While the season is over and all major sports have suspended play, there is still news to be discussed and dissected. Amid these unforseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19, FGCU has made quick work to retool their roster heading into the summer. They have done so by announcing transfers, awarding scholarships, and acquiring new talent. Below we will discuss these moves as part of our first “Summer Flyer.”
After a 10-22 (7-9) season, culminating in a loss in the opening round of the ASUN tournament, change was inevitable. As we have previously reported, a team is allowed 13 scholarships at a time. Prior to any transfer announcements, the Eagles were set to have 11 returning scholarship players, leaving 2 available. With 3 incoming freshmen (Victor Rosa, Luis Rolón, and Zachary Anderson) as well as an incoming transfer (Dom London), FGCU needed to clear 2 more scholarships. With that said, 4 Eagles entered the transfer portal within a 24 hours span (3/12 – 3/13). These are those individuals.
Maybe the biggest loss, on paper, was that of rising junior guard, Zach Scott. As one half of Coach Fly’s inaugural freshman class, he played in all 32 games, made 21 starts, and averaged 8 points per contest. After such a strong rookie campaign, Scott’s expectations for this past season were high. He ended up having an up and down season, marred with shooting slumps and a bench role for an 8-game stretch. Still, Scott maintained his solid defensive play and improved his points per game to 11 (3rd on the team). It was clear at times during the season that a change of scenery might be good for both sides. On 3/12 Verbal Commits confirmed that Scott had entered the transfer portal and would no longer be playing for FGCU. Scott later confirmed this on Twitter in a message, thanking Coach Fly and his teammates and stating “After much consideration, prayer, and discussion with my family,… I will be leaving Florida Gulf Coast University.” Scott was a model player for the Eagles in his two years at FGCU and deserves every bit of success that he finds as he continues his journey.
Maybe the most expected player to transfer was Christian Carlyle. Heading into this past season, he was slated to be the only senior on the roster and the only player to play all 4 of his years under Coach Fly (in some capacity). That plan went haywire when Carlyle suffered a season ending injury, late in the summer. He was granted a medical redshirt, preserving his final year of eligibility. Still, the question of whether his final year of eligibility would be played with the Eagles persisted throughout the year. In end of the year meetings between players and coaches, it was decided that Carlyle would be transferring to another program for his rSr season. Carlyle’s veteran leadership was sorely missed this past year. Whatever team he chooses to sign with will be getting a tough, skilled, veteran leader.
Brian Thomas’ 3 years with FGCU were unfortunate to say the least. It’s difficult for a mid-major team in a conference like the ASUN to recruit a big that is truly “big” like Thomas. At 6’9″ / 260 lbs, he was poised to take the conference by storm. As a freshman, Thomas already possessed an elevated ability to play post defense and block shots. With these skills already in place, he would have the coming years to develop his offensive game. Unfortunately, a hand injury would cause him to lose a sizeable chunk of that 1st season. To start his sophomore year, Thomas was again hindered by injury and forced to miss the first portion of the season. He finished the season strong though, starting the final 13 games and really showcasing the kind of player he could be. Finally, entering his junior year, Thomas was set to lead the Eagles in the frontcourt and set the tone with physicality. Unfortunately he was injured in the first game of the season and would not see the court again until only a few games prior to conference play. By then, Thomas was unable to practice much and could not handle a full slate of minutes during games. With Thomas’ lingering injury issues, both parties decided it would be best for him to move on. Thomas has a lot of talent and a lot of potential still left for whatever team he decides to join.
In some ways, Hardy is in the same boat as Brian Thomas. He entered the program after averaging 17 points and 5 rebounds as freshman at D-II Nova Southeastern. Hardy then joined FGCU with 3 years of eligibility but sat out 2018-2019 due to transfer rules. After reportedly having a strong summer, he wound up on the injury report to begin the season. It was inferred by Coach Fly that the injury was season-long and prevented Hardy from practicing with the team, limiting him to minimal game action. Hardy shined in moments during the season. Specifically, against North Alabama, he dropped 16 points, secured 5 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists in a season high 36 minutes. But ultimately, he was hindered to the point of playing in just 18 games. Hardy is sure to be a tough competitor wherever he goes and we wish him health and success going forward.
A Deserving Scholarship
After the brisk exodus of the 4 transfers, FGCU went from being short 2 scholarships, to having 2 in their back pocket. As we previously speculated, one on those was likely to stay in house and go to a very deserving individual.
Seldom does a walk-on, let alone a freshman walk-on, see the court. Their appearance is reserved for the waning minutes of a blowout win/loss. That’s why it was a surprise to see Largie get 6 minutes of play in FGCU’s 3rd game of the season at Dartmouth. Largie continued to see minutes, despite his walk-on status. When asked about his unexpected production, Coach Fly stated stated that Largie simply earned the right to be in rotation. “There’s a lot of similarities to when Sherwood [Brown] got here. Both were lightly recruited out of high school. He plays unbelievably hard. Full speed all the time. Wins every Sprint.” Coach Fly consistently spoke of Largie’s work ethic and hustle. “There’s days that he will dominate portions of practice and I have to ask myself why he’s not playing more. He embodies what this program is all about and plays with a chip on his shoulder.” Largie would go on to play in 25 games, earning starting status in the final 3 outings of the season. It’s extremely impressive for a walk-on to come so far in one season. For a walk-on to play, he not only has to look good in practice, but consistently do so every day. Scholarships and other resources are being invested in other players, so there needs to be no doubt in a coach’s mind that playing them is the right idea. In a recent season-closing meeting, Coach Fly wanted to send the team home to their families on a high note. He did so by extending one of the team’s available scholarships to Largie, as the whole team cheered on their teammate. It will be great to watch Largie continue to grow and take on new challenges with the team, now that he is officially one of the core guys.
A New Face
After the extension of a scholarship to Cyrus Largie, FGCU still had one left to grant. With the departure of 6’9″ / 260 lb Brian Thomas, the team was left with only 3 forwards on the whole roster and a strong need for more size. FGCU made quick work by adding an experienced versatile big to fill a need and provide more competition in the frontcourt.
On Sunday 3/22, Eli Abaev announced via Twitter that he had committed to play for FGCU. Abaev is a versatile, 6’8″ / 210 lb forward who will join the Eagles as a Grad Transfer with 1 year of eligibility. Last season, Abaev started 30 games for a 20-win Austin Peay team averaging 8 points and 8 rebounds, while shooting 50% from the floor. Prior to Austin Peay, he spent time at Eastern Florida State College under Coach Jeremy Shulman. There he played a year with current Eagle Jalen Warren, where they developed chemistry on and off the court. Coach Shulman was kind enough to give us some insight on the kind of player FGCU will be getting. Shulman stated that Abaev has the athleticism to guard multiple positions on defense (3, 4, and 5) but has mostly been used as a 4. He cites toughness, strength, and physical development, over the course of his career, as reasons Abaev can also play the 5. “[Abaev is] a bulldog. [He] is tough, physical, has a high motor, and is a proven winner… Fans should be very excited.”
Due to these uncertain times, teams are unable to have players sign a Letter of Intent and Financial Aid Agreements so, while players can commit, an official signing cannot take place. Therefore, Coach Fly is, at this time, unable to comment.
Still, Abaev is a big get for FGCU. His addition makes this roster more complete than it has been at any point in Coach Fly’s tenure. Abaev is most likely slated to start at the 4 spot for the Eagles with Justus Rainwater resuming his role at the 5. There are plenty of lineup possibilities for the coaches to experiment with whenever teams are allowed to be together and practice again.