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Transfers will be the key to Florida Gulf Coast University’s men’s basketball becoming a serious contender



FGCU men's basketball head coach Michael Fly enters his fourth season with two additional seasons added to his contract, making it go through the 2023-24 season.

Michael Fly-era FGCU’s men’s basketball rosters have been a revolving door.

In his three first seasons, 19 Eagles players did not complete their Eagles time. While four of the 19 players who transferred to Eagles were not eligible last season, two others are using “COVID years” granted by NCAA for an additional year of eligibility.

Fly is hoping to surpass the 34-48 record he had in his first three seasons as the head coach.

Fly and The Eagles are able to take comfort from the optimism evident in nearly every college basketball team at this point of the year.

The 2021-22 roster includes five Division I transferees including TCU’s Kevin Samuel, who is 6-foot-11 and a Southwest Florida Christian graduate.

Fly said, “It’s important that you are old in college basketball.” Our group has only one freshman, a Richmond transfer Andre Weir, on the roster. Andre is only a sophomore and has been playing college basketball for about a year.

Jalen Warren (Illinois-Chicago), Justus Rainwater (Northern Arizona), Qwanzi Samuels (George Washington) and Dom London (Maryland-Eastern Shore) are all gone, with Warren and Rainwater using a COVID year. Eli Abaev was also eligible for an extra season, but he signed to be a professional overseas player.

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Continue reading:Basketball practice begins for the 2021-22 season: FGCU basketball men and women are optimistic

Fly and Eagles have to blend the past and present in order for them to merge into one. It’s a winning combination, beginning with Tuesday night’s opening against Florida National at Alico Arena at 7:30 pm.

Fly stated that they have seen and experienced many things, which is something you can’t expect from freshmen or sophomores. “Even the players returning, Caleb, Cyrus, and Dakota are seniors. Cyrus and Dakota were two-year starters and juniors, respectively. Experience and age are likely strengths.

Is that the best way to gain knowledge from such an experience?” And by that I mean part of experience is making mistakes, and how the guys have been through both winning and losing, and ups and downs of a basketball career, are they going to take the hard lessons they’ve learned and we make sure we don’t have to learn those same hard lessons?”

Fly is trying get everyone to concentrate on the important attribute of winning. Every newcomer has experienced individual success. They will all benefit from the hard work they put in to winning the team.

“We have a lot of new guys, so just excited to get to kind of through my last year with these guys,” said Catto, a senior who is ramping up his activity after offseason hip surgery. It’s been great. These guys are great on and off the courts, so it’s been fun.

Fly stated, “When you win everyone eats.”

The FGCU men have five Division I transfers, but also several key returnees from last season, so meshing those two together will be crucial.

1. There is no COVID repetition?

This is a huge No. It’s a No.1 for all, but it was a major no.1 in basketball. A pair of stoppages due to positive testing caused Eagles to lose their 2020-21 season.

FGCU had a record of 5-2 at the time the first occurred, but they were just winning a pair conference games that would have taken them to.500 for the ASUN. The second one was a disaster. To make matters worse, they lost another game to end their season and faced another threat that could have ended their chances of playing in the ASUN Tournament.

FGCU was able to play eight out of sixteen conference games, and only 18 in total. Teams play 30 to 31 overall in a normal season.

It’s a reminder to the returning players, “You know what happened last year.” Fly explained that regardless of what it was, the group felt that this season had been a failure. “We didn’t reach any crescendo and potential so we are open to all threats, COVID or not. Fly said, “Hey guys! We went through a wasteful season last year. “We cannot repeat that.”

Cyrus Largie, Caleb Catto, Dakota Rivers and Luis Rolon lead the returnees from last season's 10-8 team.

2. Flying for long-term

Despite the 34-48 record in three seasons, Fly was given a two-year contract extension in the offseason. This would have been Fly’s final year under his contract.

Earlier in the fall when asked about the extension, AD Ken Kavanagh said he liked the direction of the program, on and off the court, and felt like Fly, that last year’s 10-8 season was going to be a more-positive one without the two COVID-19 shutdowns as reasons he was comfortable with the extension. Fly and the Eagles also won at Miami last season for their first road win at a Power 5 school.

