October 27, 2011

Men's Hoop Belt Media Day, football injuries, volleyball pounds FAU

Meant to make this post yesterday afternoon, then last night, then fell asleep early after pounding blackened fish and Rice-A-Roni, still didn't win Lotto, so here I am getting my daily cup of Colombian from Europa with a little mini-jambalaya of topics.


Wide receiver Glenn Coleman got the wind blasted out of him on the play that resulted in Troy's fumble return touchdown, then spent Tuesday dealing with bruised ribs and a stiff neck.

According to FIU coach Mario Cristobal, defensive tackle Joshua Forney suffered a sprained ankle when we went down in the third quarter.



Only on TV.

The Sun Belt coaches voted FIU 5th in the six-team Sun Belt East and honored only one player, DeJuan Wright, with a preseason All-Sun Belt selection (second-team at that). Somewhat predictably, FIU coach Isiah Thomas didn't show pique at the poll even if he felt it.

"We just want to play well every night," Thomas said during Wednesday's Sun Belt men's basketball teleconference. "Clearly, the people making the poll think other teams have better players than we do and they probably do."

But, Thomas said, he hopes the team learned from the way they lost several close games last year.

"We lost with a young  group that hopefully learned the importance of making foul shots, not making key turnovers in situations," he said.

Thomas also thinks the team's got a better grasp of defensive concepts he wants to execute, which involve a lot of trapping, switching and rotation. FIU's foul problems last season, he believes, came after they got seduced into "excessive gambling" by their success at making steals: "We were second in the league in steals. I think our team got too excited about trying to steal the ball rather than containing their man and forcing a tough shot."

By the way, FAU coach Mike Jarvis responded to being the East Divsion favorite and the consensus overall favorite with some suspicion and paranoia -- "I know there are people who pick us to win because they don't think we will. It's the ol' set up game" -- but also said, "every team I've coached that was expected to win has."

What Jarvis can't be happy about is the only place FIU's been shown any love, the Sun Belt Network schedule. The Panthers have three games on the Sun Belt Network while FAU has only one. That one is the game at FIU Jan. 21. FIU's also on against North Texas, a Feb. 9 home game, and on the road Feb. 16 against Arkansas-Little Rock.

The FIU women will be on Sun Belt Network Dec. 11 at Western Kentucky live. The women's Jan. 21 home game against FAU will be on the next day at 1 p.m. 


Sabrina Gonzalez had a team high 15 kills, Jovana Bjelica had 11 kills, freshman Silvia Carli had three service aces as FIU crushed FAU 3-0 (25-9, 25-22, 25-16) Wednesday night. FIU's 14-7, 6-4 in the Sun Belt. Or, put another way, 14-4, 6-0 in the Sun Belt against everyone except Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State. 

October 09, 2011

A few thoughts from FIU 27, Akron 17...

While Akron product LeBron James dunked at FIU, FIU turned a dunk into a 15-foot jumper in Akron.

At halftime of "LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh present The South Florida All-Star Classic at FIU," Isiah Thomas presented a $50,000 check from the Mary's Court Foundation, the beneficiary of the game's proceeds, to the First Generation Scholarship Fund.

Saturday in Akron's old school, new design stadium was drier in every way than at FIU's U.S. Century Bank Arena.

Love that Akron dresses across the street at the field house and walks across Akron-20111008-00157
to the stadium.


Nobody bounced or skipped out of the FIU locker room late Saturday afternoon. For the most part, the addidas clad players and coaches emerged with faces set from grim to resigned. You can see the same looks on 6 p.m. weekday shuttle flights between LaGuardia and National worn by business folk returning from getting the job done without distinction.

Even the ever enthusiastic Mario Cristobal couldn’t put much rah-rah into FIU’s fourth win of the season. Oh, he pointed out 4-2 was FIU’s best record ever at this point in the season and they finished their non-conference schedule at 3-1, the best FIU ever has. Cristobal did so not exuding the testosterone and adrenaline of great victory nor while controlling his plastique temper, as he seemed to be at times after the loss to Duke. Instead, with a result that inspired neither of those energizing emotions, he seemed drained by the game.

Akron hadn’t held a lead on a Division I (FBS) opponent this season. The Zips are a running team with a depleted offensive line. They have a bend-but-don’t-break-too-easily defense. FIU ran for over 200 yards, passed for over 300 yards, yet still won only 27-17.

Defensively, they did the job. FIU stuffed Akron’s base running game – 55 yards on 19 rushes for running backs Jawon Chisholm, Karl Bostick – and often met Chishold or Bostick shortly after the handoff, like a bunch of angry closetalkers. The defense came up with its first turnover and first sacks in three games.

Individually, defensive end Tourek Williams abused his blockers, whether on the run or the pass, and at least three times blasted quarterback Clayton Moore as he threw. Williams and Jordan Hunt were ubiquitous early and throughout, although the official statistics might not show it for Hunt, who made a few tackles for which he didn’t get credit.

Wesley Carroll threw the bubble screens and short crosses to his 308 yards. T.Y. Hilton, who was limping on his ankle but figured he’d be fine in 10 days, caught a school-record 12 passes despite playing on a gimpy ankle through the second half. He ran out of the Wildcat set once for 8 yards. Kedrick Rhodes ran for 126 yards on 22 carries. Darriet Perry picked up 85 on 20 carries.

Still, you felt some truth when Rhodes said after the game he thought FIU played down to its opposition too often so far this season.

There were the penalties, 10 for 80 yards, most of them pre-snap penalties on the offensive line…the missed touchdown opportunities inside the Akron 20…the dropped passes and general sloppiness…against most other teams on their schedule, had FIU played this way, they’d have been the recipients of an underwear-nightmare humiliation.

