February 17, 2014

Diamond Stud-ded (and Stud-ette-d) Weekend

While I spent Friday at Prime Italian -- haven't seen that much outkicking of coverage since Ray Guy retired -- and Saturday and Sunday at FIU Baseball Stadium, the FIU team with the new home ripped their way to an 8-2 record and the championship of the FIU Classic.

FIU opened and closed the tournament by zeroing out Georgia Southern, 8-0 by mercy rule on Friday and 2-0 in the championship game Sunday. Sophomore Corinne Jenkins had the circle throughout the first game and for the first six innings of the championship game. Junior Shelby Graves came in for the save, striking out two of the three batters she faced. Georgia Southern turned out to be Mission: Very Possible to Graves, who went three for three with two RBI in the opener.

Later that day, Graves took her turn in the circle as a starter against Gulf Coast. She lasted five innings, gave up four runs and seven hits, struck out five and went one for one hitting in FIU's 7-4 win. Freshman first baseman Stephanie Texeira, Conference USA Player of the Week in her first post-college week, cranked her first home run as part of a two for four night.

When I saw FIU would start Saturday against Wisconsin, I winced. I don't care if it's fast pitch, anytime you get Middle American corn-and-pork fed folks serious about softball from someplace serious about beer, I get seriously worried. Indeed, Wisconsin's the defending Big Ten tournament champion with seven players officially taller than FIU's five 5-7 players.

The Badgers mercy ruled FIU 8-0 in the first game. In the rematch later Saturday, Wisconsin marche to a 2-0 lead before junior Krystal Garcia's two-run double tied the game. Graves took the pitching baton from Jenkins and allowed one hit in the final two and two thirds innings. Meanwhile, freshman Stephanie Texiera, last week's Conference USA Co-Player of the Week, and sophomore Aleima Lopez went deep on the Badgers to put FIU up 4-2 on the way to a 5-2 win.

Texeira's adjusting well to college ball: team high's .500 batting average, .857 slugging percentage, 14 hits, four doubles, .595 on-base percentage. With the six hit-by-pitches, it looks like a 10-game Frank Robinson stat line.

Over at FIU Baseball Stadium, the Panthers sandwiched a pair of Saturday routs of Rutgers with one-run wins in front of friends, family and a bunch of scouts who came to check out junior catcher Aramis Garcia.

Garcia didn't disappoint, other than a passed ball and throwing error early in Saturday's second game. He threw out runners. He handled FIU's pitchers well. He hit .615 with a .688 on-base percentage in the four-game series, finishing with a three for four Sunday. Everybody besides Garcia found Sunday Rutgers starter Kevin Baxter harder to hit than the Cash 3. 

"Their pitching staff will throw any pitch any count -- fastball, changeup, anything -- so you can't sit on any pitches," said FIU's Josh Anderson, seven for 14 with 5 RBI on the weekend. "They'll throw 2-1 breaking balls, 1-0 changeups and throw them for strikes. They were doing a good job mixing up all the pitches. He was keeping the ball down. He was throwing strikes. We were a litle antsy. We got a lot of hits (Saturday). We probably wanted to pick up where we left off."

Defensively, shortstop Julius Gaines vacillates from Gaines the Great to Gaines Burgers -- three throwing errors, but at least four plays of athletic wonderfulness, shortstop by Alvin Ailey. But it was the same last year, when Gaines' fielding percentage was .884. With second baseman Edwin Rios, who started one double play with a diving stab and flip to Gaines all with just the glove, and Gaines, FIU has an effective and flashy double play combination. FIU turned eight double plays in the first four games. The Panthers turned 50 in 58 games last year.

It was nice to see junior Mike Ellis back from an almost crushing back injury navigating five innings the way he did Saturday evening. 

"It was a big injury for me," Ellis said. "I've never had to deal with anything like that. I had some doubts over the summer if it was ever going to be the same. I'm stronger than I was last season. I feel more refined mechanically. My body hasn't been in this good a shape ever."

