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Why they're here

Promised this post earlier on Twitter. But, travel and soccer delayed it until now. So...

Today at FIU men's basketball media day, I asked several players why they came or stayed at FIU. While FIU's got a new coach, it has neither a great tradition, a "college town" feel nor great atmosphere at games.

But just like everybody's somebody's hottie, there's a reason for players from every school.

Center Joey De La Rosa, who had originally told me he wanted to transfer after the firing of Isiah Thomas: "I wanted to stick around and see how everything was going to be. I had a lot of schools calling me, but I didn't want to move to a different school. I've been doing that my whole high school career. I went to St. Raymond's in the Bronx, went to Impact Academy in Las Vegas, I went to Mount Vernon in Orlando. I didn't want to do that anymore. I just wanted to stick to the plan."

De La Rosa said it was a decision he and his family made. Pitino told De La Rosa if he wanted to be part of FIU's program, he needed to lose weight and tighten up physically, which he did.

Malik Smith, junior college transfer, who said North Texas, Sam Houston State, Bradley, Rhode Island, Tulsa and Utah State were among the schools who had talked to him: "When Coach Pitino called, it just felt like the perfect opportunity. Him coming off the Final Four (as a Louisville assistant) and just knowing the recipe of winning, I felt like it was a good situation.

"My visit was the first time I came here and I fell in love with it. Coming from Boston, where it's always cold, I just fell in love with it the first time."

Tymell Murphy, junior college transfer: "I had just come off a visit with another school. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I knew I still had time, but the clock was ticking. The call from Coach Pitino made me confident I was going to decide to come to FIU. I just felt that Coach Pitino has the experience and the situation was new to him and was going to be new to me. I felt if I'm going to make a decision to come anywhere, then a new situation is probably the best situation to go to.

Murphy, a Brooklyn native, said he'd never been to Florida. The closest he'd been was four hours in Altanta between flights.


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