FIU outgained Akron 265 to 101 in the first half, 120 to 18 in the second quarter. The scoreboard read 13-10 as Akron came out for the last seconds of the first half with a kneel down clearly in mind. One Ohio-based reporter quipped, “Going into the ‘Victory Formation.’” Another reporter in the press box quipped, “Yeah -- Moral Victory Formation.”

FIU seemed to be right on pace to duplicate the Duke loss. The red zone problems that dogged them at Duke followed them to Akron, slightly adjusted.

“Similar situation,” quarterback Wesley Carroll said. “We were able to move the ball, but we need more points. It’s evident. Wev’e got to score better in the red zone and we’ve got to make more plays. I’ve got to put the ball on the money. Receivers got to catch it. Line’s got to block.”

Cristobal said, “Against Duke, I though execution (in the red zone) was the problem. Here, it was penalties, although I guess you could say that’s part of execution, too.”

Out of the 20 drives directed by Carroll on which FIU got to the 15 or closer, they have touchdowns on 11, field goals on five and got bupkiss on four. That’s not good enough, especially when you play in the points-by-the-peck Sun Belt. Not picking on Carroll, but if it’s the quarterback’s job to get the team into the end zone and it’s a spread option offense, a chunk of the problem gets put on his desk. Then again, he can’t make everyone’s block or catch his own passes.

Nor, can he put a starting gate on the line of scrimmage to keep linemen from jumping the count. Six illegal procedure penalties by my count Saturday.

It got to the point when I wondered aloud, “Are they telling the line the snap count?”

Cristobal was referring to the pre-snap penalties when he mentioned, “a lot of penalties that are unacceptable some have to deal with focus and concentration.”

No penalties to blame for the first red zone failure. FIU marched smartly to the Akron 8 on its first possession. A pair of Kedrick Rhodes runs moved all of 2 yards. On third down, Carroll didn’t see wide receiver Willie Wright alone over the middle, instead underthew running back Darriet Perry on a checkdown. Jack Griffin hit the right upright on his chip shot field goal.

The next possession, a third and 2 from the 15 became third and 7 from the 17 after an illegal procedure call on FIU. So a layup first down against a terrible run defense became a passing down. Carroll threw incomplete FIU had to call on Griffin again.

Griffin’s next field goal followed Carroll not seeing a very open Jonathan Faucher at the goal line in the middle of the field and threw it away not far from that direction. I find it strange FIU doesn’t look for the tight ends more in the red zone. They did last week and got a touchdown catch from Faucher. When the small spaces around the goal line limit FIU’s speed, it’s time to bring the size and athleticism of your tight ends into play.

One play that won’t show up anywhere, but nearly turned the game – and got referenced in the postgame by Cristobal – was Dominique Rhymes drop on third and 5 from the FIU 23 in the third quarter. FIU began the drive on their 8, up 20-10. A touchdown puts Akron away, a field goal on the ropes, but a three-and-out gives Akron life. A defensive hold drawn by Hilton gave FIU a first down at the 18. Carroll split Rhymes numbers in the tummy, in stride on a post about 15 yards downfield. Drop.

I thought of Pierre Garcon’s second quarter drop in the Colts-Saints Super Bowl that proved a major turning point of that game. Similar pattern, although Garcon’s was deeper and more of a cross. But, the plays were alike in that both had running room and came on third down with their team driving to make a nice lead fat. Sure, enough Akron took the punt and drove 62 yards in four plays to cut the lead to 20-17.

 The roughing the passer calls, while goosing two Akron drives, seemed more forgivable if only because they were so questionable.

“Until you see those on tape, it’s hard to tell,” Cristobal said. “They said on one we hit him in the head (Tourek Williams) and the other we hit him late (Andre Pound). On the last one, I thought (Denzell Perine) came in low and it was a shoulder to shoulder type tackle, but it wasn’t.”

The call on Williams nullified an incomplete third down pass caused by Williams two plays after he caused another incompletion by brutalizing Moore in the mid-motion.

“I wasn’t expecting that because when I hit him, I hit him with my hands in the chest,” Williams said. “but the play before when I hit him, I kind of hit him a little high. And they just wanted to come back with something the next play. It is what it is. I let the refs ref and I just play the game.”

This week, while FIU could harrumph about the roughing the passer calls, they also got two big breaks of their own from the zebras. The third-and-6 that immediately preceded Akron’s field goal saw Clayton Moore overthrow Antoine Russell deep behind Sam Miller. Officials fortunately for FIU, didn’t see Miller hold Russell’s near arm for half the time the ball was in the air.

In the third quarter, as Kedrick Rhodes turned a safety valve into a drive-saving 14-yard gain to the Akron 4, officials somehow missed Caylin Hauptmann committing an egregious hold. The entire press box saw it, gave varying exclamations and waited for Rhodes nifty play to come back. But no call came.

No gritting teeth over the officials this week. This week, the team that frustrated FIU was FIU.

Afterwards, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts took over the field for a camp out.



October 06, 2011

South Florida All-Star Classic on TV, online, on a new time

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris --- look, you know what game I'm talking about. Now, there's television information and a change in time.

FIU announced late Monday night that Satuday's all-star game at U.S. Century Bank Arena will be televised on both CBS 4 and My TV 33. When CBS primetime programming starts at 8 p.m., Channel 4-WFOR will go to that and Channel 33 will stay with the game. The game will also be streamed on CBSMiami.com.

The game time has been moved from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30, an important point for those of you with Upper Deck General Admission seats. I already heard one pair of women talking about getting to The Bank at noon Saturday for the upper deck land rush.

