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2011-12 Blue Ribbon Preview - Florida Gulf Coast
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2011-12 Blue Ribbon Preview - Florida Gulf Coast
Team preview: Florida Gulf Coast
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COACH AND PROGRAM

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Last Season 10-20 (.333)
Conference Record 7-13 (7th)
Starters Lost/Returning 3/2
Coach Andy Enfield (Johns Hopkins '91)
Record At School First year
Career Record First year
RPI Last 5 years N/A-290-310-320-281

Andy Enfield is just the second coach in Florida Gulf Coast history after the departure of Dave Balza. Balza shepherded the fledgling program through its first nine seasons as it transitioned into the Division I ranks and finally into full-fledged status in the Atlantic Sun.

This is the first year the Eagles will be eligible to play in the conference's postseason tournament. Now the question becomes if they're good enough to make it, as only the top eight teams in A-Sun convene in Macon, Ga., to decide the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Enfield would have inherited a roster with a modicum of talent, but arguably FGCU's top two players decided to transfer. Forward Anthony Banks (14.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), the Eagles' leading scorer and a second-team all-league pick, and point guard Marlon Rivera (6.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.4 apg) have left the program.

"Any coaching change will be expected to have some players move on to a different university, and we were no different," Enfield said. "I won't get into whose decision it was, but it's natural to have some players leave. We invited everyone to stay. We went through workouts in spring and summer and then certain players left. I'm sure they will be very successful at their new schools."

PLAYERS

Because of the attrition, Enfield will face his first season with seven newcomers to the program. In the long haul, that might be the best thing for a new coach, but in the short term it could make for a rough season against the longtime powers in the A-Sun.

Enfield says he's adapting to his new role head coach. He worked the last five seasons on Leonard Hamilton's staff at Florida State, and before that he had spent time as a shooting coach in the NBA.

"I saw this as a great opportunity for a few reasons," Enfield said. "The school is relatively brand new; it's just its 15th year in existence. The athletic department just went D-I five years ago. It's exciting. It's the opportunity to build a program.

"And then it being in the state of Florida was an important piece. Since I was at FSU for five years, I'm very familiar with the state and the Southeast. And I thought we could do something similar to what we did at FSU, where we have strong regional ties in recruiting, but I also think we can recruit nationally. Our entire roster will not be made up of Florida kids."

Indeed, the newcomers span the United States and even the globe, with one signee from Croatia.

Enfield will attempt to assemble them around a decent returning cast. Swiss guard Christophe Varidel (11.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg) made the A-Sun All-Freshman team, proving that his international experience could translate. The 6-2 sophomore will be counted on to keep defenses honest; last season he led the team with 78 three-pointers.

"He's one of the better shooters in the league," Enfield said. "We expect him to contribute in a big way on offense."

Sherwood Brown (7.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg), a 6-4 junior, rounds out the backcourt. He's an all-court player whom Enfield envisions in a variety of roles.

"Sherwood can play multiple positions," Enfield said. "He had a great offseason, and our coaching staff expects him to have a breakout season.

"He does a lot of things. He's a good athlete, plays hard, good shooter. He improved his rip-through moves on the perimeter, and he's a good rebounder for his size. He's tough. He brings a lot. He's good at a lot of different things and has a chance to be great at a few things."

The frontcourt has a couple of returning players, too. Kevin Cantinol (6.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is a 6-10 center who is the Eagles' leading returning rebounder. Enfield says Cantinol, who started his college career at Ole Miss, is really the only post player on his roster, so the big man will need to eat up some minutes.

"Kevin should be one of the better centers in our league this season," Enfield said. "He has improved his conditioning and touch around the basket. If he gets it four- to five feet from the basket, he's tough to stop."

Chase Fieler (5.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is a 6-8 sophomore forward who's a face-up guy on the offensive end. He's a decent perimeter shooter, and Enfield likes his potential as a defender.

The returning players have a clean slate with Enfield.

"I have not watched any film on last year yet," he said. "I wanted to come in with an open mind, no preconceived views of players' strengths or weaknesses. I wanted to give each player a fresh chance to impress our coaching staff and to work hard in the offseason.

"I'll watch some game film from last year as we get closer to the season to see different things they did offensively or defensively to see what might fit with what we're doing. I want to evaluate with my own eyes and not based on last year."

Even though the returning players have played significant minutes, there are plenty of minutes to be had for Enfield's first recruiting class. Don't be surprised if a starter or two come out of the group.

One probably will be Brett Comer (Winter ParkHS/Winter Park, Fla.), a 6-3 point guard. Enfield doesn't really have any other true point guards on the roster, and the coach is high on Comer anyway.

"Brett has good size for a point and is athletic," Enfield said. "His main weakness in high school was perimeter shooting, which he's working hard to correct. He plays usually the hardest of anyone on the floor. He plays reckless sometimes, so I hope he stays healthy. He's what this program needs with how hard he players and his leadership ability."

Comer could be joined by 6-3 wing Bernard Thompson (Rockdale County HS/Rockdale, Ga.) to form an all-freshman backcourt.

"Bernard is just a basketball player," Enfield said. "He does so many things that affect the game, on both ends. He's got a 6-8 wingspan, gets his hands on a lot of balls, deflections. Offensively, he's very crafty with the ball and very explosive in transition and has improved his perimeter shooting."

The other freshmen to watch are guard Dante Holmes (St. Francis HS/Baltimore) and Filip Cvjeticanin, a 6-9 Croatian. Holmes is 6-3, 180 and has the kind of toughness you expect out of a player who learned the game in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. He has an explosive first step and might be the Eagles' best on-ball defender.

Cvjeticanin can shoot for a big man, and the coaches say he's a sponge for information. Interestingly, his father was on the great Yugoslavian National Teams that won Olympic silver medals in 1988 and 1992. Danko Cvjeticanin played with such NBA stars as Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic and Dino Radja.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B-
BENCH/DEPTH: D
FRONTCOURT: C+
INTANGIBLES: C

Enfield says he wants his teams to press and speed up the tempo. That strategy might be better served when he has a roster with more depth and talent.

Expect the Eagles to muddy up games and try to squeeze out some wins with defense. FSU's calling card has been its man-to-man defense, and Enfield said he plans to bring the same principles to FGCU.

Because of roster turnover and so many newcomers, it's hard to imagine anything but a rough start to the Enfield era. But the fact so many freshmen will see significant minutes could pay off in the not-too-distant future.
10-26-2011 07:20 PM
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