FIU got a look from Finda Mansare, whose five of 10 from the field at that time made her the Panthers' best shooter this night. Idom got the hustle rebound of that miss, then FIU inexplicably called timeout instead of just letting the clock run and forcing South Alabama to foul.

Pietri said at least six times in the USA huddle, "DON'T LET NO. 22 GET THE BALL!" and the Jaguars double-teamed Coley accordingly. But FIU ran a set where Idom wound up cutting toward Coley, bringing three Jaguars to an area with two FIU players and Carmen Miloglav inbounded into that mess. South Alabama came out with the ball, but Miloglav's defense on the final possesion altered Nixon's shot. Pietri's stomp in the video above is in reaction to USA having to foul Coley, 12 of 12 from the line Saturday.

Coley finished with seven turnovers Saturday and five of 18 from the field. Good as she is, her teammates not named Mansare and Hutlassa need to pop on more of the open looks they get, just so Coley's not required to forcing up junk as the shot clock winds down. On her part, as the best player and point guard, Coley should force a greater distribution of of the offensive load. She's the director on the floor. 

I'm reminded of Connie Hawkins, one of those prodigious playground legends whose best never got broad exposure because he didn't hit the NBA until he was past his prime. In the original ABA, that brought us the slam dunk contest and the three-point shot, Hawkins played for the Pittsburgh Condors. A teammate noted that early in the game, Hawkins, by far the Condors best player, didn't take many shots. Instead, he made sure to get everyone the ball early with decent looks so the whole team felt involved and in the rhythm.

Just a thought as I wonder if Coley's wearing down from FIU's dependence on her.

In the men's game, Detroit men Jeremy Allen and DeJuan Wright kept smacked South Alabama back down right when the Jaguars looked as if they would prevent FIU's first season sweep of them. From 53-48 FIU, Wright and Allen combined for FIU's next 17 points. Two Allen threes sandwiched a Wright defensive rebound that put FIU up 64-50. Another Jaguars run got the FIU lead down to 72-69 and anybody who's seen this team at home settled in for the heartbreak. In fact, the only consistent fan cheering was from South 'Bama fans doing the "Dee-fense!" chant.

Wright got the layup, the foul and hit the free throw: 75-69, 2:06 left. Plenty of time, but you could feel the uprising die.


Up in Leon County, senior Iosmel Leon homered for FIU. Alas, that was one of only six hits in a 3-1 loss to Florida State.

Starter Mason McVay walked five, struck out nine and gave up two runs in four innings. McVay and Albert Cardenas kept FSU hitless from the second inning through a solo homer by James Ramsey, whose homer and bases loaded single accounted for all three FSU RBI.

Sophomore Mike Ellis starts today's third game of the series.


Raqurra Ishmar finished second in the shot put at the Sun Belt Indoor Track and Field Championship Saturday.

February 25, 2012

A hat trick for Gustafsdottir

They should've known. Thursday and Friday were a hint and a half for the rest of the Sun Belt what was coming Saturday when FIU freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir went into Saturday's 200 backstroke at the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships seeded 11th.

Gustafsdottir, just as she did Thursday and Friday, stunned the field, this time winning by a massive 3.25 seconds in 1:54.40 for her third individual title.

Later Saturday, Gustafsdottir swam anchor leg on the third-place 400 free relay, led off by Klara Andersson (7th in the 100 free earlier in the evening), who was followed by Kayla Derr and Kelly Grace.

February 24, 2012

FIU baseball beats FSU; Gustafsdottir, Beaupre win (again); softball...oh, well; Wasshington visit

If last weekend's sweep by highly-ranked Rice cast a Sasquatch-sized shadow of a doubt on FIU's status, Friday's 8-5 Panthers win in the first of three games at Florida State shrunk that shadow. FSU came into the weekend ranked No. 8 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and No. 18 by Baseball America.

FIU's last win in Tallahassee was Feb. 21, 1990, when people were doing the Roger Rabbit to this....


R.J. Fondon (1-1) got the win and lefty junior Michael Gomez, out of Braddock High and Miami-Dade College, got the save. Pablo Bermudez went three for six, junior Adam Kirsch went three for five and senior Mike Martinez went two for four with a stolen base.


Freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir, upset winner of the 200 Individual Medley Thursday at the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships, took her second individual championship Friday. Gustafsdottir's 1:48.09 200 freestyle brought her home .36 of a second ahead of North Texas' Catia Weickgenant, the fastest in Friday morning's preliminaries by .11 of a second ahead of Gustafsdottir. FIU's Kayla Derr finished fifth in 1:49.82.

As she did in the 3-meter competition Wednesday, sophomore Sabrina Beupre routed her diving pseudo-competition in the 1-meter Friday. This time, Beaupre did a Riva Ridge instead of a Secretariat -- her 307.70 points were only (heh) 14.65 percent better than second place Catherine Johnson of North Texas, yet still a Sun Belt Conference record.

Sophomore Sonia Perez Arau took a second in the 400 IM Friday, her 4:13.99 just 1.55 seconds behind FAU's Eszter Bucz. Something about the AU and the Eszter on a Friday night makes me think of...


Freshman Klara Andersson's 1:04.06 was good enough for a fifth in the 100 breaststroke. Andersson, Derr, Perez Arau and Kelly Grace comprised FIU's fifth-place 200 free relay team Thursday night.


Ashley McClain led off the game with a solo home run, the 27th homer and 132nd RBI of her college career. Unfortunately for FIU, that sums up the scoring offense in their two Friday games at the FAU Invitational, losses of 4-1 to Tulsa and 3-0 to Loyola Marymount.


Before the equipment dried from the 2011 season, FIU became the first of many to offer Orlando Jones defensive end Devin Washington, class of 2013. Washington's taking a swing through town this weekend, visiting FIU (definitely) and UM (probably).


Fast qualifying at Sun Belt Swimming & Diviing Championships

This wekeend, other than Daytona, the term "sandbagging" might get popular at the Rockwall ISD Aquatic Center, where North Texas is hosing the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships. And FIU would be Team Sandbag, after sophomoore Sonia Perez Arau posted the fastest time, 4:15.08, in the 400 Individual Medley preliminaries Friday morning.

Freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir, Sun Belt champion in Thursday's 200 IM after being seeded 12th, swam the second fastest prelim time, 1:49.25, in the 200 freestyle prelims. Kayla Derr's 1:50.34 was fifth.

The finals for the two events, as well as the 1-meter diving -- Sabrina Beaupre, biggest favorite this side of Time -- will be tonight.



February 23, 2012

Gustafsdottir wins the 200 IM; Hutlassa goes off; men's BB goes down; baseball to FSU; softball to Boca

Freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir, whose seeding time ranked her 12th going into the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships, swam to an upset win in the 200 Individual Medley with a time of 1:59.14, setting a new school, conference and Sun Belt Championships meet record. It was tied for the 33rd best in the NCAA this season.

Gustafsdottir churned to the third fastest time in the preliminaries, hinting she might have something for her finals competition. Sophomore Sonia Perez Arau finished fifth in 2:01.73, the second best time in FIU history.

FIU's fourth with 176 points. Denver's 275 points lead Western Kentucky (256) and North Texas (234).


Sophomore guard Jerica Coley got her usual numbers -- 21 points (but five of 18 from the field), seven rebounds, five assists, four steals, two blocks -- against Troy Thursday night, but it was senior Fanni Hutlassa who tore it up: 26 points on nine of 14 shooting and nine rebounds. FIU rolled as expected, 74-52.

The 19-9 Panthers a win against South Alabama Saturday from the 18th 20-win season in head coach Cindy Russo's 33 seasons.


It wasn't just that FIU kept putting freshman forward Gilles Dierickx and sophomore forward Dominque Ferguson on the floor Thursday against Troy. Bad as that was, what helped kill FIU was they kept trying to give Dierickx and Ferguson the ball. On this night, FIU's inside men could've been my cats -- handling the ball as if they lacked opposable thumbs or making passes that showed my feline's basketball sense. They combined for seven turnovers and only seven rebounds, a huge reason FIU lost 75-70 in overtime.