Some of the proceeds from this event going to Mary's Court Foundation will go to FIU's First Generation Scholarship Fund, which provides financial aid to students who'll be the first generation in their families to earn a college degree.

October 01, 2011

Football Gameday V & other balls, including ticket info on Wade, LeBron, Bosh game

The first part of this is a rerun from Friday afternoon's blog post. If you saw that, feel free to skip past this to the football, volleyball, futbol or whatever ball-type thing gets you groovin'.


The NBA put an All-Star Game in Miami in the second year of the Heat and Miami Arena, a building that was outdated about 15 minutes after it opened. Why the NBA hasn't brought it's winter showcase back to Miami, despite American Airlines Arena downtown on the bay and South Beach nearby (maybe that's the reason), is a mystery. Which makes it all the more ironic that the next time a near all-star game gets played in Miami, it's at a small college arena in the suburbs.

Tickets for that game, "LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh present the South Florida All-Star Classic" at FIU's U.S. Century Bank Arena, 7 p.m., Oct. 8 will go on sale Monday at noon at the University Credit Union Box Office on the first floor of the Fieldhouse adjacent to at FIU Stadium. No phone or online orders will be taken. Tickets will cost $50 for upper bowl general admission, $100 for lower bowl reserved. Fans can buy two tickets per person until 3 p.m., four tickets per person after that.

The game, which Wade billed on Twitter as DWade vs. King James, will include the Heat's Big Three, the Knicks Carmelo Anthony and A'mare Stoudemire, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, New Orleans' Chris Paul, and many other stars.

Proceeds will go to Mary's Court Foundation, a foundation established by FIU coach Isiah Thomas in honor of his strong-willed mother, the late Mary Thomas


This is going to look like a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book version of my usual pregame posts. I’m tired, have a stuffy nose, a Long Island waiting and a dissatisfaction with how much I’ve seen of Duke.

This is the kind of wacked team that drives fans and coaches crazy, makes prognosticators look stupid and keeps bettors away from like the team came Chernobyl-dipped. Losing to Richmond (what?), drilled by Stanford (expected), then punking Boston College (everybody’s doing it) in a comeback win, then blowing Tulane off the field.

Take that BC game. Duke allowed BC only three first downs on the ground, but trailed BC 19-7 in the third quarter. They came back to win 20-19 after a last second BC field goal attempt went awry.

When a line finally came up for this game after FIU coach Mario Cristobal said quarterback Wesley Carroll would play, it was FIU by 3. That’s moved to 3.5 to 4, depending on where you look. Translation: some money on FIU, probably not much, and even less on Duke. Bettors are staying away from this one.

Duke lost defensive end Kenny Anuike, their best pass rusher, to injury early against Tulane. FIU will be without free safety Chuck Grace (right knee) and wide receiver Glenn Coleman (shoulder).

Duke undoubtedly saw the trouble Louisiana-Lafayette caused FIU with the quick wide receiver screen. FIU’s defensive backs couldn’t get off the Lou-La wide receivers’ blocks, thus allowing at least 5 to 7 yards before ball carrier contact. Eventually, they’ll draw FIU up, fake a hitch and throw the go. Until you prove you're not a fool, you'll get played for one.

FIU failed in both ends of its pass defense last week, but the pass rush gets the bigger they pass/you fail grade because that grew into a given after three weeks. When it didn’t get there last week, even by blitz, the secondary couldn’t maintain coverage. FIU coach Mario Cristobal uses “big” to describe every offensive line the Panthers face. But for Duke’s, he also used “long.” Long arms…that’s what scouts look for when searching for linemen that’ll keep the quarterback from being treated like a piñata at Westchester triplets birthday party. Cristobal’s worried about the pass rush getting erased for a second consecutive week.

One thing Lou-La did to loosen up FIU that the Dukies will do just because it’s their wont is throw on first down.

Duke allowed only eight rushing first downs against Tulane and BC. Take away the sacks and they allowed a combined 161 rushing yards on 43 carries, 3.7 per carry. Not overly permissive, but not The Great Wall of Durham, either. Richmond ran for 95 on 31 carries (no sacks). Duke coach David Cutliffe felt Tulane and BC were more straight ahead, physical teams. Cristobal called defensive tackle Charlie Hatcher “as good as we’ve faced” and, remember, Duke lost defensive end Anuike.

Add it up and I see another game where the shifty Kedrick Rhodes gets the bulk of the carries for FIU.  

Wesley Carroll’s back at quarterback for FIU. Despite an ankle that might still be bothering him, he needs to be a better passer than the Wesley Carroll who played against Central Florida and Louisiana-Lafayette. Against UCF, he was just a bit scattershot. Though the play calling got stale against Louisiana-Lafayette after the opening drive, Carroll’s decision-making wasn’t exactly Manning-esque before his injury. Carroll takes too many Ken O’Brien sacks/hits, where he holds onto the ball too long. By contrast, one play last week, he threw a panicky pass with the nearest upright Lou-La player pondering Kierkegaard on the sideline.

As well as Jake Medlock – the name just sounds like it should be followed by “A Quinn Martin production” – played against Lou-La, there were moments when Carroll would’ve made better reads. Against Duke, FIU needs to put more of the game in Carroll’s hands and he needs to be the senior leader in performance he can be. The plays -- small, medium, large and T.Y. Hilton – were there against Louisville and should be there against Duke.

Richmond’s Tre Grey got Duke for eight catches and 129 yards. That’s a secondary that should fear Hilton, even at 80 percent Hilton, or Wayne Times.