Freshman Christopher Mourelle, from Southwest High, pitched an inning in relief of Ellis Saturday. Mourelle will get the start against Stetson Wednesday. The other freshman trying to grab the fourth starting spot, Cody Crouse, went five innings, giving up six hits and was responsible for two runs.

"Cody did a nice job. I don't think he ran out of gas because his pitch count wasn't high going into the sixth (he wound up at 60)," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. "I think what happened, in the bottom of the fifth, not that we did a whole lot offensively, but the inning took a long time. And, I think he might've lost his focus sitting over there. That happens to young guys after they've been out there four, five, six innings at times."

February 16, 2014

Bits & pieces

I'll have a wrap up of this first baseball weekend after today's season closer. But here's some FIU athletics Snacky Cakes for the morning:

FOOTBALL: FIU will play UMass home-and-home in 2015 and 2018. UMass just went FBS in 2012 and has had back-to-back 1-11 seasons since then.

And this year's deal with FCS Wagner is a one-shot deal.

BASKETBALL: I figured with men's basketball attendance up and not having to travel to a conference tournament, this might be a better year financially for basketball than usual. Hey, there can be an upside to academic failure!

Alas, FIU could be facing a series of fines. I'd heard months ago that the program could be fined for Marita Davydova playing all of last year as an ineligible player. Fines instead of forfeits could be the penalty for the Ray Taylor fiasco, too. Frankly, if it's an either/or thing, I'd hope for forfeits if I were FIU. You never know what the Hypocrisy Hounds of the Nattering Nabobs of the NCAA will decide.

TRACK: Don't look for the soccer stadium renovation/reconfiguration into a soccer-and-track facility any time soon. The $3 million project was talked about for years and supposed to be started after this soccer season finished. 

February 12, 2014

Coley and CLASS; Snow day; 2015 Diamond Dinner

Another pile of points from senior guard Jerica Coley, 29 of them, couldn't lead FIU to an upset of Middle Tennessee State Wednesday night at The Branch. But Coley did get two pieces of individual good news lately: she's one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award (http://www.seniorCLASSaward.com) and one of the 30 finalists for the Naismith Women's Player of the Year Award.

The former award takes into account Coley's excellence in the classroom as well as on the court and fans can go to the website to vote for their favorite student-athlete. 

TENNIS

The women's tennis match against Winthrop got snowed out. They can't clear off the courts and play? Nobody's got a shovel up there? Sheesh...

BASEBALL & SOFTBALL

Arrangements for the 2015 Diamond Dinner, Feb. 7, 2015, already are underway. And FIU's in talks with another excellent keynote speaker. I'm not sure he's a better speaker than this year's Jim Kaat, current broadcaster and former longtime major league pitcher, but he's one of the biggest names in baseball from the 1960s and 1970s.

February 11, 2014

Nice debuts: Texeira & softball stadium

Swung by the renovated softball stadium for a few half-innings Saturday. The new press box, at field level, puts you pretty much in the backstop position. 

The first games at FIU Softball Stadium, the Felsberg Memorial, were this weekend's coming out for freshman first base Stephanie Texeira also. The Panthers went 4-1, losing only 1-0 to DePaul in the championship game. Texeira, a Gulliver Prep graduate, went 10 for 14 with four extra base hits (all doubles) and five RBI. 

For this, Texeira was named Conference USA Player of the Week.

February 07, 2014

Joining The 700 Club; new softball stadium's first game

Between planes connecting FIU's women's basketball team from San Antonio to El Paso isn't an ideal time for serious reflection. That's where I caught Cindy Russo Thursday afternoon after her 700th career coaching victory, she and her team were in Houston with UTEP in the future (Saturday) and the milestone win against Texas-San Antonio in the past (Wednesday).

"It's an honor to reach it," Russo said. "It took a lot of time and a lot of good people."

