New FIU men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans is asking Panthers fans for at least one year’s worth of patience, and that’s understandable given the obstacles he is facing.
For starters, the team may be ineligible for the postseason in 2014 because of poor academic progress made under former coach Isiah Thomas. FIU is waiting for the NCAA to release its latest Academic Progress Report before that becomes official.
FIU is also moving up in class next season from the Sun Belt to Conference USA.
In addition, when previous FIU coach Richard Pitino bolted after just one year, the Panthers lost at least six players they had been counting on for 2013-14.
Three of those players ended up at major-conference schools.
Guard Malik Smith, who led FIU in three-pointers (96) and was second in scoring (14.1), followed Pitino to the University of Minnesota.
Daquein McNeil, a 6-3 shooting guard from Baltimore who has been compared to former Miami Hurricanes star Jack McClinton, signed with FIU in the fall but asked for his release after Pitino resigned. He also ended up at Minnesota.
Another former FIU recruit, 6-8 forward Jonathan Holton, signed to play for coach Bob Huggins at West Virginia. Holton was ranked No. 13 among the nation’s top junior-college transfers.
Jaquan Lynch, a 6-0 point guard from New York City, also signed with FIU but then backed out. He may end up at a junior college.
“They asked for their release when I got here,” Evans said of the recruits. “They were not kids I had recruited, and I wanted to honor that.”
As for other departures, FIU lost sophomore guards Deric Hill and Juan Ferrales both transferred to Division II Barry University. Hill started 15 games and led the team in assists (105) and steals (75). Ferrales started just once, but led the team in three-point percentage (.383).
Graduation took three role players: Cameron Bell, who started seven games and averaged 8.9 points; Tola Akomolafe, who started 22 games and averaged 4.4 points; and Gaby Belardo, who started 12 games and averaged 4.1 points.
Evans, who was hired away from Norfolk State on April 16, was brought in too late to get much done for the 2013 recruiting class.
But he did sign one player he had recruited while at Norfolk State — 6-10 freshman forward Daniel Robinson from Chesapeake, Va.
“He’s a shot-blocker with long arms who will be very disruptive in the back of our press,” Evans said.
FIU also returns 6-5 senior forward Tymell Murphy, who led the team in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (6.8), and 6-6 sophomore forward Jerome Frink, who was third in scoring (10.2) and second on the boards (6.2).
The Panthers have a ready-made point guard in 5-6 senior Ray Taylor, who starred at Florida Atlantic University and sat out last season as a transfer.