Let’s say both teams move the ball well. There’s been a defensive score in every FIU game so far, so figure on one here by FIU – a jumped route, a post-reception fumble, something along those lines. That score could wind up being the difference in a game where the punters should be able to spend the game arguing with the cheerleaders over who's the better athlete.

FIU 38, Duke 35.

But that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong (and have been the last two weeks).


In less time than it took my daughter to finish two bowls of matzoh ball soup, Western Kentucky swept FIU out of U.S. Century Bank Arena 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-19). Jovana Bjelica had 13 kills and Chanel Araujo had 14 digs as Western left the former Sunblazer Arena with a win for the second consecutive season.

Defending Sun Belt champion Middle Tennessee State visits Sunday at noon.


Since the humiliation by Oregon State two weeks ago, the women footballers have run off four in a row, the latest a 3-0 spanking of Troy Friday that gets them to 3-0 in the conference. They’re also 6-5 overall, their first time above .500 this season.

Chelsea Leiva and April Perry, striking early and late, each got her second goal of the season. In the middle, sub Deana Rossi sent FIU into halftime with a 2-0 lead off an assist from Kelly Ann Hutchinson. Hutchinson and Nicole DiPerna, who set up Leiva’s goal, are tied for the team lead with three assists.

South Alabama’s up next, at 2 p.m., Sunday.

September 14, 2011

The IT Staff Complete With Adubato Hiring

Men's basketball coach Isiah Thomas will hire Scott Adubato to complete his staff of assistant coaches. The paperwork should be completed officially this week. Adubato, whose recruiting ties are strongest in the New York/New Jersey area was most recently an assistant at Manhattan for one season. He's also been an assistant in the NBA with Memphis and spent three seasons as a Seton Hall assistant under Bobby Gonzalez. Look for Adubato, son of former Orlando Magic assistant Richie Adubato, to boost FIU's quality of recruiting.

Yes, A'mare Stoudemire's been working out at FIU in Sunblazer/Golden Panther/Pharmed/US Century Bank Arena. No, Thomas hasn't been there. Not yesterday, not today. Today, while Amare worked out, Thomas listened to me talk to the basketball team about media, social media, the impression you can give through each and how that impression can follow you...forever.

As they used to say way back in the day, T.Y. Hilton's been getting more phone calls this week than a girl with a bad reputation. The FIU media relations staff has fielded not only the normal media requests (me, FIU Student Media), but electronic South Florida media. Sports Illustrated, USA Today and other national media.

August 16, 2011

Tuesday practice update & Thomas confirms DeJuan Wright injury

Theoretically, this is a day off. So while I'm working on other things, especially preseason section stuff, The Herald sent our intrepid intern, Matt Forman, out to keep an eye on practice.

Matt observed what's become the usual orange jerseyed crew joined by wide receiver Willis Wright. Safety Justin Halley, held out of practice as a precaution Saturday while he was tested for a concussion, according to head coach Mario Cristobal, was in helmet and shoulder pads but still in Wet Paint orange. Cristobal said he should be cleared in a couple of days.

Young Forman also reports that Cristobal said this evening's closed practice will contain a scrimmage during which they'll "open up the playbook on both sides of the ball, so it's not just about blocking the base stuff and defending against the base stuff." 

As I stopped to get the wife's caffeine (Starbucks iced tea) this morning, FIU XY's basketball coach Isiah Thomas confirmed this morning DeJuan Wright's partial MCL tear, otherwise called a sprained knee. He said Wright should be down four to six weeks.

"We'll take a very conservative approach with it," Thomas said. "He should be ready to go for the first day of practice."

Thomas wasn't entirely sure how it happened, but thought Wright was working out, tweaked the knee, then kept working out on it or worked out again on it.

Oh, and thanks to you blog readers for the cafe suggestions over the past couple of weeks. I didn't know the Latin American Cafe or whatever that place at 107th and Coral Way is called was a 24-hour joint until that last 6 a.m. practice. And I saw the Cafe Bustelo Monday as I was on my way out. From the way I entered, the CB was obscured by the Burger King construction. Such was the rhythm of the day.

For various reasons, Al Green is heavy on my August playlist. Now, this is a family website and some of you might be at work, so I don't feel comfortable linking to Brother Al's version of "I Can't Get Next To You," which I'm sure got banned in some homes for causing instant He'n-And-She'n. So...



July 20, 2011

FIU vs. George Mason and (probably) Motor, er, Monmouth in NIT Tip-Off

FIU says the rest of the men's basketball schedule should be out in early September. For now, we'll just have to be satisfied with the organizers of the 16-team Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off throwing a bone -- or an anvil -- FIU's way by inviting the Golden Panthers to play George Mason at Virginia Tech, in picturesque Blacksburg, Virginia on Nov. 14. In the East Regional's other semifinal, Va. Tech plays Monmouth.

The losers of those games play a consolation game. Considering Va. Tech's at home and the No. 4 seed in the tournament and No. 5 seed George Mason is coming off a 27-7 season that included an NCAA tournament win, odds are FIU's next game will be against Monmouth. Monmouth is in West Long Branch, New Jersey, approximately one-hour from New York and Philadelphia and walking distance from the Atlantic Ocean.

But, hey, it's early season college-affiliated basketball. Who knows? a couple of upsets and FIU would head for the semi-final round at Madison Square Garden, a place head coach Isiah Thomas knows well. Seeing as how the NBA might still be in lockout mode, there's a slim shot we could see the irony of a Thomas-coached FIU team playing in The Garden this season before the Knicks. 