The best Jeremy in town Thursday night played at The Branch. In addition to a game-high 22 points against Troy, Allen deflected numerous passes, made six steals and one fast break block so perfect that the Troy bench didn't even make the reflexive howl for a foul as FIU headed back up court.


Just as Ashley McClain was for softball, senior outfielder Pablo Bermudez has been named a finalist for the 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. The award goes to a Division I player whose character, classroom, competition and community contributions match their high standard of play.

As the team heads for their three-game set with Florida State, No. 18 in the most recent Baseball America poll, they'll do so wtihout junior Rudy Flores and senior righthander Christian Malbrough. Both are suspended for the series for violation of team policy.

R.J. Fondon and Mason McVay will start the first two games, as they did last weekend at Rice. The third start this time will go to sophomore righty Michael Ellis.


The softball team, which ran off five consecutive wins last weekend in the Blue and Gold Felsberg Invitational -- two wins by mercy rule -- goes to the Boca Raton Invitational this weekend where they'll face Tulsa, Loyola-Marymount, Auburn and Florida A&M.

McClain's batting .448 with three doubles and a .724 slugging percentage. Kayla Burri's hitting .393 with a .500 slugging percentage.



Two in the 200 IM finals tonight at Sun Belt Championships

Freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir blew through her 200 individual medley preliminary in 2:01.29, the third best time of the day, and sophomore Sonia Perez Arau did it in 2:03.20, fifth fastest, to qualify for tonight's 200 IM final at the Sun Belt Championships.

Junior Kayla Derr finished ninth (4:58.87) and sophomore Colleen Quinn 16th (5:03.36) in the 500 freestyle preliminaries Thursday morning. In the 50 free prelims, freshman Klara Andersson had the ninth fastest time (23.79) and junior Kelly Grace's 24.05 tied for 12th.


Beaupre, oui (again); rain dances; Taylor plays; spring flings

Going into this year's Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships, FIU sophomore Sabrina Beaupre counted as the most sure thing out of Quebec province since Mario Lemieux.

Favorite pays: on Wednesday's first day, Beaupre won her second consecutive 3-meter diving championship by breaking her own Sun Belt record of 304.8 points with 328.85 points. Had Beaupre merely tied her own record, she still would've won by 31.8 points. As it was, she won by 55.85, her score exceeding that of runner up, North Texas' Catherine Johnson, by over 20 percent. That's a blowout on the level of Secretariat (which was trained by a French-Canadian, Lucien Laurin, and ridden by a Canadian, Ron Turcotte.)

FIU's fourth in the team rankings after the first day with 90 points. North Texas' 110 points has them nine up on soon-to-be-WAC Denver and 12 up on Western Kentucky.

FIU's 800 freestyle relay (junior Kayla Derr, sophomore Sonia Perez Arau, senior Vicnan Torres, freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir) finished third in a school redor 7:18.62, and Derr's leadoff of 1:49.24 broke her own school record for the 200 free. Gustafsdottir also was part of a school-record 200 Medley Relay, with freshman Klara Anderson, senior Kariann Stevens and junior Kelly Grace. Their 1:43.38 got them fifth place.

Thursday will be the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and 200 free relay.


Though the baseball team went 0-3 at Rice, their rain delay dance from last Friday's season opener drew admiration from Sports Illustrated.


And, somewhere, Don Cornelius smiles...



FIU appealed what would've been a one-game suspension for point guard Phil Taylor, who got tossed from Saturday's loss at Arkansas State after a pair of technical fouls, and the Sun Belt said, OK, let him play, Thursday.


Walk-on tryouts are Friday and the spring insanity known as spring football begins the next Friday (no video). The spring game is March 30.

This weekend, T.Y. Hilton will be at the NFL Scouting Combine, probably answering more questions about whether or not he's injury prone than anything else. A Hilton with dependable health would get taken in the second round by a team willing to roll the dice on someone so slight, yet so fast as a big play threat in a big play league. If adjudged a health risk -- and with wide receivers, NFL teams can be more risk averse than an insurance company -- he's a third or fourth-rounder.