As for the most memorable of those 700 wins, Russo pointed to the 81-76 1995 first round NCAA win against she and longtime assistant Inge Nissen's alma mater, Old Dominion. Despite that connection, I got the feeling the top placement owes more to the game being the first of FIU's two NCAA tournament wins.

"And, of course, it's always nice to beat UM," she laughed.

Russo couldn't remember win No. 1.

"It' was too long time ago," she laughed. 

It was 42-41 against Brevard Community College, Jan. 7, 1978. Russo recalls FIU's campus encompassed seven buildings. The team played at Miami Christian High School. They practiced in a former airplane hangar they called "The Tin Gym" now used for storage.

"That first year was memorable," Russo said. "I had a lot of volleyball palyers playing after their season and a lot of softball players playing before their season. But they were a gutty group and coachable."

In the Florida AIAW tournament, FIU won two, then lost two, finishing second to Bethune-Cookman. An eligibility issue, however, knocked Cookman out of the AIAW tournament and sent FIU to the Southeast Regional at the College of Charleston. The Sunblazers (gosh, how much cooler a name is that?) lost to Tampa to end their season 8-14.

Appropriate that the building of wins from eight to 700 by the longest serving FIU coach in any sport in some ways parallels the building of FIU's current campus.

SOFTBALL

Speaking of construction, the new softball facility debuts today at 4 p.m. when FIU plays Maryland in the Felsberg Memorial. Tomorrow night is the major fund-raiser for the softball and baseball programs, the Diamond Dinner in the Graham Center Ballroom at Camp Mitch. Reception is at 6 p.m with the dinner starting at 7 p.m.

Former major league pitcher Jim Kaat will be the keynote speaker.

February 05, 2014

People Gained & Lost on Signing Day

Busy day in FIU athletics: National Signing Day, Cindy Russo winning career game No. 700 tonight at Texas-San Antonio and David Beckham says he wants his MLS Miami franchise to play in a new stadium close to downtown (which means not FIU Stadium).

Taking the last part first, as they used to say on Twenty-One, FIU Stadium's main unsuitability is location. Everything else can be addressed. Offices can be built. A better field can be installed and maintained. The press box can be made into something that doesn't get laughed at by people from Troy or Arkansas State. It's even got the size MLS likes for its stadiums.

But it's still out there, far west enough to kiss the turnpike. That's too many minutes of honking, creative cursing, teeth-gnashing traffic for too many people for weeknight games. It's a factor that puts a ceiling on FIU basketball attendance. If you're in a position where your Get West routes are the Dolphin Expressway, State Road 112, east-west streets from Bird Road toi 36th Street or some combination of those three, you better love that sport like it's your mama to deal with that mess.

Interim site? Maybe. Permanent site? Nah.

Once again, there's another Signing Day coaching staff change as soon as FIU gets its class signed. Last year, it was defensive backs coach Jeff Popovich getting zapped. This time, it's defensive line coach Andre Patterson, apparently, headed for Minnesota and new coach Mike Zimmer's staff. Patterson and Zimmer worked together for three seasons in Dallas when Patterson was the defensive line coach and Zimmer was the defensive coordinator. Herrald writer & editor-retired-into-stringer Bill Van Smith, standing in for me at the FIU Signing Day Party, learned it wasn't a done deal yet.

On to recruiting. There weren't many surprises on Signing Day for FIU. They brought in offensive lineman Kai Absheer from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas after Trayvon Williams opted for Georgia Southern over FIU. I like the size of the linemen. I would've liked to have seen one or two more guys who can get you the cheap points. You know, don't fill a kickoff return lane and see you after the touchdown dance.

In the whole process, they did lose some guys they really wanted, which happens every year to every school. I still say FAU made a strong statement getting who they got, especially locally, after throwing a staff together late as FIU did last year. Maybe it'll keep the Fieldhouse men jumping.