The tournament's No. 1 seed, Syracuse, opens at home against Manhattan in the North Regional. If it was Dr. Manhattan, Syracuse would be in trouble. Instead, the Orangemen should romp happily into a second round game against the Albany-Brown winner, then skip merrily along to The Garden to face the East Regional winner.

In the Midwest Regional, No. 2 seed Oklahoma State gets to feast on Arkansas-Pine Bluff before a second round game against the Oral Roberts vs. Texas-San Antonio winner. Out in Palo Alto, where hopefully my daughter will be enrolling in 2023, No. 3 seed Stanford starts with Fresno State and No. 7 Colorado opens with SMU. 

The preseason NIT invited FIU once before, 1998-99, as fodder for North Carolina. The Golden Panthers dutifully took a 65-44 pounding.

Now, back to MickeyD's 49-cent hamburger Wednesday...

July 09, 2011

Gilles, Griffin, Groza (golly!)

I began the day arguing the day camp merits of new skirts vs. old Gymboree shorts with my six-year-old. I'll end the day soon debating the merits of pomegranate margaritas vs. Long Island Iced Teas. In between, I was rippin' and runnin' so much -- from the Non-Gilded Panthers to a Southern States bodybuilder who once weighed 450 pounds and almost died to Brandon Marshall's subpeona -- that I didn't get to update this blog with a couple of pieces of news.

Gilles Dierickx, the 6-11 Belgian out of West Hills Chaminade in the LA area, made his committment to FIU official. There's one scholarship left for the 2011 class.

Isiah Thomas said in a statement released through the communications department, "His size and athleticism are impressive. He is the type of player who is not afraid to be aggressive down low both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. At 6-11, 240, we are happy to have Gilles as a member of the FIU family. He joins a great class in Joey De La Rosa (6-11, 240), KeDorian Sullivan (6-7, 185) and Tanner Wozniak (6-5, 185)."

Two 6-11 guys and two guys who are have either fast metabolism or a slow first step to the buffet...moving right along...

Kicker Jack Griffin has been named to the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, given to the top placekicker each year.

Once again, there's a college football best-of award that's an homage to an NFL great. As mentioned in the previous post, few wideouts in NFL history match up to Fred Biletnikoff. But as a college football receiver, Biletnikoff might not have even been the best productive slow wide receiver of the 1960s (see "future Dolphin Howard Twilley"). And, as for all-time, the only way he'd be at a table with, say, Michigan's Anthony Carter or Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers is if he was serving something.

Lou "The Toe" Groza picked up his nickname as a dependable booter for Cleveland and actually didn't like being known more for being a kicker than an offensive tackle. He played for Cleveland during their All-American Football Conferenc years, 1946-49. When the four-time AAFC champions moved to the NFL in 1950 along with the 49ers and the original Baltimore Colts, Groza added dependable kicking to the Browns' awesome offensive arsenal. He led the NFL in field goals four times in the Browns' first five NFL seasons. He retired after the 1967 season. Groza went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Yet, that's pro football. Surely the Orange Bowl Committee, which gives out The Toe, could've honored one of the truly spectactular college kickers. Just in the old Southwest Conference from 1976-78, you had three kickers breaking records and collecting All-America honors -- Texas A&M's barefoot Tony Franklin, who nailed a then-record 65-yarder; Texas' Russell Erxleben, who beat his pal with a 67-yarder; and Arkansas' Steve Little, who tied Erxleben's record. A few years later in the Big Ten, Minnesota's Chip Lohmiller and Indiana's Pete Stoyanovich expanded the definition of "field goal range" to "on campus." Nevada's Marty Zendajas was money in his day.

Over on the court, the best college basketball player doesn't receive The Red Auerbach Award.

As it's Friday...


And while freshman Isiah Thomas endured his first Bob Knight practices at Indiana...


Still makes me wince...just like this one still makes me smile. Reminds me of the 1987 night they kicked against each other in the Metrodome. During the game, Baby Jessica got pulled from the well. 60,000 people roared for the saving of a child they didn't know existed two weeks before.


June 30, 2011

Ivan comes to Isiah

Got the wife off to jury duty, the kid off to camp, hit the Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries (two bowls), dishwasher going, now down to business.

While I was scouring for the "Give Me the Night" video for my post on the swimming and diving recruiting class, the men's basketball team's scouring for talent paid off with a 2013 verbal commitment from Ivan Canete, a 6-3 point guard out of Boca Raton Grandview Prep. Canete's on MaxPreps.com's 2013 Players to Watch and has been designated by the site as a Top Underclassman. He averaged 12.1 points, 4.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks and 7.9 rebounds per game last season for Grandview's 27-3 team. 

While they're still trying to pull in kids for 2012, Isiah Thomas' staff has picked up what appears to be an early flower for 2013. To paraphrase Carl the assistant greenskeeper, "So they got that going for them. Which is nice."

I'll have more about Mr. Canete later. 


April 15, 2011

Tanner Wozniak signs with FIU

Keswick Christian (St. Petersberg, FL) PG/SG Tanner Wozniak signed with FIU Friday morning. Wozniak, listed at 6-4, 185LB, plans on coming down to Miami sometime in the summer. Wozniak, a fourth-team Parade All American selection, averaged 31 points a game his senior year and participated in the CBS/Maxpreps 3-point contest in Houston.

Wozniak points to coach Thomas as one of the main reasons for picking FIU.

"[Thomas] knows basketball a lot," he said. "He’s going to help me get to the next level."

Signing class update

Joe de la Rosa, C, 6-210, 200LB, Montverde Academy, FL - STAUS UNKNOWN

Monteverde Academy's Joe de la Rosa still has not signed with FIU, according to Monteverde assistant coach Alton Clark. Clark said he could not comment further on where de la Rosa stood in the process.