February 17, 2012

Then, came Benson...

Not this guy...


...but this guy...


The Sun Belt officially announced incoming commissioner Karl Benson (above in a photo from sportsnola.com) and introduced him via teleconference.

Benson presided over the Western Athletic Conference over the last 18 years as it waxed and waned similar to Charly's intelligence. Before that, he was the Mid-America Conference commish for four years. Benson's Costa Concordia captain jump to the Sun Belt as the WAC undergoes shrinkage and change shows the man possesses keen survival instincts, at least on an individual level.

His vision for the conference is of more schools, 12 of which play Division I football (unlike Denver and Arkansas-Litle Rock), with a conference championship game in football. Nothing new there. Outgoing commissioner Wright Waters has said the same thing. Benson wants to keep the Sun Belt in Florida to maintain a conference presence in a state so fat with football talent.

No fool he, Benson surely knows Conference USA wants the same thing for its mega-conference alliance with the Mountain West, which spun off from the WAC during Benson's watch (Flowers for Albequerque?). That means FIU and, as Three Dog Night sang, one is the lonliest number. So bringing FAU in along with FIU would merely pass along the Florida-free problem to the Sun Belt.

"We've (the schools and commission) have to show them the Sun Belt, in its current composition, has areas of achievenment equal to what any other conference may otter," Benson said. 



February 15, 2012

Hitters, throwers, no catchers...

For an unspecified violation of team rules, two seniors, infielder Mike Martinez and right-handed pitcher Logan Dodds, have been suspended for the baseball team's season-opening series against Rice.

There will be a fuller season preview/series preview story in Friday's Herald, but one tidbit -- it looks like FIU's starting pitching rotation will be lefthanded R.J. Fondon, lefthanded former late reliever Mason McVay -- "He threw five nnings on Saturday and was not sore the next day at all, which was good. he came up to me and made that comment specifically," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said -- and righty Jose Lazaro, a freshman from Puerto Rico via North Broward Prep.


What's cool about junior Benia Gregoire being named Sun Belt Field Athlete of the Week for winning the weight throw at the Tiger Paw Invitational at Clemson? Well, other than doing it with a throw of 20.49 meters and being ranked ninth in the nation.

Gregoire's part of the track team. No sport at FIU labors with such comically poor facilities.  IMG-20111027-00196

My middle school track teammates, high school track teammates and every school we faced would laugh like we were watching Benny Hill if a coach suggested we practice in such a space.


Senior outfielder Ashley McClain is one of the 30 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, an award honoring the all-around good person/athlete types who attain high standards of character, schoolwork, community involvement and playing well.

McClain made the Sun Belt Honor Roll for the 2010-11 school year on her way to a bachelor's in criminal justice. Now, she's working on a public administration degree.



February 13, 2012

Jerica Coley Sun Belt POW (again)

Sophomore guard Jerica Coley now has a hat trick of Sun Belt Player of the Week awards for this season, four for her FIU career.

Coley put in 25 points against North Texas, 18 against Denver, both wins for the Panthers. She also had a total of 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals.

February 12, 2012

Talkin' ballin'...

Saturday night’s first game at U.S. Century Bank Arena featuring the Sun Belt Conference’s top two scorers got decided largely by No. 2 not scoring and a stretch in which No. 1 didn’t score.

Though the conference’s leading scorer and No. 2 nationally Jerica Coley scored none of FIU’s  points in a 16-7 second half run that brought on garbage time in FIU’s 58-42 win, she did all those other little things coaches love to see stars do when they’re not filling the hole.

“The rest of my teammates were doing well scoring, moving the ball, getting layups, getting fouled. I was just trying to do whatever else we needed,” said Coley, who had 14 first half points and 18 for the game.

As FIU’s 27-22 first half lead grew to 43-29 with 11:36 left, Coley had two assists, two rebounds, a block and an out-of-bounds save off a Denver player. Junior forward Finda Mansare took over half the scoring with eight of her 14 points in the run as the Panthers claimed the offensive lane as their turf.

