By Matthew Pagels | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Flagler College men’s basketball team will travel northwest Monday to open the 2013-14 season at Florida State University in an exhibition game. The game will be played at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
This is the third time Flagler has opened up with an exhibition game against a major NCAA Division I opponent, according to Flagler College athletics site. The last time they played a team of this caliber was Nov. 7, 2011, when the Saints took on North Carolina State University.
“This is a great experience for our players,” said Bo Clark, who enters his 28th year as head coach of the Saints. “This is a chance for our players to get a taste of the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
The Saints have churned out a completely new roster going into the season. They will look to rely upon five transfers and a handful of freshmen in order to lead them to their first winning season in six years (their last coming in the 2007-08 season).
“I believe we have some very talented transfers who will really make us a better basketball team,” assistant coach Jaycob “Buzz” Ammerman said. “This team is made up of high energy guys who want to get better everyday.”
New faces include Keith Matthews, Lydell Manigo, Dennis Diaz, Jerrell Oxendine, Kessler Bell and redshirt freshman Austin Howard. Freshmen Sebastien Pollack, Nick Ronquette and Matt Menezes came in as walk-ons. Ammerman says Keith Matthews, who transferred from Fairfield, “has D-I talent and will be a big addition for our team.”
There are only four returning players to this year’s roster. Of the returnees, junior center Adam Jones and senior guard Richard Brown have been named captains.
“Adam is very knowledgeable of the game,” Ammerman said. “He is a very good passer and one of our best shooters as our center.”
According to a poll released by conference officials, the Saints were picked to finish 12th in the 14-tean Peach Belt Conference, but that doesn’t stop Ammerman from having high hopes for the upcoming season.
“We have a very good core makeup of players,” Ammerman said. “Now we need to just improve everyday and keep getting our chemistry as a team better.”
Flagler finished in fifth place in the Peach Belt Conference East division with a 7-12 record (11-15 overall) last season. Two high-profile players are no longer with the team, as second-team All-PBC forward Ante Gospic graduated, and former guard Matt Clark transferred to Lee University. They were the only two players from the Saints who ranked in the top 10 of at least six statistical categories, including points per game, total rebounds, three-point shooting percentage and field-goal percentage.
With Gospic and Clark gone, 21-year-old junior guard Dennis Diaz looks to help make a big impact for a team now in need of a leader.
“He brings a lot of leadership and scoring ability to our team,” Ammerman said.
The 6-foot-3 California product transferred to Flagler from Stetson University, where he played his first two seasons as a Hatter. He was a three-time all-state selection at DeLand High, and has the “veteran” experience of a Division I player, which bodes well for a young team in transition like the Saints.
“I came to play at Flagler because of the program they have here,” Diaz said. “It was a great step for me to make, to play a lot and do well.”
Photo by Dyann Busse