Still waiting on official word from FIU on this year's signing class. From what I've been told, FIU should have a press release sometime next week. No date has been set.


Thanks to the Wozniak family for the pictures.



April 13, 2011

NSD | No official word expected from FIU today

As the first day of basketball signing day is coming to an end, there is still no official word from FIU on who has signed letters of intent to play under Coach Isiah Thomas. From what I heard from the University yesterday, FIU is waiting for all the players to sign before they release the names. Under NCAA rules, FIU is not allowed to comment on potential recruits until they have received the players signed national letter of intent.


April 12, 2011

Countdown to basketball signing day, D. Harris expected to sign

Putting together a run down of possible FIU recruits. Signing day starts tomorrow and runs through May 18.

Curtis Davis, SG, 5-11, 160LB, Woodrow Wilson, TX- NOT EXPECTED TO SIGN

According to his coach at Woodrow Wilson, Davis is picking between Florida State and George Washington.

Tanner Wozniak, SG, 6-4, 185LB, Keswick Christian, FL - CONFIRMED HE WILL SIGN WITH FIU

SG/PG Wozniak confirmed to me this afternoon that he will indeed be signing with FIU sometime this week. "I'm going to sign with them tomorrow or Thursday," he said.

Wozniak points to coach Thomas as being one of his main reasons for picking FIU.

"I think he is going to lead us," he said. "He knows basketball. He’s going to help me get to the next level." Wozniak said the Panthers have been interested in his services since he was sophomore.

Darnell Harris - EXPECTED TO SIGN

According to Christian Life Center Academy coach Carlos Wilson, "FIU is still the place for [Harris] to be," he said. "Yes, he's committed to FIU and is trying to get is academics in order."

Wilson went on to say that Harris has been working very hard in the classroom and has improved academically.

CLCA will have a signing ceremony tomorrow morning at 9:15 am (EST).

Chris Coleman, Christian Life Center Academy, TX. - STATUS UNKNOWN

Wilson said Coleman has not been at CLCA since the summer and is not sure where he will end up.

"I don't know the situation as well as Chris is concerned," he said.

Joe de la Rosa, C, 6-210, 200LB, Montverde Academy, FL - EXPECTED TO SIGN

Add de la Rosa's name to the list of players expected to sign with the Panthers. According to Monteverde assistant coach Alton Clark, "Joe is really focused on becoming part of the FIU family," he said.

Clark expects de la Rosa to sign with the Panthers tomorrow. Clark also said de la Rosa has been working to get his academics in order. Monteverde will not have a signing day ceremony.

Yvan Ngirabakunzi, C, 6-9, 205LB, The Piney Woods School, MS. -STATUS UNKNOWN

I had a chance to catch up with Piney Woods coach Lemuel Jones this morning. Jones is not sure where Ngirabakunzi is going to end up.

"We haven't sat down and talked about it anymore," Jones said. "[He's] not going to sign on the first day."

Piney Woods is not planning on having a signing day ceremony tomorrow. According to Rivals.com, Ngirabakunzi is projected to pick between Marquette, Arkansas and Tulane and Miami. Ngirabakunzi had previously committed to the Hurricanes but withdrew his verbal commitment some time ago.

Austin Keel, SG, 6-3, 190LB, Winter Springs - VERBALLY COMMITMENT TO CENTRAL MICH.

Verbally committed to Central Michigan on March 26, 2011.


ESPN will air a live signing day special on ESPN3.com from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. and on ESPNU from 2 p.m.-4 p.m.


ESPN lists 5 players as potential signees:

UPDATED ABOVE - Darnell Harris, SF, 6-8, 210LB Christian Life Center Academy, TX. - EXPECTED TO SIGN 

Chris Coleman, C, 6-10, 270LB, Christian Life Center Academy, TX. - STATUS UNKNOWN

Joe de la Rosa, C, 6-210, 200LB, Montverde Academy, FL - EXPECTED TO SIGN

Yvan Ngirabakunzi, C, 6-9, 205LB, The Piney Woods School, MS. -STATUS UNKNOWN

Tanner Wozniak, SG, 6-4, 185LB, Keswick Christian, FL - EXPECTED TO SIGN

ScoutFIU.com lists 5 also with a couple exceptions

Austin Keel, SG, 6-3, 190LB, Winter Springs - VERBALLY COMMITMENT TO CENTRAL MICH.

Curtis Davis, SG, 5-11, 160LB, Woodrow Wilson, TX -STATUS UNKNOWN

Like ESPN, Scout has both Harris and Wozniak listed a verbal commitments. They do not list Coleman.

As was discussed on GPP a few months ago, Scout has Miami LaSalle's Jonathan Holton has a commitment but Holton signed with Rhode Island.

Pantherrage (Rivals.com) lists 4 players

Myron Dempsey, PF, 6-5, 220LB, El Reno, OK.

Coleman, Harris and Wozniak


Still waiting to hear back from Dempsey. Check back soon.


Follow me on Twitter @JustinAzpiazu

February 22, 2011

Basketball practice report | Tuesday Feb. 22, 2011

Injury report

Dominique Ferguson (right) is dealing with a toe injury. FIU coach Isiah Thomas is hoping Ferguson's Ferguson07 fiuhoop MHS ADD injury will not carry over into the Sun Belt Conference tournament in early March.

"Dominique is battling a toe injury," Thomas said. "For the most part everybody is pretty healthy."

Ferguson should played at Western Kentucky on Thursday.