They already had done that in the first half at the defensive end, where Mansare and junior Diamond Ashmore held Denver 5-11 senior forward Kaetlyn Murdoch to two for 10 shooting in the first 20 minutes. It didn’t get much better in the second half for Murdoch, who came into the game averaing 17.0 points per game.

She finished with a double-double, 10 points (on four for 14 shooting) and a game-high 13 rebounds, but when she went strong to the hoop, she kept bumping into the bulk of the 6-2 Ashmore, the 6-1 Mansare or both.

“Diamond did a great job defensivenly,” FIU coach Cindy Russo said. “She had a nice offensive game, but where she was really special was defense. She helped everybody – guards, everybody, got back, she was just amazing. I think that was a turning point in our game.”

After playing a season-high 17 minutes and getting three blocks, Ashmore said, “Instead of thinking about the next play if I messed up, trying to get it back, I just took it one possession at a time.”

Fifth-year senior guard Fanni Hutlassa went down in the first half with what looked like a right ankle injury, but returned to play 25 minutes and score 10 points for FIU.


What a lousy night for senior guard Jeremy Allen to have a career-high 29 points and surpass 1,000 for his college career.

In the first half of schooling FIU 77-63 Saturday night, Denver ran the kind of offense John Wooden used to...when he was a guard at Martinsville High.

Lots of passes, whipped quickly. Little dribbling. Patient. Wait for a slow defensive switch or breakdown...fire. And if you can't grab a rebound, tap it back out to the perimeter, where you've got numbers.

FIU looked ponderous in the first half as Denver proved the ball moves quicker than the feet. Denver worked for its open shots, then hit them while at the other end, FIU moved at Del Boca Vista pace, then missed what open shots it got. No wonder Isiah Thomas went so deep into his bench that, at one moment, FIU had five players on the court who hadn't scored a point...and it was late in the first half.

Feb2012 032
As home court advantage, The Branch on the surface equates to playing Monopoly with your set instead of your best friend's. Mostly empty small gym. A pep band whose playlist I like and with which the coaches probably are down, but probably not putting the wiggle in a college-aged kid. And the somewhat modern songs with lyrics like "I'm sexy and I know it" are saved for this Somebody-Call-CPS creepiness...

South Westside-20120211-00236

Still, you're at home. You slept in your own bed (or your girlfriend/sex friend/very recent friend's bed). You're dressing in your locker room. You're playing in the gym you practice in every day. You're playing in front of your fellow students, some of whom are fellow athletes. Overdone into comic book-level chest-beating that the whole "This is our house!" thing has been, there's something to it. Just simple pride demands respectable energy, even if you don't play well. 

One win at home midway through February defines not getting it done at any level -- player, assistant coaches, head coach. But most nights -- and most days at practice -- all three levels give engaged effort (people who get on coaches who don't yell and scream and emote on the sideline/bench miss the point -- the time where that does any real good, if it's in that coach's persona, is practice). Saturday, FIU got outhustled, badly.


A tough weekend for the softball team, going 0-3 in its first three games of the COMBAT Classic, perhaps got counterbalanced a little bit by Saturday's Diamond Dinner fundraising event for the baseball and softball programs.

A trip to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game went for $4,000 in the live auction. A trip to Duck Key and Hawks Kay went for $4,300. A Chicago sports weekend went for $2,900. Six tickets to the Orange Bowl and the BCS National Championship game with hotel nights went for $7,000. Ticket sales alone to this year's event raised $72,000, so last year's $155,000 event total might be eclipsed.


February 10, 2012

Sun Belt Baseball Coaches Say, "FIU & Troy -- oh, boy!"

The Sun Belt preseason baseball coaches poll installs FIU as the co-favorite with last year's Sun Belt retular season champ, Troy, both finishing the poll with four first place votes and 93 points.

The coaches picked senior outfielder Pablo Bermudez as the Preseason Player of the Year, a logical pick as Bermudez shared the 2011 Sun Belt Player of the Year award. Bermudez, redshirt junior righty pitcher Mason McVay, senior first baseman Mike Martinez and junior Rudy Flores (as the DH) made the preseason All-Sun Belt team.

