C-USA Basketball Preview: FAU Owls

C-USA Basketball Preview: FAU Owls
October 15, 2013, 11:15 am
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IRVING, Texas. -- The Florida Atlantic Owls finished 14-18 overall in 2012-13 with a Sunbelt Conference finish of 9-11. The roster indicates that the Owls have good size and talent. However, the look of the roster on paper doesn’t always tell the story. But, if there’s a coach who can help catapult a program to winning status, FAU has the right man.

Mike Jarvis Sr. has been a head coach for 25 seasons and enters his sixth as the head coach of the Owls. He’s a proven winner who’s taken three collegiate institutions to postseason play. During his five seasons at Boston University, the Terriers advanced to the NIT once and the NCAA Tournament twice.

While at George Washington University, Jarvis Sr. and the Colonials advanced to the NIT. That success was followed by a four-time trip to the NCAA Tournament including a Sweet 16 Appearance with Mike Jarvis Jr. by his side.

Finally, as head coach of St. John’s, the Red Storm advanced to the Elite Eight.  

SETTING EXPECTATIONS  

The 2011 season was a huge turnaround year after the 2010 season, finishing 21-10 overall, 13-3 in conference. However, last season, the Owls seemed to struggle. There are lots of reasons why teams struggle. But, successful coaches like Jarvis Sr. understand that if a base can be established and solidified, fruitful seasons will follow. 

“What I’ve been trying to do at FAU is put a good foundation together,” said Jarvis. “What I realized is that the foundation is only as good as the people, forget about the players that I bring in. So, what we have really, really tried to do is identify people with the right character who can play, who are committed to getting a degree that are going to be with me for four years.

“I would rather recruit freshmen if I could. But, I’ll take that transfer, providing he’s interested in graduating.”

There are two transfers on the roster that could play pivotal roles in the success of the 2013 team. Dragen Sekelja is a seven-foot transfer from Baylor who started 12 games last season but played in all 32. Sekelja, originally from Croatia, averaged 3.4 points per game and 3.8 boards per game. One of the new additions to the team is Justin Raffington, a 6-foot-9 transfer from San Francisco. Sekelja will man the center spot while Raffington, originally from Germany, will work as the power forward.

The Owls will pair the transfers with what Jarvis Sr. refers to as a “mixed bag” of talent. Pablo Bertone, a 6-foot-4 wingman from Argentina, rounds out the frontcourt. Freshmen D’Andre Johnson from Detroit, Mich. and Marquan Botley from Plano, Texas will be tested at the point guard position.   

“We’re not going to be the most talented team in this league and we may not be ever,” said Jarvis. “But, I don’t think you have to be the most talented team to be the best team. So, what I’m hoping is that my kids will toughen up because I think if they play to whatever their capabilities are, I think we could be good enough as a team.”

PREPARING FOR C-USA

Realignment has become a way of life in college athletics the last couple of years, as institutions attempt to position themselves for increased financial gain and better competition. Facing better competition falls at the level of coaches. How teams will fare as they step up in competition is always a big question.

But, Jarvis Sr. is taking a slightly different approach and seems not to concern himself with outside interference, which in this case in C-USA’s new 16-team league.

“I’ve spent very little time looking at the other schools and I’m not going to spend a lot of time looking at the other schools,” said Jarvis. “I’m spending 99 percent of my time looking and trying to get my team ready.”

Besides his own experiences to draw from in that regard, he remembers lessons from other great basketball coaches of our time.

“One of my mentors was Red Auerbach,” said Jarvis. “Even though Red Auerbach had Bill Russell and a whole lot of other guys, his biggest thing always was, ‘the team that you spend 99 percent of your time on is your own team.’ I’ve always done that. I did that as a high school coach, did that wherever I’ve been in college and I’m not going to change. So, my main concern is our team.”

Speaking of his team, Jarvis Sr. says his team will likely rotate eight players. Those eight will need to be in great shape since they will play 99 percent of the minutes. The Owls will use two to three point guards during the course of a game and could play lots of zone.

“We will play according to what we have,” said Jarvis. “I have to build a system around the guys I’ve got.”