Practice report

The Golden Panthers (9-17, 4-10 Sun Belt) have continued having trouble closing out games this season. The Panthers have lost 10 of their last 11 games, riding a four-game losing streak, with two games remaining (WKU, Troy) before the SBC tournament.

FIU has fallen to last place in the east division of the SBC standings, with ULM the only team with a worse record in the conference. I had a chance to catch up with coach Thomas after practice on Florida Intl Florida St Bas Tuesday. Thomas is not very concerned about entering the SBC tournament as one of the lower seeds in the field.

"You have to play everybody anyways," Thomas said. "If you gonna win the tournament, you have to beat the best teams regardless of where you are seed."

One of the things I asked Thomas was if he has been frustrated with how his team has not been able to hold on to late leads.

"That is just the way it is when your trying to teach a group of kids how to win," Thomas said. "Sometimes they don't realize the importance of doing the little things."

The little things Thomas is talking about - rebounding, foul shooting and turnovers - have hurt FIU in late-game situations.

Improving on the little things, has a been a big part of what Thomas has been trying to do with the team this year. After nearly every game, Thomas has commented on how his team has to keep working on fundamentals, especially foul shooting.

"We have emphasized the small things since we got here," he said.

In Saturday's 80-78 (OT) loss to FAU, the Panthers shot 21 of 33 from the foul line, including 9 of 15 in the second half.

FIU did a better job on rebounds and turnovers against the Owls, winning both categories.

"We've had two great games with [FAU]," Thomas said. "Every play in the game is a big play."

Below is a short Q&A from our interview

I asked Thomas what he would tell FIU fans that might be getting frustrated with how this season has gone.

"This is really my first year when you look at it," Thomas said after a long pause. "We are building. We are not established."

Nuggets_Life_After_Melo_Basketball I could not resist asking Thomas about the pending trade that would send Carmelo Anthony (left, AP photo) to the Knicks.

"Hey, I think, other than Miami, LA, Chicago and Boston, I think any team in the league would be happy to have him," Thomas said.

What does the future hold for FIU?

"Right now, what the future holds for me, is I'm going to get me a cheeseburger," Thomas said with a laugh. "We have a nice class coming in to join the class we have got now. That will give me two solid recruiting classes. Once you get two or three classes under your belt, now you're moving. I'm pretty excited and hopefully the students can get excited about what's coming."

(In case you are curious, Thomas was on his way to Sunset Place in South Miami to eat at Town Kitchen and Bar.)


February 13, 2011

Panthers lose at Middle Tennessee

The men's basketball team lost at Middle Tennessee Saturday afternoon. Freshman Phil Taylor led the Panthers with a season-high 21 points on 5 of 10 shooting from the field. Taylor was 8 of 10 from the foul line.

"I thought Middle played a good game," FIU coach Isiah Thomas said after the game. "They kicked out tail on the boards. That is the story of the game the rebounding effort."

The Blue Raiders out rebounded FIU 37 to 20, including 15 to 6 on offensive rebounds.

"I've been telling my team this whole years it's about rebounding and foul shots," Thomas said. "If you can't make free throws you got no shot."

FIU was 22 of 33 from the foul line.

FIU fell early in the game, with Middle Tennessee taking a 12-point lead into halftime. The loss marks the third straight for FIU, who is 2 of 10 on the road this season. With three games left before the conference tournament, FIU is trying to recover from a late-season slide that has moved the Panthers to the bottom of the east division standings.

FIU has a week to prepare for its next game against rival FAU on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Owls squeaked out a 73-72 win at home against FIU on Feb. 5.


I start a week-long furlough on Monday and will not be around till the following Monday. Not fun. Talk to you guys in a week.


February 09, 2011

Recruiting: men's basketball part 2

Recruiting notebook, odds and ends from a busy day chasing basketball players.

rivals.com interviews

I had a chance to do a quick interview with rivals.com national basketball analyst Eric Bossi about FIU and the work Isiah Thomas has done since coming to the school.

"Clearly [Thomas] is making a stir at Florida International. There are a lot of mixed opinions with Isiah Thomas. People probably wouldn’t notice Florida International if it was not for Thomas. They would have never gotten [Dominique] Ferguson if it wasn’t for him," Bossi said.

"I tell you this, I worked in this business since 2000 and since Isiah got there, there has been way more talk about FIU in the last two years than there was in the last 10 years," he added.

I also asked him about freshman Phillip Taylor

"Phil isn’t the biggest guy around but he’s a kid that has played against some of the top players in the country and has held his own. He’s not afraid to shoot it. He adds an element of confidence at the point guard position," Bossi said.

Scouting report for Darnell Harris

I also spoke with rivals.com national basketball analyst Jerry Meyer. Meyer gave me a scoting report on Harris.

"[Harris] is a tall shooter. He has length and he has pretty deep range out to 25 feet. That’s the strength of his game. Not really a slasher/ball handler type, more of a shoot over you type," Meyer said.

I also asked about the level Harris' commitment to FIU

"As far as I know, I haven’t heard anything different," Meyer said. "I don’t know if he has signed yet. From what I know his commitment is solid."

Scouting report for Chris Coleman

"Real big guy, space eater, barely skilled but more than that, he’s just a huge physical precense," Meyer said. "He's a big guy. Both these guys got looks from high majors. Good gets for a Sun Belt school."

I also asked Meyer if some of that buzz around FIU and Isiah has died down some since Thomas first came to FIU?

"Maybe a little bit of that allure is gone. Isiah Thomas is still Isiah Thomas and that is going to get the attention of the recruits," Meyer said. "There was a buzz. Now it's fair to say that some of that buzz has gone away. FIU has to win. That’s only going to help recruiting. It’s a lot easier to recruit when you win. Isiah has recruited at a higher level and has gotten some nice players."

Chasing down basketball recruits this afternoon.

I had a chance to talk with Yvan Ngirabakunzi's coach at the Piney Woods school in Mississippi. Coach Lemuel Jones said he has not had a chance to talk with FIU coach Isiah Thomas since the season began and that he is not sure where Ngirabakunzi stands in the recruiting process. Jones basically said he is waiting for the season to be over to sit with Ngirabakunzi to talk about where he could possibly end up at.

Jones described Ngirabakunzi has a four who has the "chance to be pretty good."

From what I gather, Piney Woods has a chance at a state championship this season and Jones is not trying to distract his players. Jones stopped short of saying if Ngirabakunzi has been offered a scholarship by FIU or any other school for that matter.

Still waiting to hear back from Christian Life Academy in Texas.

New Additions

FIUScout.com added three more potential players to the mix

SG Austin Keel, Winter Springs, FL, interest medium

PF Jonathan Holton, Coral Gables, signed with Rhode Island

SG Curtis Davis, Woodrow Wilson, TX, interest medium

According to his former coach at LaSalle Tony Reguiera, Holton is not considering FIU and has already committed to Rhode Island.


February 08, 2011

Recruiting: men's basketball

I was looking over the different recruiting sites to see what is being reported about FIU. All three sites (ESPN, Scout and Rivals) are in disagreement on who has and has not verbally committed to coach Isiah Thomas. Recruiting is going to start heating up as it gets closer to signing day in early April. Just like with football, much of what is being talked about in the media is more speculation than truth.

From what I can tell you from football signing day last week, the services really do not pay as much attention to the Sun Belt as the other conferences and some of the information can be inaccurate.

ESPN lists four verbal commitments for FIU:

PF, Darnell Harris, Christian Life, 6-8, 210, TX, grade 91.

C, Chris Coleman, Christian Life, 6-10, 270, TX, grade 88

C, Joe de la Rosa, Montverde Aca., 6-10, 200, FL, grade 88

C, Yvan Ngirabakunzi, The Piney Woods, 6-9, 205, MS, grade 82

Plus one possible commitment

PF, Vince Van Nes, Northfield-Mt. Hermon, 6-11, 235, MA, grade 82


Lists only Coleman and Harris has the only two verbal commitments.


Lists only Harris.


FIU is definitely lacking size this season and could only benefit from having PF Harris and a legitimate center come in. FIU has 14 guards on the roster, with half graduating this year. That includes starting point guard Phil Gary, Alex Legion and Marvin Roberts. At the moment, the Panthers have needed Eric Frederick to carry the load inside. In 23 games played, Frederick has a team-high 6.6 rebounds and 13.3 points a game.

Both Phil Taylor and Dominique Ferguson are freshmen. FIU will need to build around them, along with Frederick, who is returning to play his senior season. FIU will also have the benefit of having leading scorer DeJuan Wright for another year. Put that together with another strong recruiting class and FIU should be a contender in the SBC next season.

This year might not be totally wasted just yet. I have a feeling FIU could make a run in the conference tournament but with how erratic they have played late in games, I am not sure how far they could go.


February 07, 2011

Basketball practice report | Monday Feb. 7, 2011

Still a little sluggish this afternoon after an incredible Super Bowl party last night. I had no rooting interest in the game (well, other than not wanting the Steelers to win again, I guess.) The game had everything you would ever want in a championship contest, from drama and excitement to a halftime show I did not watch, but I digress.

Florida Intl Florida St Bas The real reason you guys and gals are reading this post is to hear a little about the men's basketball team.

The Panthers have continued to improve from last year's seven win season. From what I see, this team has the potential to be really good one day. Like I've said before, fans need to be patient.

Granted, the Panthers have only won a game out of their last eight but the team has been competitive over that stretch. The Panthers have faced some of the best team in the Sun Belt over that period, including Denver and FAU. FIU had late leads in almost all those games, including sending division leading Denver to overtime.

"We play good for 38 minutes. Part of teaching a team how to win is making a team understand that we don't lose a game in the last two minutes. You can lose the game in the first seven minutes on one or two plays," FIU coach Isiah Thomas said. "When your playing three or four point basketball games like we are playing every mistake costs."

Adding to the Panthers' growing pains is missing several key recruits to start the season. You have to take into count that freshman Dominique Ferguson and Phil Taylor have only played in 13 and 5 games, respectively.

Continue reading "Basketball practice report | Monday Feb. 7, 2011" »

January 24, 2011

Men's basketball: season outlook

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.

Florida Intl Florida St Bas 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, Ferguson07 fiuhoop MHS ADD 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.


January 20, 2011

Men's basketball: FIU-UALR game report, live blog, Phil Taylor activated

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.



November 10, 2010

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

More of than not, it's been the latter with me -- and that's going to change.

I'm embracing social media like Cam Newton embraces shady advisors. I'm all over it.

If I come across something in the world of Isiah Thomas, FIU, the Sun Belt or college athletics on the whole that interests me, I'm gonna share it.

Feel free to follow me @AdamHBeasley. You won't regret it.

If you do follow me, you’ve seen insightful Tweets like …

No word yet on any early signings for #FIU basketball, but the week is still young.

FIU's Wow Stat of the Week. Trojans are 88-11-1 at home under Blakeney, including 17-1-1 in homecoming games. http://tinyurl.com/2btsam7

#FIU OC Satterfield on late INT vs ULM: if done over again, 'we would have ran the ball and kicked it.'

… in just the last 12 hours. So c’mon, join in. Everybody’s doing it.

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