So that means Fly’s contract goes through the 2023-24 season.

With two assistant coaches, he will enter this program. Kevin Sutton Jr. and Orin Bailey Jr. will replace Donnie Marsh who left for Detroit Mercy and Joey Cantens who took over as the Daytona State head coach.

Fly stated that both Fly and Cantens received great opportunities. Coach Cantens is now a great head coach, which is a tremendous honor for him. Coach Marsh is closer to both his son and his daughter geographically, which I think is very important to him. They did an amazing job with our program.

It was hard work. They put in three years of a ton of blood, sweat and tears, and we didn’t feel like, again, because of COVID more often than not, that we were able to see the fruits of our labor, really.”

Sutton is a Rhode Island native with 13 years of college experience. He was there for three seasons. As an assistant, he has worked at Georgetown and George Washington as well as Old Dominion and James Madison. From 2004 to 2011, he was the head coach of Montverde high school basketball, where Fly, who was then a Florida State video coordinator, met him.

Fly stated that Coach Sutton has a lot of energy. Fly said, “Coach Sutton is very high energy.” My loud. I don’t ever have to worry about being the only loud voice in the gym with Coach Sutton. There is a level of comfort. Our friendship has been going on for more than ten years.”

Bailey has coaching experience in AAU and high school, but he is already a big name as the leading recruiter for Samuel’s arrival in Fort Myers.

Fly stated, “I believe both of these guys bring a great deal to the table.”

Members of the FGCU menÕs team including Kevin Samuel, center right, and Caleb Catto practice at Alico Arena on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

3. There are many important pieces that go back

Largie (13.4% ppg), Catto (13.3 ppg), are the Eagles’ top scorers. Rivers returns (6.9 points per game, 3.3 rebound, 35 blocks), and Rolon (a sophomore point guard who missed much the season because of knee surgery) also return.

Anderson (4.2 rpg) and guards Miller Jr. (5.7 ppg) and Victor Rosa are back, as is the 6-10 freshman Weir, who transferred from Richmond at the semester break last year and did not play.

Sixty-three percent of scoring was done by returners, and 58% of rebounding took place over last year. Rolon was also the Eagles’ leader in assists, with 57. He played in only 11 games.

Kevin Samuel, a 6-11 transfer from TCU, leads five Division I transfers. Samuel was named the ASUN Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

4. Experienced but new

The Eagles’  five transfers have a total of 407 games of Division I experience — Western Carolina guard Matt Halvorsen (121) and Duquesne guard Tavian Dunn-Martin (116) have 237 combined. Comparatively, seven of the returnees have played 248 games in Division I.

Two other forwards are Carlos Rosario (McNeese state) and Austin Richie(Tulsa).

Samuel spoke highly of the experience gained from the transfer process. It gives us an entirely new experience. There are many talented men in our group. Our experience has taken us through many different scenarios. It’s something we have experienced and learnt.

Samuel brings the most impressive resumé of the five transfers, who all contribute different strengths. Samuel was the ASUN Preseason Defender of the Year. He had 95 starts and set a school record with 206 blocked shots in his three-year tenure at TCU. He had an average of 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and led the Big 12 with blocks twice.

Samuel stated, “It has been great to come here so far.” We’ve worked hard on building that chemistry both on and off the court. It’s important to be able to do that throughout the season.

Halvorsen, who finished last season with 297 3-pointers in his career, became the Catamounts’ all-time leader in 3-pointers. His career high of 12.1 points was achieved last season when he made 83 3-pointers and shot 38.5% percent from beyond the arc.

Dunn-Martin was a freshman at Akron and his last three years at Duquesne. He was the Atlantic 10 Sixth Man Of The Year for 2018-19. In the last two seasons, Dunn-Martin has averaged 10.2 per game.

Last year, McNeese State’s second-leading scorer was 6-8 Rosario. He averaged 10.0 points and 5.8 rebounds. The 6-6 Richie started 11 of 23 games for Tulsa last year, averaging 6.7 points and 2.1 rebounds.

Catto stated that the transfer experience would be “remarkable” for him. “It’s kind of cool because a lot of the new guys are seniors. Each of us has had our own journeys. For some, it will be interesting to share the same experience in senior year with others.

