Men’s basketball preview

The team plans to run its way to improving on its 17-45 record from the past two seasons.


Men’s: Coach Michael Curry addresses his team during a timeout in last year’s 78-66 loss against Old Dominion. Mohammed F. Emran | Staff Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

The players lined up under the basket, with their hands on their knees gasping for air. Sweat dripped down to the hardwood court as 18 seconds were added to the clock.

Florida Atlantic looked to be in the middle of its hardest-fought battle, yet no opponent graced the court at FAU Arena that early November night.

Head coach Michael Curry stood courtside as half of his team stepped up to the baseline, shifted their weight into a runners stance, and awaited the call.

They proceeded to run to half court and back, then the full length of the court and back, in 18 seconds.

Their reward?

An 18-second break while the other half of the team runs.

“If you don’t get back, you let everybody down,” Curry yelled during the second set of runs.

His message was simple. Get back on defense and don’t make your teammates pick up the slack.

During the previous practice, players failed to get back on defense eight times, sophomore forward Jeantal Cylla said.

“We have a policy, you have to get back on defense,” he said. “Last practice it was unacceptable … [not] getting back, that’s giving the other team a chance to make a layup. So we have 18 seconds to make it down and back.”

Those 18-second sprints are just part of the conditioning the team is facing this season. The purpose is to get the team in prime conditioning shape, in hopes of being able to fit into Curry’s ideal playing style.

The current team offers the personnel needed to play a fast-paced game that did not complement Curry’s roster in his first two years as coach.

“I came in with ideas of how I wanted to play, but I didn’t think we had the personnel to play that way, so I adjusted to the personnel,” Curry said. “So we kind of played more possession basketball, a little slower than I would’ve liked.”

The slower tempo led to few turnovers on defense — the Owls forced the fourth fewest in Conference USA a season ago — as well the conference’s second lowest-scoring offense.

Hoping to improve on those marks this year, Curry says his team will be more up-tempo and more aggressive defensively. One of the team’s goals is to score 80 points per game, a 13.7 jump from last year’s average.

Running and conditioning is the flight path the Owls are choosing to reach their goal.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s hard,” Cylla said of early-season conditioning. “But we look forward to it because the team that’s in better shape has a higher percentage of winning.”

Cylla, who is one of four returning starters, will be relied on to help reach that 80-point goal. He started his freshman season on the slower side — though he scored 18 points in his second collegiate game, he only averaged 5.6 points per game in his first 12.

The freshman later began to find his rhythm, averaging nine points per game over the next six games before exploding onto the scene with 47 points in two games against UTEP and UTSA.

Over the final 13 games, Cylla averaged 14.1 points per game.

“Last year in the beginning, I was a little timid, a little freshman,” the sophomore said. “But I got to get to know to the game a little bit more, got a little confidence … I want to be able to continue the momentum I had, the confidence to go through my whole sophomore year.”

Joining Cylla in the starting lineup again this season will be sophomore guard Nick Rutherford and junior center Ronald Delph.

Delph — a 7-footer who led last year’s team in blocks, rebounds and points per game — had to sit out the first half of last season due to transfer rules. This season he will be tasked with providing the Owls with an interior presence on both sides of the ball and is eager to play right away.

“This year I’m coming in first half of the season trying to set a tone,” Delph said. “It’s going to be better because I don’t have to find a rhythm in the middle of the season.”

New to the starting lineup will be junior guard Frank Booker — who had to sit out last season after transferring from Oklahoma — and junior forward William Pfister.

Booker will join Rutherford and senior guard Adonis Filer as the team’s captains. Filer, a starter on last year’s team, will take on the new role of being the first man off the bench.

“Our thing is, what’s going to get everybody to be the most effective?” Curry asked. “One of the things we always said is that guy coming off the bench, that backup point guard, has to be aggressive and has to be able to shoot the ball with good efficiency.”

Last season that role belonged to Marquan Botley, who led the team in points on five separate occasions. Filer, who scored the most points in 11 games a year ago, will bring experience to a second unit that will feature three newcomers to this year’s team.

Surrounding him with shooters like junior Gerdarius Troutman, who shot 52.6 percent from the 3-point line last year at Gordon State College and freshman forward Jailyn Ingram, who scored over 2,000 points during his high school career, will allow Filer to be more aggressive driving the ball to the basket, helping the team reach its goal of 80 points per game, which comes back to tempo.

“We got to play faster, we got to score more points,” Cylla said. “If you score 80 points, majority of the time you’re going to win, so that’s been the goal this year. You got to play faster for 80.”

The 80-point goal is how the team sees itself reaching its ultimate goal, a conference championship. That goal is something that other coaches in Conference USA don’t see feasible, as FAU was picked to finish 12th out of 14 teams.

Curry said he didn’t really care about the rankings, and thinks that his players shouldn’t either.

“I was here, I got my tail kicked, so I don’t need a reminder,” said the coach. “What we try to do with our guys too is not needing anything for motivation other than the fact that you’re competing.”

His players apparently didn’t read anything into the rankings either. Cylla said that the goal is still a championship and his center agreed.

“I think that’s the only thing that can make [this season] a success, honestly,” Delph said.

The Owls season will begin with three games in Hawaii, the first against Texas State on Friday, Nov. 11, at 10 p.m.

Key Departures:

Jackson Trapp: The Orlando native guard started 42-of-60 games in his first two years at FAU. As a junior and senior, Trapp started all 59 of the Owls games. He led last year’s team in minutes played, 3-pointers made and capped off a 24-point comeback victory with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Marquan Botley: Often facing early deficits, Botley became a spark off the bench, igniting the team with his microwave-quick ability to heat up. He scored 24 points in the lone conference tournament win.


Nov. 11 vs. Texas State in Honolulu, Hawaii

Nov. 13 vs. Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville in Honolulu

Nov. 15 at Hawaii

Nov. 20 vs. Edward Waters

Nov. 22 vs. South Florida

Nov. 29 at Tennessee-Martin

Dec. 3 vs. Hofstra

Dec. 6 at Ohio State

Dec. 16 at Miami

Dec. 21 vs. Webber International

Dec. 28 vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Dec. 31 vs. Western Kentucky

Jan. 2 vs. Marshall

Jan. 7 vs. Florida International

Jan. 12 at Texas – San Antonio

Jan. 14 at Texas – El Paso

Jan. 19 vs. Alabama – Birmingham

Jan. 21 vs. Middle Tennessee

Jan. 26 at Florida International

Feb. 2 at Charlotte

Feb. 4 at Old Dominion

Feb. 9 vs. North Texas

Feb. 11 vs. Rice

Feb. 16 at Louisiana Tech

Feb. 18 at Southern Miss

Feb. 23 vs. Texas – El Paso

Feb. 25 vs. Texas – San Antonio

March 2 at Alabama – Birmingham

March 4 at Middle Tennessee

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @feeney42.