MACON, Ga. – Coming off an unprecedented 2012-13 season, the FGCU men’s basketball team has been predicted to continue its success as it was lauded as the preseason favorite in both the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches Poll and A-Sun Media Poll, as announced by league officials Thursday. Individually, junior Bernard Thompson was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year, while classmate Brett Comer and senior Chase Fieler were named unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team.
Additionally, Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) was voted the Preseason Player of the Year by the fans, and Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) also landed a spot on the 10-member all-league team and was the Fan-Voted Defensive Player of the Year. FGCU is the only team in the conference with multiple unanimous selections, while only the Eagles and USC Upstate have three members each on the squad.
FGCU (95 points) edged out defending A-Sun regular-season champion Mercer (92) by three points in the coaches poll, while the Eagles received 306 points to the Bears’ 305 in the media poll. The Green and Blue earned six of the 10 first-place votes in the coaches poll and 16 of the media members’ 33 first-place votes. USC Upstate’s Torrey Craig was named the Preseason Player of the Year, while his team was picked third in both the coaches and media polls.
“It’s nice to be acknowledged and it’s certainly a great honor for Brett, Chase and Bernard to be recognized,” said first-year head coach Joe Dooley. “But it’s important for us to remember that an 18-game regular season and conference tournament will decide everything, and we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
The Eagles – who won the A-Sun Championship on Mercer’s home court last year – became the first-ever No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 and capped the 2012-13 campaign with a 26-11 record. FGCU went 13-5 in league play to finish one game behind Mercer, which, like the Eagles, returns four starters this year.
Leading that quartet of returning starters for FGCU is Fieler, who enters the 2013-14 season as the team’s only senior. The Parkersburg, W. Va., product started all 37 games last year and was one of three players on the roster to average double-figure points (12.1). His 5.4 rebound-per-game average was good for second on the club, and his 56.3-percent clip from the floor was the best among all players who attempted at least 200 shots.
Much of that percentage was due to Fieler’s team-leading 59 dunks, which helped put FGCU on the national map in March while simultaneously giving birth to the #DunkCity moniker. After leading the team in scoring just twice through his first two years in the Green and Blue, Fieler paced the club in scoring 11 times last year as a junior, including reaching double figures 28 times. The Parkersburg South High School alumnus was named to both the A-Sun All-Tournament Team and A-Sun All-Conference Second Team last year.
Thompson has been predicted to repeat as A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year after earning the honor in 2012-13 by ranking second nationally in total steals (102) and fifth in steals per game (2.76). The 102 steals were a program record and the second-most in A-Sun history. The guard is the leading returning scorer for the Green and Blue, averaging 14.3 points per game last season, and ranking as the second-leading returning rebounder (4.4 per contest).
He scored 23 points against both Georgetown and San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament, and all seven of his 20-point games on the campaign came away from the confines of Alico Arena, where the Eagles went 15-1 in 2012-13, including a win over eventual ACC Champion Miami. Thompson and now-graduated Sherwood Brown produced one of the most efficient scoring duos in the conference last year as together they had the third-highest scoring average (29.8 ppg).
Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) led the A-Sun and ranked 14th in the nation for assists (6.6 per game) last year. The central Florida native was named the A-Sun Tournament MVP following a 21-point performance in the championship game against Mercer. His 244 assists were the second-most for a single season in conference history, and he boasted an average of 10.3 assists in three NCAA Tournament games.
The Winter Park High School product produced back-to-back double-doubles versus second-seeded Georgetown (12 points, 10 assists) and seventh-seeded San Diego State (10 points, career-best 14 assists) in the NCAA Tournament. Comer, who averaged 8 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing last year, also led the conference in assists as a freshman, making him just the fourth player in A-Sun history to lead the league in assists two straight years.
Last year, FGCU was picked to finish third in the preseason poll behind Mercer and USC Upstate, picking up three first-place votes. At the time, that was the highest-ever predicted finish for the Eagles, who are entering just their third Division-I postseason-eligible season in program history in 2013-14.
Fans in SWFL will have their first opportunity to see Comer, Thompson, Fieler and the rest of the Eagles as part of Dunk City After Dark Presented by Coconut Point Ford, FGCU’s Midnight Madness event which will be shown on ESPNU next Friday, Oct. 18, beginning at 9 p.m. Admission is free, but a large crowd is expected. Fans can ensure a seat by purchasing a discounted $3 volleyball ticket as the Eagles will face Lipscomb at 7 p.m.
Fans will then get to see their first game action at Breakfast at the Beach – FGCU’s home opener which is part of ESPN’s 24-Hour Tipoff Marathon. The game versus Hartford will air live on ESPN2 at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and the Sweet 16 banner will be unveiled. Tickets are selling quickly and can be reserved by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets or by calling 239-590-7145.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the men’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_MBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUMBB.
2013-14 men’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly, and only a limited amount remain. New this year are mini-plan packages for all games, with the exception of “Breakfast at the Beach,” and individual-game tickets are now on sale. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.
Preseason Player of the Year: Torrey Craig, USC Upstate
Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year: Chase Fieler, FGCU
Defensive Player of the Year: Bernard Thompson, FGCU
Fan-Voted Defensive Player of the Year: Bernard Thompson, FGCU
Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team
Position, Name, School, Year
*G, Brett Comer, FGCU, Jr.
*F, Chase Fieler, FGCU, Sr.
*G, Keith McDougald, Jacksonville, Sr.
*PG, Langston Hall, Mercer, Sr.
*F, Torrey Craig, USC Upstate, Sr.
G, Bernard Thompson, FGCU, Jr.
C, Daniel Coursey, Mercer, Sr.
F, Travis Wallace, North Florida, Sr.
G, Ty Greene, USC Upstate, Jr.
F, Ricardo Glenn, USC Upstate, Sr.
* - Denotes unanimous selection
Preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll
(1st Place Votes) Points
1. FGCU (6) 95
2. Mercer (3) 92
3. USC Upstate 75
4. Jacksonville 63
5. North Florida (1) 58
6. ETSU 55
7. Stetson 37
8. Lipscomb 29
9. Northern Kentucky 24
10. Kennesaw State 22
Preseason Men’s Basketball Media Poll
(1st Place Votes) Points
1. FGCU (16) 306
2. Mercer (15) 305
3. USC Upstate (1) 255
4. Jacksonville (1) 212
5. ETSU 161
6. North Florida 157
7. Stetson 132
8. Lipscomb 102
Northern Kentucky 102
10. Kennesaw State 83