FGCU basketball teams celebrate the Hoops and Halloween event on Friday night, Oct. 29, 2021.

5. Home heavy schedule

FGCU only has five of 14 non-conference games on the road, and three of those — at Loyola Chicago on Nov. 13, at Robert Morris on Dec. 11, and at Canisius on Dec. 22 — are outside the state.

Also, the Eagles will host Atlantic 10 Power Rhode Island. There is also a tournament that takes place after Thanksgiving. This includes Western Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana and Purdue Fort Wayne. Dartmouth, former ASUN champion Mercer are all included.

Of course, the big one is Tuesday, Nov. 16  against USC, an Elite Eight team last year coached by none other than Andy Enfield, the architect of the Dunk City team that will be honored at halftime, and at a ceremony the night before as part of the inaugural FGCU Athletics Hall of Fame. 

Fly said that it was important to let your team know that you may lose one or more games due to a tough time. Fly used advice from Enfield coach Leonard Hamilton at FSU. Part of the solution is understanding that each day we must improve and continue to win more games. The season’s win-loss record will be compared to the start.

The ASUN saw the Eagles finish in sixth place according to coaches, and seventh according to media. There are two divisions in the league with new schools Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky joining the mix. Fly hopes that the two latter two will become contenders. An additional round is also available in the ASUN tournament.

Fly declared, “Liberty got everyone back.” “Bellarmine almost has everybody back. Lipscomb has almost everyone back. It’s a great league.”

We will see how great the Eagles are. But the pieces seem to be there.

Greg Hardwig, a sports journalist for The News-Press and Naples Daily News is Greg Hardwig. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at

FGCU men’s basketball roster 2021-22

Dakota Rivers F 6-8 Junior

1 Luis Rolon G 2 Soph.

2 Caleb Catto G 6-5 Sr.

3 Franco Miller Jr.

4 Cyrus Largie G 6-3 Jr.

5 Tavian Dunn-Martin G 5-8 Gr.

10 Zach Anderson F 6-7 Soph.

11 Matt Halvorsen G 6-1 Gr.

13 Victor Rosa G 6-5 Soph.

15 Andre Weir C 6-10 Fr.

20 Chance Jackson F 6-6 Jr.

21 Kevin Samuel C 6-11 Sr.

23 Carlos Rosario F 6-8 Jr.

32 Austin Richie G 6-6 Sr.

44 Kyle Riemenschneider F 6-5 Soph.

51 Lenny Ricca G 6-2 Jr.

Schedule 2021-22 FGCU men’s basketball

Tuesday, Nov. 9 — Florida National, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 13 — at Loyola Chicago, 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 16 — USC, 6 p.m. (Dunk City Reunion) (ESPNU)

Sunday, Nov. 21 — Eckerd, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 23 — Rhode Island, 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 26 — Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Invitational, vs. Western Michigan, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 27 — Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Invitational, vs. Southeastern Louisiana, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 28 — Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Invitational, vs. Purdue Fort Wayne, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 1 — at FIU, Miami, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 4 — Dartmouth, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 7 — at Florida A&M, Tallahassee, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11 — at Robert Morris, Moon Township, Pa., 7 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 19 — Mercer, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 22 — at Canisius, Buffalo, N.Y., 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 4 — *North Florida, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 8 — *at Jacksonville, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 11 — *at Kennesaw State, Kennesaw, Ga., 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 15 — * Liberty, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 18 — *at Stetson, DeLand, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 22 — *at Jacksonville State, Jacksonville, Ala., 5 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 27 — *Eastern Kentucky, 5 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 29 — *Bellarmine, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 3 — *at Central Arkansas, Conway, Ark., 8:45 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 5 — *at Lipscomb, Nashville, 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 9 — *North Alabama, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 12 — *Stetson, 4 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 16 — *Kennesaw State, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 19 — *at North Florida, Jacksonville, 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 23 — *at Liberty, Lynchburg, Va., 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 26 — *Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

ASUN Tournament

Tuesday, March 1 — first round, at higher seed

Thursday, March 3 — Quarterfinals, at higher seed 

Saturday, March 5 — Semifinals, at higher seed

Tuesday, March 8 — Championship at higher seed

* — ASUN Conference game

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