Next Friday, the baseball team opens at Rice. Tonight, the softball team opens at home against Michigan State, weather permitting.


North Texas' Tony Mitchell could've been FIU's Tony Mitchell

A couple of things from FIU's 68-61 loss to North Texas:

1. It Could've Been You -- FIU was a finalist when North Texas 6-8 freshman Tony Mitchell, the Sun Belt's leading scorer and rebounder, made his collegiate choice. A source out at Camp Mitch says Mitchell would be on the FIU bench Thursday instead of North Texas', but he was rejected by FIU as too big an academic risk.

Some of you are gawking at the screen in disbelief. Some of you are laughing at the screen because with some of the pseudo-student-athletes at FIU or any but a few Division I schools, you wonder how they got into any educational institution other than ones that advertise on "Judge Judy." Every school has actual student-athletes and a number of athlete-students.

To be fair, Mitchell signed with Missouri in 2010, got ruled academically ineligible a year ago and transferred to North Texas. So, he is an educational crapshoot. All I'm chuckling at is the thought that he's that much more of a longshot than some folks already wearing blue and gold.

That also seems funny in light of Mitchell thorwing down a one-handed, windmill, Dominique Wilkins-escque dunk, then breaking off some verbal disrespect to the FIU bench (one person at that end of the court later said it was the F-bomb).


2. Ilguskas in the house -- Zydrunas Ilguskas, former center for Cleveland and, last season, the Heat, was at The Branch Thursday night to check out Mitchell. Ilguskas is now a special assistant to the general manager for Cleveland, but he'll be splitting time between here and Cleveland.

3. Point/Counter No Point -- I'll likely be writing on sophomore point guard Phil Taylor for Saturday's paper and on Taylor having to deal with Isiah Thomas, a fair-to-middlin' point guard in his day, as his coach.

One thing I know is Thomas wouldn't be happy with a stat line that includes, under assists, "0." Thursday joined the home loss to Middle Tennessee as Taylor's second zero-assist game of the season. He's had three others with only one assist.

4. Jeremy Allen Almost Grand -- Senior guard Jeremy Allen is three points from 1,000 for his college career.

February 09, 2012

Late Night with another David from Indianapolis' north side

 Barely awake after arising 20 hours ago with a coughy kid for the second day in a row. Hopefully, I'm still more coherent and grammatically better than, say, Twitter.

For no other reason than it's winter, this is on my Winter Dance Party playlist and I couldn't find a proper video of "Stay Up Late."



The men, FIU's Thomas Wolfe Bunch -- they get deep with the whole You Can't Go Home Again concept -- hosts North Texas Thursday at 7 p.m. on the Sun Belt Sports Network. A bench full of NBA scouts should be in The Branch to check out the Mean Green's 6-8 Tony Mitchell. Mitchell's trying to Eric Heiden the Sun Belt conference game statistics, leading in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage. He's sixth in free throw percentage, but nowhere to be found among the steals leaders, a group headed by FIU's Jeremy Allen (2.3 per conference game).

In the women's game, you've got the Sun Belt scoring leader, FIU sophomore guard Jerica Coley, who's still second in the nation in scoring (24.3 per game, 24.6 per conference game). Coley leads FIU in almost every major individual category except steals, the category now topped by forward Fanni Hutlassa's 50 takeaways.


Though FIU's still listing the offensive coordinator job publicly as open, Tim Cramsey's still getting the job.

But FIU does need a new director of football operations after Andrew Green left to head the athletic department at Riviera Prep, a middle school and high school that opened its Coral Gables-area high school this year. Job? Handle everything. Travel logistics, recruit visits, whatever.  


Softball opens its season Friday night at home against Michigan State, the night before the now-sold out Diamond Dinner. If senior Ashley McClain puts up another year in range of last year's numbers -- .409 average, .696 slugging percentage and 12 home runs -- where would that rank among this year's FIU individual athletes? Ahead of or behind Coley, kicker Jack Griffin, T.Y. Hilton? Equal to, surpassing or far behind ridiculously dominant diver Sabrina Beaupre?

