FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball team will be going tropical this November as the Eagles will participate in the 2012 US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam at University of the Virgin Islands, which will take place Nov. 22-24. The Green and Blue will compete in the Reef Division and will face BIG EAST member DePaul, the SEC’s South Carolina and Hampton in the three-day event.
“The Paradise Jam is one of the most competitive events in women’s basketball,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “We try to schedule something special for our players every year, and this is a special event. It should be a great challenge.”
FGCU will meet each of their opponents at the Paradise Jam for the first time in program history. The three opponents all advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season and won 20+ games, combining for a 74-26 overall record.
The Green and Blue’s first game is against DePaul on Thursday, Nov. 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET. On Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET, FGCU will face South Carolina and the Eagles wrap things up against Hampton on Nov. 24 at 1:15 p.m. ET.
Ranked No. 24 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (April 3), DePaul finished the 2011-12 season with a 23-11 overall record (9-7 BIG EAST) and fell to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Demons, who set program records for 3-pointers (156) and 3-point field goal attempts (753), return their top three scorers, highlighted by the BIG EAST’s leading scorer Anna Martin (19.1 ppg).
Dawn Staley, the 2012 Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) Female Coach of the Year, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the most decorated participants in United States women's basketball history, led her Gamecocks to a 25-10 overall record (10-6 SEC) and fell to Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina was ranked No. 21 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and drew the No. 25 position in the last AP Top 25, which was released prior to the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks 25 total wins and 10 SEC victories tied the 2001-02 team for the most in the SEC era. South Carolina defeated six top-25 teams, including five wins either on the road or at a neutral site, and, after tying for fourth in the regular season standings, reached the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Pirates, who finished 26-5 overall (15-1 MEAC) last season and lost to Stanford in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, ranked No. 8 in the final CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 (April 5). Hampton won their second straight MEAC regular season title and third straight MEAC Tournament crown, while also setting a school Div. I record for victories in a single season. The Pirates will have a different look next season as they will be without their top three scorers, who accounted for 57.2 percent of HU’s scoring in 2011-12, including a first team All-MEAC selection and MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player in Jericka Jenkins.
The Paradise Jam is held at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, outside the USVI capital city of Charlotte Amalie. For more information on the Paradise Jam, click HERE.
Game times for the Paradise Jam are subject to change depending on television coverage.
FGCU’s nonconference schedule and the full schedule will be available later this summer.
The Eagles are coming of the most historic season in its Division I history, advancing to the NCAA Tournament and earning a No. 12 seed in the Raleigh Region. Led by three-time Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year Karl Smesko, FGCU finished with a 29-3 overall record that included a league-first 18-0 mark in the A-Sun. The Eagles verified the conference’s third-ever unbeaten regular season by cruising through the Atlantic Sun Tournament, taking the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament with a convincing 67-39 win over second-seeded and 20-game winner Stetson. The Green and Blue, with their seven trifectas vs. St. Bonaventure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, set the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season (342).
Smesko, who is entering his 11th year with the Eagles, returns six players from last year’s squad and welcomes in a stellar recruiting class, which includes transfers Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace HS/Butler) and Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./ Twin Lakes HS/Valpo) and freshmen Amanda Moore (Seymour, Ind./Seymour HS), DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover HS), Jamie Gluesing (Greendale, Wisc./Solon HS), Bethany Murrell (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine HS), Katie Meador (Salem Communuity HS/Salem, Ill.) and Taylor Gradinjan (Cudahy HS/ Cudahy, Wisc.).
FGCU’s appearance in the Paradise Jam marks the third consecutive season that the Eagles have participated in a road holiday tournament. The Green and Blue defeated Virginia Tech (73-65) and Montana (68-52) in the 2010 Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, Mexico. Last season at the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii, FGCU fell to NC State (69-64) and picked up victories over Hawaii (72-52) and Alcorn State (85-38).