For what it's worth...Rivals.com ranks FIU tied for fourth in Conference USA with Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Middle Tenessee State and tied for 83rd nationally. 247Sports.com, which ranks based on average rating of a player, ranks FIU 10th in Conference USA and 105th nationally. Scout.com has FIU 95th nationally and sixth in the conference, but that site also gives FIU credit for three-star Raheem Harvey (going to junior college) and running back Donavan Williams (decided to go closer to home, Sam Houston State).

The Recruiting Class of 2014 (with one scholarship left):

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Kai Absheer 6-5, 310. Not rated by ESPN.com, 247Sports.com, Rivals.com when the day started. Rivals had a two-star rating on him by day's end, as did Scout.com. I didn't see him play, but a 6-5 offensive tackle out of St. Thomas? That's a chance you have to take. If he doesn't have the feet, put him in dance class until he gets them. 

Plant City defensive end John Broome, 6-2, 225

Pembroke Pines Flanagan defensive back Mark Bruno, 5-10, 165

Hollywood Hills defensive lineman Josh Deuyour, 6-9, 305. Somebody's going on the field goal block team.

Jacksonville Raines running back Alex Gardner, 5-10, 185. Losing Williams hurts, but let's see what Gardner and sophomore Silas Spearman can do with an improved offensive line.

Hialeah defensive back Nick Gonzalez, 6-0, 180.

Frostproof wide receiver Jarviel Hart, 5-10, 160. 

Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jordan Ingraham, 6-2, 315

Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County defensive end Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 235

Carol City defensive back Tyree Johnson, 5-8, 165

Oviedo Hagerty offensive lineman Breht Joly, 6-4, 305.

Tampa Sickles tight end/wide receiver Chett LeVay 6-3, 190.

Fort Lauderdale Dilllard quarterback Bud Martin, 6-3, 225. 

St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy running back/wide receiver Napoleon Maxwell, 6-0, 190.

Tampa Gaither quarterback Alex McGeough, 6-3, 200. 

Neptune Beach Fletcher quarterback/punter Luke Medlock, 6-2, 200. Adds to the quarterback battle and I'll wager he's the best punter on the roster already. 

Orlando The First Academy offensive lineman Chris Miller, 6-4, 310

Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver/defensive back Thomas Owens, 6-1, 180. Owens played quarterback at Atlantic. 

Tampa Bay Tech linebacker Fred Russ, 5-10, 235

Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Justin Sibole, 6-4, 275. This one wasn't certain until today. Rated at three stars by ESPN, two stars by 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Miami Springs cornerback Bobby Stinson, 5-11, 155

Hialeah Jermaine Sheriff. FIU says defensive back, but he played defensive end and linebacker in high school. 6-2, 225. I don't see him getting any smaller, so he'll be either an outside linebacker or an intimidatingly physical safety.

Northwestern defensive back Shemarke Spence, 5-9, 170.

Miami Springs cornerback Bobby Stinson, 5-11, 155, 175

Fort Lauderdale Dillard wide receiver Dennis Turner, 5-11, 180. FIU's highest rated recruit by 247Sports.com, ESPN.com and Scout.com, all of which have him at three stars. Rivals.com has him at two stars. A big play receiver who averaged over 20 yards per catch over his last two years of high school, catching passes from early enrollee Bud Martin.

Orlando Oak Ridge offensive tackle DaQuane Willkie, 6-4, 250. Considered one of the best offensive tackles in the middle of the state. He's only going to get bigger and longer. If he's got feet, he'll be impressive.

Homestead linebacker Anthony Wint, 6-0, 210. 

National Signing Day updates (look under Stevie)

I'm here in Los Angeles covering the Heat, the second time in three years I've been elsewhere on National Signing Day. Just as when I was at the Super Bowl during Signing Day two years ago, I'll provide updates on here on the blog as best I can and, at the end of the day, what analysis I can.

The classes that helped give this football program its brightest days didn't come very heralded. Meanwhile, there's not much left of the highest ranking class, 2012. FIU coach Ron Turner insisted during the fall they were getting their first choice recruits. Turner lost some of those young men. Down the line, that might be a big break for FIU considering the academic troubles of some of their highest ranked recruits over the years.