Odd thoughts while fighting off a face plant on my keyboard....nite nite.

February 01, 2012

Here's FIU's best football recruiting class ever (maybe)

If you're looking for in-depth analysis on this recruiting class, I'll tell you what others say. I haven't seen any of these players play. Some of these services have or talk to loads of scouts who have.

But the recruiting services and the scouts share my darkness when it comes to certainty about details: the fast guys might not like contact or have manos de piedra (and not like Roberto Duran); the big guys might not be that mobile; what's their work ethic, how coachable are they, weill theywell they'll adjust to being away from home, having a college girlfriend, etc.

Check it out: Scout.com ranks Texas as the No. 1 recruiting class. Naw! Really? If the recruiting rankings were archer accurate, Texas wouldn't have gone 36 years and a massive social change -- last national champion without a black player to winning the next one with a superstar black quarterback -- between national championships. Every year, a recruit gets bumped another star or two because a Texas or a Notre Dame or an Alabama's looking at him. Then, they sign him and the rating their pursuit brought is used to laud the signing.

Not saying they're never accurate. Just take it all with a grain of salt.

But, here's what the recruiting services say.

Both Rivals and Scout rank FIU's class second in the Sun Belt behind Arkansas State. Well, take that back -- Rivals says FIU's third behind Western Kentucky despite having 19 three-star recruits to Western's seven and having a higher average stars-per-recruit. To quote Buffy Summers, "Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic." Perhaps some circuits got blown in their Signing Day-gasm.

Scout has FIU No. 82 overall in the country with four three-star recruits, led by 6-3, 300-pound defensive tackle Darrian Dyson, one of two defensive linemen FIU got from New Orleans Edna Karr High. ESPN says FIU has eight three-star signees, topped by Fort Meade linebacker Jamie Willis, who ESPN ranks a whiff short of four-star status. Rivals.com agrees with Scout, that Dyson is FIU's highest rated recruit. All the services seem to like speedy Miami Jackson wide receiver DeAndre Jasper.

FIU signed Krop defensive back/wide receiver Johnnie Durante, who they'll try first on offense and Southridge defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon. With E.J. Hilliard, Northwestern quarterback, already enrolled, that's three First-Team 8A-6A All-Dade players. Again, don't know how they'll be in college, but there's a long list of automatic qualifier BCS conference schools who would love to have three First Team All-County players from Dade, Broward or Palm Beach.

Here's FIU's 2012 football recruiting class so far:
Bryan Attaway, TE/DE, Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County High
Chris Ayres, P, Hollywood South Broward
Fadol Brown, DE, Charlotte North Carolina Tech
Lamarq Caldwell, RB, Tampa Bay Tech
Marques Cheeks, DE, New Orleans Walker
Davison Colimon, DB, Riviera Beach Suncoast. He won the Class 2A state title in the 110-meter high hurdles.
Denzel Conyers, DB, Gulfport Boca Ciega.
Jordan Davis, S, Tampa Alonso
Johnnie Durante, WR/DB, Krop
Darrian Dyson, DT, New Orleans Edna Karr
Nick England, WR, Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill High
Josh Glanton, LB, Haines City
E.J. Hilliard, QB, Northwestern
Raymond Jackson, WR, New Orleans Walker
De'Andre Jasper, WR, Jackson
Patrick Jean, LB, Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast
Adrian Jenkins, WR, Tampa Jefferson

Dieugot Joseph, DE, Orlango Freedom.

Jeremiah McKinnon, CB, Southridge

Leroy Owens, LB, Palatka High
Trenton Saunders, OT, North Palm Beach Benjamin
Edens Sineace, OT, Wellington Palm Beach Central
Jeremy Smith, WR, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
Delmar Taylor, OL, Navarro JC
Favian Upshaw, QB, Titusville Astronaut
Michael Wakefield, DE, Valdosta (Ga.) High
Leonard Washington, DE, New Orleans Edna Karr
Jamie Willis, LB, Haines City High
Deonte Wilson, CB, Daytona Beach Mainland

Jazmin Jones from Gig Harbor (Washington) High has signed with FIU.

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