FGCU Men’s Basketball Season Preview: 2020-21

As the 2020-21 Men’s Basketball season is right around the corner, we would like to examine the roster, the schedule, and the circumstances and narratives surrounding the team heading into the 2020-21 campaign.

The Roster

To have success, a team can succeed in any number of ways. You can win with a young team if players possess an abundance of pure talent. You can win with less pure talent if you make up for it with discipline/experience. Another way to win is to have players who fit your system well. Some athletes are natural fits, some require some coaching and experience, and some simply aren’t built to play a certain style. For those players, one must alter the system they run to maximize their efficiency. Essentially, you can’t put a square peg into a round hole. Instead, you must put that square peg somewhere else that it CAN fit, even if it’s not perfect. Even so, the best possible outcomes of these scenarios are rarely the ones we see played out. More likely, a team struggles if there is too much youth, lack of experience, and/or the roster is made up of players who don’t quite fit the system. This, in combination with injury,  has been the story of the FGCU Men’s team for the past 2 season. Entering this year, things look a bit different though. For the first time in Michael Fly’s tenure as head coach for the Eagles, his crop of players are experienced. His second recruiting class has entered the building and his first class has a year under their belt. The lone freshman from his first year is now an upper classmen, a captain, and a leader on the team. His hand-picked transfers are entrenched in the system and in a position to teach, not just learn. The Eagles now return 70% of their scoring from last season, compared to only 22% returning at this time last year. Below is a chart showing the state and depth of the current roster.

#0 Dakota Rivers: 6’8″/208, So, F#12* Kyle Murphy: 6’5″/197, Fr, G/F
#1 Luis Rolon: 6’2″/205, Fr, G#13 Victor Rosa: 6’5″/188, Fr, G
#2 Caleb Catto: 6’5″/182, Jr, G#14 Eli Abaev: 6’8″/206, Gr, F
#3 Franco Miller Jr: 6’3″/201, rSo, G#15 Sam Gagliardi: 6’4″/194, Sr, G
#4 Cyrus Largie: 6’3″/204, So, G#20* Chance Jackson: 6’6″/202, So, G
#5 Jalen Warren: 6’3″/162, Sr, G#23 Dom London: 6’1″/165, Jr, G
#10 Zach Anderson: 6’7″/205, Fr, F#32 Justus Rainwater: 6’8″/220, Sr, F
#11 Qwanzi Samuels: 6’8″/192, So, F#51* Lenny Ricca: 6’2″/170, So, G
*Denotes Walk-on

Potential Starting Lineups

With more depth and experience, Coach Fly and the rest of the staff have plenty of choices to make regarding a starting 5. Of course these things are fluid and sometimes a game-by-game situation based on matchups. Below, we will list some of the potential lineups and detail the benefits of those selections. There are many more possibilities than the ones we will list, based on how well players are doing and how quickly they are able to contribute, but we think this is a good place to start.

Big

  • Jalen Warren
  • Caleb Catto
  • Cyrus Largie/Miller/London/Rosa/Gagliardi
  • Eli Abaev
  • Justus Rainwater

This larger lineup features two 6’8″ rebounders and should give FGCU an advantage on the defensive end of things. Of course utilizing Abaev and Rainwater at the same time means there are less 3-point threats on the floor. It is unknown how much of a role that a player like Largie will have so other options here are Miller Jr., London, Rosa, or Gagliardi.

Small / Offensive

  • Jalen Warren
  • Caleb Catto
  • Cyrus Largie/Miller/London/Rosa/Gagliardi
  • Eli Abaev
  • Dakota Rivers

Similar to the “Big” lineup above, except for a change from Rainwater to Rivers at the 5. Both of these bigs are extremely athletic but in different ways. Having Rivers on the floor adds some offense and more perimeter shooting to the equation to go along with Abaev’s strong post game and rebounding. On the other hand, outside of blocking shots, Rivers has to prove that he can also be a solid post defender for this lineup to get much consideration.