Anyway, I'll try to keep a running total here as best I can while doing the Heat-Clippers thing throughout the day. Updates under Stevie...

 

Signees having been announced by FIU, Tweeted their signing or messaged me:

Hialeah defensive back Nick Gonzalez, 6-0, 180. Gonzalez was unrated by any of the services until Rivals.com gave him a two-star rating after his FIU commit. He made some big plays as a wide receiver and if I remember that district correctly, that's not always easy with the speed on the defensive side of the ball.

Oviedo Hagerty offensive lineman Breht Joly, 6-4, 305.

Jacksonville Fletcher quarterback/punter Luke Medlock, 6-2, 200. Adds to the quarterback battle and I'll wager he's the best punter on the roster already. 

Hollywood Hills defensive lineman Josh Deuyour, 6-9, 305

Miami Springs cornerback Bobby Stinson, 5-11, 155

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Kai Absheer 6-5, 310

Jacksonville Raines running back Alex Gardner, 5-10, 185

Frostproof wide receiver Jarviel Hart, 5-10, 160

Pembroke Pines Flanagan defensive back Mark Bruno, 5-10, 165

Tampa Bay Tech linebacker Fred Russ, 5-10, 235

Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Justin Sibole, 6-4, 275. This one wasn't certain until today. Rated at three stars by ESPN, two stars by 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Northwestern defensive back Shemarke Spence, 5-9, 175

Tampa Sickles tight end/wide receiver Chett LeVay 6-3, 190

St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy running back/wide receiver Napoleon Maxwell, 6-0, 190

Hialeah Jermaine Sheriff. FIU says defensive back, but he played defensive end and linebacker in high school. 6-2, 225. I don't see him getting any smaller, so that's either an outside linebacker or one lay-the-big-wood safety.

Plant City defensive end John Broome, 6-2, 225

Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County defensive end Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 235

Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jordan Ingraham, 6-2, 315

Carol City defensive back Tyree Johnson, 5-8, 165

Homestead linebacker Anthony Wint, 6-0, 210

Orlando The First Academy offensive lineman Chris Miller, 6-4, 310

Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver Thomas Owens, 6-1, 180

Orlando Oak Ridge offensive tackle DaQuane Willkie, 6-4, 250. One of the best offensive tackles in the middle of the state. He's only going to get bigger and longer. If he's got feet, he'll be impressive.

Fort Lauderdale Dillard wide receiver Dennis Turner, 5-11, 180. A big play receiver who averaged over 20 yards per catch over his last two years of high school, catching passes from early enrollee Bud Martin.

 

February 03, 2014

2014 football schedule

Aug. 31 -- Bethune-Cookman

Sept. 6 -- Wagner

Sept. 13 -- Louisville

Sept. 20 -- Pittsburgh

Sept. 27 -- at Alabama-Birmingham

Oct. 4 -- FAU

Oct. 11 -- at Texas-San Antonio

Oct. 18 -- Marshall

Nov. 1 -- Rice

Nov. 8 -- at Old Dominion

Nov. 15 -- Middle Tennessee State

Nov. 22 -- at North Texas

February 02, 2014

The Best of Coley

Saturday's FIU women's basketball 76-72 win against FAU might've been the best overall game I've seen Jerica Coley play in the three seasons I've been covering FIU this time around.

On one play, Coley got a floorburn to beat an FAU player to a loose ball, came up dribbling, went the length for an underhanded layup, leaping across a defender so as to draw contact. And hit the free throw to tie the game.

She shot efficiently, 15 of 28 from the field. She created open spaces for teammtes, then fed them (six assists). In a game that turned on rebounding, Coley came down with 12 and not just long ones. She had four blocks, one a Tymell Murphy-style swat into the bleachers when FAU's Shaneese Bailey pulled up in front of Tynia McKinzie, who played one of the best positional defensive games you'll see.

