By Nicholas Leo
After eight years as an assistant, Blake Selland won his first game at the helm as the Flagler mens basketball team took down Southern Wesleyan last Friday night, 88-73.
Selland has been with the Saints for the last five seasons under Head Coach Chad Warner. Warner took a Division I opportunity this season in South Carolina as a Furman Paladins assistant.
Selland played under Warner for four years at Shorter University before starting his coaching career there as an assistant. Warner, who’d moved on to a recruiting coordinator position at Valparaiso, was still in contact as the Flagler position opened up in 2017.
“We were still really close and he called me up,” Selland said.
Four seasons of being coached by and five seasons of coaching alongside Warner instilled much of him into Selland.
“Just seeing the type of man he is, that I’d like to become one day. With his family, with his faith, and his personality,” said Selland. “It was an everyday thing that I saw from start to finish. He just worked extremely, extremely hard.”
Being a culture-driven guy and knowing what it takes to win with his career 228-154 record, Warner established a winning culture in St. Augustine over the last two seasons going 41-11.
But Selland didn’t feel a sense of pressure following in his footsteps.
“Obviously that’s what everyone wants to do is win, but with a young team, I tell our guys we just need to take a step each day. We have to continue to get better each day, and we did,” Selland said.
The Saints are 2-3, opening the season with losses in Florida Southern’s home opener and at the foot of the number one team in the country at the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
“It was more so encouragement. We knew what test it was when when we were playing down in Lakeland,” he said. “I was just proud of our guys’ fight. We went in there and threw punches. We got punched on a little bit but we definitely went in there throwing punches which is what we wanted to see.”
The team has focused on defensive stops and staying out of foul trouble, as this season they are averaging fewer field goals and free throws attempted than their opponents, along with more fouls committed.
“When we got stops down the stretch in [our wins] we were able to kind of break away from that. And just to have that positive, I tell our guys always, we gotta’ have the tough chin. If we don’t have a tough chin it can be bad. So we always want to keep fighting and have that tough chin.”
The Saints have since gone 2-1, but Selland doesn’t feel they’re getting much credit, and isn’t concerned.
“We don’t have any set goals. We start four sophomores right now, and losing Jalen Barr to a season ending ACL injury was tough, but that is what I love about these guys. They just come in ready to work each and every day. They see who’s next up on the schedule and we’re gonna go after them.”
Flagler looks to get back to .500 with another road trip out of state to face Spring Hill College. They’ll travel to Mobile, Alabama on Saturday at 4 p.m. to take on the 2-0 Badgers.