Smaller / Experienced

  • Jalen Warren
  • Caleb Catto
  • Sam Gagliardi/Miller/London/Rosa
  • Cyrus Largie
  • Justus Rainwater/Abaev/Rivers

This lineup is essentially what Coach Fly went with toward the end of last season, playing Largie at the 4. I could see this lineup making a return if playing bigger is not yeilding the desired results. For the big man, Rainwater or Abaev seem like obvious choices. However, Abaev appears to be more suited to play the 4. Rivers could get time in this lineup to bring 5 guys who can all really run the floor and shoot. Unlike the other scenarios, Largie would be a lock in this lineup due to his experience playing up/big last season.

Barring injury, of all of the potential lineups, the “big” lineup is our projected, most likely, starting combination. Since Marc-Eddy Norelia, FGCU really hasn’t had a consistent 4 man. The coaches are hoping Abaev can step into this role. If he can provide the bulk of the post scoring and be the elite rebounder he is, Rainwater can do what he does best from an energy, lob catching, and defending standpoint. Catto and Warren are obvious locks to start for this team, leaving that final guard spot up for grabs. Based on how he ended the season and how he has performed since the team has been back together, Cyrus Largie is likely to get the starting nod.

Potential Most Improved

Dakota Rivers

Last year, as a freshman, Rivers gave fans and coaches a ton to be excited about. He stepped on campus as a sinewy, 6’8″ forward and quickly showed off his athleticism and shot-blocking prowess. Rivers had several games that indicated he could develop into a big name for the Eagles. In addition to athleticism, he showed that he has fair shooting ability for a player his size and also has room to grow defensively. With a year in the weight room, putting on muscle, and another off-season under his belt, Rivers has a ton of hype surrounding him and is a prime candidate to really improve this season.

Qwanzi Samuels

Samuels had a relatively quiet freshman year, considering he made 4 starts. His long, lanky 6’8″ frame and his athleticism project him to be a 4 who can also play on the wing as a 3 in certain situations. Samuels displayed a soft touch and good shooting ability for a player his size. Due to injury he was thrown into the fire and struggled to keep up with the speed of the game. After an off-season of putting in work any way he could, Qwanzi returned to the team looking leaner and much more comfortable and able to play fast. How much he can develop from year 1 to year 2 remains to be seen but Samuels has to be in the conversation for a potential breakout year.

Cyrus Largie

Largie is probably the favorite to show a lot of improvement, specifically on the stat sheet. His story from walk-on to scholarship player is well known at this point. Largie finished the year in a big way once he became a primary contributor and eventual starter. There is really no telling how his numbers would have looked if he had gotten the opportunity earlier in the season. With that said, even if Largie’s game doesn’t expand/improve, the expected increase in minutes puts him in good position to really improve his stats. But stats aside, Largie has continued to win every sprint in practice and somehow looks even more driven than he did as a walk-on just trying to earn minutes. Largie looks confident, lean, and motivated to really help the team this year.

Stat Projections

NAMEPPGRPGAPGSTLBLK
Catto164310
Warren143510
Abaev1110111
Largie103210
Rivers84002
Rainwater75001
Gagliardi63110
Miller Jr52110
Samuels53000
London52110
Rosa31000
Rolon21200
Anderson22000

Schedule

Non Conference

  • 11/25 vs. Florida A&M: 7PM
  • 12/5 vs. Florida National: 7PM
  • 12/12 @ Miami: 12PM
  • 12/16 vs. FIU: 7PM
  • 12/18 vs. Webber International: 7PM
  • 12/22 vs. Georgia Southern: 7PM

Conference

  • 1/1 vs. North Alabama: 7PM
  • 1/2 vs. North Alabama: 7PM
  • 1/8 @ Liberty: 7PM
  • 1/9 @ Liberty: 7PM
  • 1/15 vs. Bellarmine: 7PM
  • 1/16 vs. Bellarmine: 7PM
  • 1/22 @ Lipscomb: TBA
  • 1/23 @ Lipscomb: TBA
  • 2/5 vs. Stetson: 7PM
  • 2/6 vs. Stetson: 7PM
  • 2/12 @ Kennesaw State: 7PM
  • 2/13 @ Kennesaw State: 2PM
  • 2/19 vs. Jacksonville: 7PM
  • 2/20 vs. Jacksonville: 7PM
  • 2/26 @ North Florida: 7PM
  • 2/27 @ North Florida: 7PM

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