McKinzie also had a signature sequence and it came with FIU up 62-61 in the final 4:30. Bailey executed a perfect steal on the perimeter and raced in for what would've been an easy layup had McKinzie not rumbled down, measured Bailey's path, planted and got her hands in the air just before Bailey lifted off. Having to alter the layup, Bailey missed it. Coley scored at the other end to put FIU up 64-61. Takia Brooks drove in only to find McKinzie as omnipresent as the security guard in You, Me and Dupree. Brooks got her own rebound, went back up with it only to find the same McKinzie problem. Coley came down with the rebound.

Three misses, all caused by McKinzie. My unofficial count was 10 easily makeable shots she messed up. None of that will show on a stat sheet under her name. But she did it with such good anticipation, she committed only two fouls.

"I was just trying to be more aggressive in trying to get to the rim, maybe get some fouls in the beginning," Coley said as she and her teammates signed autographs for a long line of kids and their parents. "I don't want to keep taking jump shots in the beginning, so I did that too warm up. And we were pretty good on the boards."

 

February 01, 2014

3-star RB chooses FIU

Jacksonville Raines running back Alex Gardner declared via Twitter earlier today that he's committed to FIU.

For what ratings are worth, Gardner would be the highest rated running back recruited to FIU out of high school. ESPN.com and 247sports.com have him at three stars while Scout.com and Rivals.com have him at two. 

January 30, 2014

Coffee, Coley & TV

 The biggest weeps over senior guard Jerica Coley graduating FIU might not be heard in the women's basketball offices, but the marketing and media relations offices. They'll be crying like it's the end of Love Story. For those arms of FIU media, Coley's the gift that never stops giving, the cornucopia of FIU goodness.

This week, it's being named a Capital One Academic All-District athlete by College Sports Information Directors of America. This district covers colleges in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Coley carries a 3.41 GPA and majors in dietetics and nutrition.

Coley and the entire women's basketball team will be signing autographs Saturday after FIU faces FAU at 6 p.m. on National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Female FIU employees with their FIU card get in free. Girls under 12 receive a free t-shirt.

TELEVISION

The Apr. 5 FIU vs. FAU softball game will be televised on Fox Sports Network as will the May 3 FIU at East Carolina baseball game. Conference USA announced its spring television schedule today.

 

 

 

January 29, 2014

Garcia Preseason C-USA Player of the Year, Rios All-Conference

Conference USA's coaches share a respect for junior catcher Aramis Garcia, who led FIU in hits (72) and home runs (11) last year while batting .321 with 51 RBI. Garcia also nabbed more attempted stealers than ADT.

For this, coaches voted Garcia Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year, along with East Carolina utility player Drew Reynolds. Sophomore infielder Edwin Rios also made the preseason all-conference team.

FIU was picked sixth in the conference. Rice, either the regular season or conference tournament champion eight consecutive seasons, was unsurprisingly voted the favorite.

January 28, 2014

Academic "attaboys" for 4 athletes

The National Consortium of Academics and Sports put four FIU athletes among the 40 nationwide that received 2013 Academic Momentum Awards.

Defensive end Denzell Perine, a criminal justice major; pitcher Mike Franco, also a criminal justice major; golfer Sophie Godley, a recreation and sports management major; and track thrower Alysha Lewis were each honored for academic improvement and having an impact through academics on classmates, teammates, advisors and professors.

January 27, 2014

Making A Move on Gardner; Coley again No. 1 scorer

The FIU coaching staffs Turners were up state Monday, trying to woo three-star running back Alex Gardner, a 5-10, 185-pound runner out of Jacksonville Raines, to FIU. Gardner was to visit FAU this weekend. Now, he'll visit FIU.

Gardner visited Wyoming last week. According to MaxPreps, he ran for 1,955 yards and 18 touchdowns his junior and senior years on 314 carries, 6.23 a pop. As far as catching the ball, his 29 receptions led to 359 yards and five touchdowns in that same two-year span.

