By Devon Jeffreys| firstname.lastname@example.org
With what may be the biggest game — in terms of hype — in school history behind them, the Flagler Saints men’s basketball team now focuses on what’s in front of them: the 2007-2008 season.
The Saints lost their first exhibition game of the season to the Florida Gators 97-51, but the regular season starts Nov. 15 against Trinity College at Flagler Gym.
“Florida is not going to be a true gauge of how good we are,” Coach Bo Clark said. “It’ll be the Rollins and Florida Southern and Saint Leo games, and that’ll be a transition, too.”
Flagler finished last season at 14-13 in their first year in the NCAA.
“I thought last year was semi-successful,” Clark said. “I would have liked to have won more games, but every coach says that. I think last year, with the schedule we played, I thought it was successful.”
Last season ended in Fort Myers where Flagler lost both of its games in the National Independent Tournament.
“It was a huge change coming from NAIA to NCAA, but I think it was just a growing process,” senior forward Bryan Borstelmann said. “We had some guys that weren’t on this level yet, but that’s starting to change now and the program is headed in the right direction.”
The Saints continue their transition to NCAA Div. II this season, with tougher competition and a schedule with fewer NAIA teams and more NCAA teams.
In the absence of departed senior Sam Jozenville, Borstelmann, the team’s only senior, will play a key role all around for the Saints.
“I think Bryan is probably in the best shape he has been in, in four years,” Clark said. “He did some training in the summer and I think that really helped his foot speed both defensively and offensively.”
Borstelmann is in his fourth year starting for the Saints and is the only remaining player that went to the NAIA National Tournament. He enters this season just four points shy of 1,000 for his career.
Also returning for the Saints are Ben De La Cruz and J.P. Clark who join Borstelmann as the team’s co-captains.
De La Cruz, a sophomore, averaged 10.3 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game last season as a freshman starting all 27 of Flagler’s games.
“We’ve got a good core of guys coming back and some new guys to pick up some slack in some spots,” De La Cruz said.
After injuries plagued him his first two seasons, J.P. started 20 of the team’s 27 games last season and averaged 11.1 points per game.
Entering this year, Coach Clark said J.P. was the healthiest he has been since coming to Flagler, but J.P. suffered a hamstring injury in the Florida game.
“He tried to gut it out in the second half, but he just didn’t have it in terms of that, so we’ll have to get that checked,” Clark said.
The Saints will run an up-tempo offense this season that will involve every player on the floor.
“We are going to use nine to ten guys with the way we’re going to play,” Clark said. “I think the fans will really enjoy the passing that this team does. We’ve got a little Phoenix Suns to us with the passing. I’m really impressed with the unselfishness in the way they’ve played.”
Leading this up-tempo offense will be freshman point guard D.J. Ferguson. Ferguson comes to Flagler from Coach Clark’s alma mater Bishop Moore in Orlando.
“D.J. really handles the ball well and makes good decisions,” Clark said.
Ferguson averaged 17 points per game and eight assists per game for Bishop Moore and will fill the hole left by former guard Lee Wise.
“We’re pushing the ball every chance we get,” Ferguson said. “That’s what coach likes to do. That’s what I like to do. That’s the way I played at AAU, so it’s easy to fit in.”
Rounding out the Saints starting five will be junior college transfer Lyndon Merthie. Merthie will try to fill the shoes left at the forward position by Jozenville.
“He can pick up that slack because he’s a better shooter from the outside,” De La Cruz said. “He’s still a big time scorer like Sam was.”
Though De La Cruz, Borstelmann, Clark, Ferguson and Merthie are the official starting five, Clark says that may change as the year moves forward.
“I think we’re going to be subbing a lot more this year,” Clark said. “We are going to play up-tempo. With the talent that we have and the shooting that we do, I think that’s the best thing to do.”