The Golden Panthers men’s basketball team, under the guidance of Isiah Thomas, is probably going to be a .500 team this season. You have to read our coverage at fiusm.com to really get the low down.
Here is our team preview, by yours truly:
By: Jonathan Ramos
Regardless of what Isiah Thomas accomplishes at FIU, the questions will always be brought up.
So when a member of the press brought up Thomas’ frenzied summer that included flirtations with another NBA job and constant rumors on the team’s media day Nov. 4, Thomas had a simple answer.
“I understood why everyone else has questions but my answer to all those questions was, as long as I’m in the gym I’m fine,” Thomas said. “For me, my lifestyle, I like to ride the bike, I like to swim and I like to go to the gym. I don’t care what city or state that’s in, if I’m allowed to do those three things, I’m good.”
It wasn’t always that simple.
The uncertainty around Thomas’ devotion to FIU are accentuated when he spoke to the Chicago Tribune last spring about how the University of DePaul can succeed and his love for his hometown. It was also fueled when reports surfaced about him being a candidate for a vacancy with the Los Angeles Clippers. Most of all, the flurry around Thomas was as ardent as ever when he accepted a job as a consultant for the New York Knicks this summer, a plan that was foiled by the NBA due to conflict of interest issues between the league and the NCAA.
But as it turned out, Thomas wasn’t ready to leave FIU just yet, at least for a consultant gig.
“With the NBA, I was very clear about what I wanted to do. I wanted to have the opportunity to continue building what we were doing here at FIU, and also if I could be a consultant with the Knicks, I would do that, and I would happily do that,” Thomas said. “When the choice was presented, either be a consultant with the Knicks, or stay at FIU. Now, if you would have told me that at the start of the summer, I probably would have bet you that I wouldn’t have made the choice to come back to FIU. I’m excited about what we’re building. Again, when the choice was presented I chose the kids and I chose FIU and I’m glad I did.”
A lot of people probably would have been losing money on that bet, and just a day after those statements, Thomas reiterated in an interview with ESPNnewyork.com that he thinks about replacing the aging Donnie Walsh as president of the Knicks ‘every single day of the week.’
Thomas, however, is living in the moment.
While the thought of returning to the NBA remains in his mind, there isn’t any hesitation in his excitement when he describes what he is building the Golden panthers into.
Although two of Thomas’ top recruits will not be eligible to play the fall for undisclosed reasons, FIU will have something that they sorely lacked last season: legitimate size.
Center Brandon Moore is eligible to play this season after transferring from Arkansas, and power forward Eric Frederick comes from Highland Community College to immediately bolster the Golden Panthers inside.
“This is a big step up from what we had last year with our big men,” point guard Phil Gary said. “We gained like four of five inches from our big men so it’s going to help. We got Brandon who is a great shot blocker and Erick who is a great post player on the inside and can hurt you outside.”
Last season, FIU was forced to play 6-foot-6 small forward Marlon Bright at center, with 6-foot-7 small forward J.C Otero also spending more time in the post then he ever had. FIU was second to last in the SBC in rebounding differentials and were last in blocked shots, a big part of why they went 7-25 in their 2009-2010 season. Moore, a 6-foot-10 talented shot blocker, and Frederick, listed at 6-foot-8, a 250-pound bruising rebounder, will automatically improve FIU inside.
In addition, Frederick provides a smooth combination of power and skill on offense, where he has shown good range for his position in his face-up game, and the force to get good position in the paint frequently. That should open up the floor for players Thomas is depending on to knock down outside shots like Stephon Weaver, Dejuan Wright, Marvin Roberts, and Alex Legion, a transfer from Illinois who will be eligible in the spring.
SETTING THE BLUEPRINT
“We lost some games last year because we wanted to implement a style in practice playing a certain way,” Thomas said. “We shot the three ball, we pressed and we trapped a lot. We did a lot of things we probably shouldn’t have done. Looking at the long term vision of what we’re trying to build I thought it was more important to establish that foundation as opposed to maybe winning three or four more games.”
With added size, Thomas hopes that his emphasis on defense begins to show results, outside of steals.
“Last year we didn’t have the size to play the way that we were trying to play,” Thomas said. “We should have slowed the ball down, we should have played a lot more zone and we shouldn’t have taken as many threes as we took. That being said, we ended up being the No. 1 team in our conference in terms of steals. We established a certain style of defensive aggressiveness that I like to play with.”
About the Author
Written by Jay Ramos