The hanging drummers present Thursday won't be there every night. FIU contracted with Galaxy Entertainment only for Thursday night's home opener, the 85-39 waxing of Florida College. Galaxy provided the drummers and the scaffold from which they sat in harnesses. Check out my Twitter feed, http://www.twitter.com/DavidJNeal, for photos of the drummers, the cabanas, etc.
"We've done it everywehre from amusement parks, bar mitzvahs, any kind of party," said David Parente, who hung and drummed along with Sean Woods before the game and during halftime. "Any place they'll have us, we'll do it."
Is the whole shebang as overdone as the name "Lime Court at U.S. Century Bank Arena?" Sure. And I'm OK with that.
(By the way, "Lime Court..." A Mexican restaurant chain founded by a white guy, who sold it to a restaurant company named after a British rock band's hit song, gets its name put the basketball court of a university largely identified with the Cuban-American community. Add in a black person somewhere and it's the epitome of diversity, Miami-style.)
Sophomore Jerome Frink said it'll be a while before he gets used to the courtside cabanas. Both he and Rakeem Buckles felt the team got too distracted by what FIU head coach Anthony Evans called a "festive" atmosphere. Once they started rolling Florida College at 10-0, the Panthers tried to be as flashy as the show around them. Didn't work.
Evans said he was fine with it -- "We're in Miami. So, sometimes, you have to do things that kind of stand out. I guess we did that" -- but he always comes off as the kind of guy who thinks including Crunch Berries ruins Cap'n Crunch. I think he'll be happier Saturday
He's definitely a man-to-man defense kind of guy.
"I've always been a man-to-man coach," Evans said. "But it seems like they play well in the zone. It seems like I'm going to have to shift it a little until we can become a better man-to-man team. I don't like to play a lot of zone, but if we're good at it, then we're going to continue to play it."
Thursday, FIU went to a zone late in the first half when they took over the game.
"I thought when the younger guys came off the bench, they really gave us a boost with their athleticism and their length because it gave them problems in the zone," Evans said. "Once they started missing shots, we wre able to take the ball in transition and get some layups."
I asked Buckles, once again the team's leading scorer, if he's surprised with what he's been able to do so far. He replied, "No, I feel like I should be doing it. I'm 23 years old, this is my fifth year in college (basketball). I had lofty goals for myself, so I'm happy with the way I'm playing...it's expected, let's put it like that."
Evans said, "I'm very impressed with Rakeem. With everything he's gone through, he still has a true passion for the game," Evans said. "I really didn't know what we were going to get because he hasn't played basketball in two years. Once we started practicing, you could see he was trying to work the rust off. The first game, he was still trying to work the rust off, get into game shape. Then, he started getting into a rhythm. That's what you see now."
As for what they think of the team after five games, Frink said, "I think we're more talented than last year's team, we just have to get everything together, combine our talents and be unselfish."
Buckles assented: "It's going to take a while. Hopefully, we get it quickly. We're not the team that we should be right now, we'll say that."
I Tweeted at Herald high school sports scribe Andre Fernandez while he was covering tonight's Coral Gables-Hialeah game "How's Henry Bussey look?" He answered, "Legit fast. Speed back."
By that point, Bussey already had exploded for an 85-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage. He finished with 141 yards on 10 carries, so he averaged 6.2 yards per carry on his other nine carries. That ended his season with 1344 yards and 19 touchdowns on just 133 carries (10.1 yards a pop). He also caught eight passes for 199 yards (24.9 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.
That's the kind of explosiveness FIU needs in its offense. It'll be interesting if Bussey can bring that combustibility to college.