 

 

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Senior guard Jerica Coley bumped past Baylor's Odyssey Sims in the national scoring race to retake the lead in the category she won last year.

Coley's 38-point effort Saturday against Alabama-Birmingham put her at 30.0 points per game. Meanwhile, Sims suffered a seven for 27 shooting night against Oklahoma State, scoring only 17 points and dropping her to 29.7. That was Sims third game in the last four of 20 or fewer points. Baylor won two of those three games, one of which saw Sims play only 28 minutes as Baylor routed Kansas State.

Seabury recommits?

As noted in the Comments section of the last post, I missed Saturday's Tweet from Orlando Timber Creek wide receiver Javonte Seabury that he's headed for FIU again.

Seabury decommitted after his official visit was cancelled just before it was supposed to happen. He told the Orlando Sentinel he did so because FIU stopped paying him enough attention. I heard FIU cut the visit in a concern about Seabury's academic standing.

If Seabury winds up coming to FIU, that puts more bullets in the big play gun FIU wants to fire more often than they did last year.

January 26, 2014

A LB from Homestead, a DB from Hialeah

 

After a morning and noon in the kitchen -- fluffy pancakes, then Cake Pops, then brunch -- a few more details on what I Tweeted out this morning. (You don't follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidJNeal? Your bad).

And, yes, this is what I meant by standing your ground.

Homestead linebacker Anthony Wint had one interception, one fumble forced and one fumble recovered as a senior. He also had a widely reported offer from Syracuse at one time. Not sure that was still on the table. Wint's rated at two stars by 247sports.com and Scout.com, three stars by ESPN.com and unrated by Rivals.com.

Hialeah safety Nick Gonzalez picked off two passes his senior season, three in his last two years. Though Gonzalez didn't catch many passes as a wide receiver (seven), they tended to be big ones -- a 52-yarder against Miami Springs, two for 43 yards and two touchdowns against Hialeah Miami Lakes, a 37-yard touchdown against North Miami Beach.

Gonzalez isn't rated by 247sports.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com or ESPN.com.

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2396506/highlights/52782375

 

 

Two up (basketballs), one down (pool)

Saturday night at The Branch, I wonder if anybody had a Joe Montana-John Candy moment. You know, looking off the court and seeing, "Hey, that's Ray Taylor over there!" or "Hey, check it out -- people actually in the cabanas!"

That contribution to a solid gathering helped give The Branch good life throughout FIU's 66-57 win. The court and the cabanas, as such things go, now just seem normal, although I still like the uniqueness of each. The only thing two things beach-like about Saturday night's game, in fact: the Spotlight Dance Academy preteens creepily twerking like they worked at Club Madonna (accompanied by little girls creepily made up like they worked for Iceberg Slim) at halftime and the way officials treated fifth-year senior forward Rakeem Buckles. The zebras imitated Miami Beach PD who wanted Buckles to move along during Urban Beach Weekend. To be fair, officiating helped neither team, but of Buckles' five fouls, I saw him commit two, maybe three.

FIU didn't give FAU's Pablo Bertone a chance to see much of anything in the first half. Bertone wound up with 19 points, right at his 18.1 per game average, but all of it came in the second half as FAU tried to come from 34-24 down at the half. The Give A Hoot, Don't Pollute guys never made it. In fact, after Tymell Murphy knocked down the game's first jumper less than 20 seconds into the contest, FIU never trailed or was tied.

Anyway, back to the defensive job on Bertone. 

“I thought they paid extra attention to him,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “There wasn’t a time when he caught the ball that someone wasn’t on him. We let No. 12 get a couple of clean looks early. But I don’t think Bertone got any clean looks whether Dennis (Mavin) was on him or Tymell.”

Evans usually doesn't crack anything close to a joke in the postgame conference, win or lose. Saturday, after Murphy finished answering a question about his double doubles, Evans said, "He almost had a triple double..."

