FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - It’s been eight months since Florida Gulf Coast played a basketball game, a drought that guard Brett Comer described as feeling like forever.
Add a year to forever.
That’s what many of his teammates have dealt with.
When FGCU - the “Dunk City” crew that made the scintillating NCAA tournament run in 2013 and are heavy favorites to represent the Atlantic Sun Conference in that field again this year - opens its season on Saturday afternoon against Nova Southeastern, it’ll be the first game in nearly two years for many of the Eagles who had to sit out the 2013-14 campaign because of rules regarding transfers.
To say that group is raring to go is an understatement.
“It’s game time. I’m excited,” said guard Julian DeBose, a transfer from Rice. “Oh, I’m extremely excited to get out there, to play, to win, to compete, to support my team. I’m ready to feel the love again.”
It’s been a while. DeBose hasn’t played in a win since Jan. 30, 2013.
Brian Greene Jr., another now-cleared transfer from Auburn, last was part of a victory on Feb. 6, 2013. There’s six eligible transfers in all - Demetris Morant transferred from UNLV, Marc-Eddy Norelia from Tulane, Eric Moeller is at his third school in as many years and Nick Pellar arrived from Auburn.
For the most part, transfers sat on the end of the bench last year for home games, unable to travel with the team. They practiced like regular players, just without the game-night payoff of competition.
“All I could do last year was watch games,” Greene Jr. said. “It really helped me a lot. It really helped my IQ of basketball sitting out, just observing. I see the game slower now. I see a play ahead now, maybe two plays ahead. I know the defensive principles now. I understand more. I can dissect the game of basketball.”
The NCAA tournament trip came with some unplanned bonuses for the school, including a massive jump in applications from high schoolers who probably in some case had never heard of FGCU before that Sweet 16 run. It also raised the visibility for those already in college who weren’t happy with their situations at the time.
Put it this way: Without that success, some of the transfers playing at FGCU now likely wouldn’t be in Fort Myers.
“You never know if I would have come down here,” Greene Jr. said. “I wasn’t going for a name at all. I was looking for the best fit. The best name, a big school, that didn’t matter to me anymore.”
FGCU has three returning starters, including Bernard Thompson (15.1 ppg) and Comer, the point guard with 609 assists in his first three seasons. There’s five other returnees, one incoming freshman and the six transfers.
An interesting blend, for certain.
“Players want opportunity to play, opportunity to win and an opportunity to develop,” FGCU coach Joe Dooley said. “The year off helps a lot of these guys. And I wanted to have class balance. You don’t want to go through a year where you lose six guys and have to replace that many.”
DeBose said he isn’t certain how well he’ll sleep on Friday, considering that for the first time in about 600 nights he’ll be drifting off with the knowledge that there’s a game to play the next day.
The long wait is finally ending.
“It definitely felt like infinity away,” DeBose said.
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