"Eight turnovers...," Murphy groaned.

"If he had two more turnovers, it's a triple double," Evans said.

"I was just looking at that," Murphy said. "That's horrible. I've got to be better." 

When FIU needed offense, it was Murphy coming up with the tough move or rebound, Mavin using his quickness to break down the defense or sophomore forward Jerome Frink unafraid to take the shot. Defensively, Mavin and Murphy helped out down low well and Frink, again, always seeming to be there for a steal, block or rebound. 

As Murphy left the postgame press conference, I said to him, "You hear your girl got 38?"

Murphy threw out more complimentary words about senior guard Jerica Coley, of whom Murphy's the biggest on-campus fan. UAB couldn't keep Coley from the hole and they couldn't keep Tynia McKinzie off hte boards.

Coley got her 38 strangely -- hitting five of nine from three-point range, but only seven of 26 from inside the arc. Still, you know what Coley's going to give as far as points almost every night. The difference in FIU winning or losing Saturday, as so often, is the supporting cast's production. McKinzie put in 10 points to go with her 19 rebounds.

And that's the difference between the 63-52 win and team failure.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Having a dysfunctional facility clearly didn"t affect Florida Gulf Coast's ability.

Pool problems caused the diving for Saturday's dual meet to be hosted by FIU while Gulf Coast hosted the swimming. Senior Sabrina Beaupre swept both the diving events while senior Sonia Perez Arau won the 1000 freestyle in school record time (10:07.06, knocking 4.3 seconds off her own FIU record) and took the 500 free and 400 individual medley, too. FIU coach Randy Horner called it the best dua meet of any athlete h'es coached.

Unfortunately for FIU, Gulf Coast won everything else and the meet, 189.5-109.5. The first dual meet loss of the year for FIU, No. 12 in CollegeSwimming.com's mid-major rankings (Gulf Coast was No. 9), comes a week before they face FAU in the season-ending dual meet.

 

January 23, 2014

Making a push

Though men's basketball attendance runs ahead of last year's pace, the folks at Camp Mitch want to make sure there's a not-embarrassing crowd at The Branch for Saturday's Abbreviation Armageddon with FAU. The game will be televised on CSS.

Which is why they're bringing a peck of promotions to pack the place.

Students arriving before tipoff -- instead of straggling in five or 10 minutes into the game, just ahead of Miami time -- will be entred into a free raffle for FIU gift cards. Trying to get the family crowd for the 6 p.m. start, they're offering the Family Four Pack: four tickets, four hot dogs, four popcorns, four soft drinks for $29. Just call the ticket office or log onto http://www.fiusports.com with the promo code FAMILY.

Maybe in a nod to the forever ineligible Ray Taylor, who played three years for FAU and seven games for FIU, they could raffle off a couple of jobs in the Compliance department.

 

 

January 22, 2014

Enoicy, Maxwell pledge FIU

 

Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver Adly Enoicy is 6-5 and was pursued at one time by Florida and USC among other schools. Enoicy's scheduled to visit Syracuse Jan. 31, but he committed to FIU Wednesday. ESPN.com has him at four stars, Rivals.com puts him at two stars, 247sports.com and Scout.com each have him at three stars.

St. Pete Admiral Farragut's Napoleon Maxwell ran the ball only 80 times, but for 953 yards his senior year, 11.9 yards a carry, and returned three kicks for touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 273 yards. He also had four interceptions as a safety. Maxwell have his verbal nod to FIU Monday with his official visit still to come. 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com all rate him at two stars. ESPN.com rates him at three stars.

 

January 21, 2014

Calabrese named men's soccer coach

Four consecutive 10-win seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances and two Atlantic Sun Conference championships at East Tennessee State were good enough for Scott Calabrese to get the FIU men's soccer head coach job.

Kenny Arena left the job after two seasons to be an assistant under his father, Bruce Arena, with the Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy.