FIU’s men’s basketball team is making moves.
Coach Jeremy Ballard signed two junior-college transfers last week — Blake Furcron and Eric Lovett — and has three scholarships remaining.
“That’s our plan,” Ballard said when asked if he plans to use all three scholarships. “But there’s a chance we could hold onto one to see what happens late in the summer. We could find a mid-year transfer.”
Furcron, a 6-4, 175-pound guard, comes to FIU from Pratt Community College in Kansas. Devon Andrews, FIU’s top returning scorer at 15.3 points, is also from Pratt.
“We have great respect for Sean Flynn,” Ballard said of the Pratt coach and the pipeline FIU is building.
Both Flynn and Andrews urged Ballard to look at Furcron. FIU did not see Furcron play in person — a late-season injury likely nixed that chance — but Panthers coaches had seen enough on tape to offer the scholarship.
FIU “team recruits”, but Ballard gave assistant coach Jesse Bopp loads of credit for bringing in Lovett, a 6-5, 200-pound guard from Missouri State-West Plains.
“Jesse did an amazing job tracking him all year,” Ballard said. “Jesse was tracking junior-college players, and, early on, he targeted Eric and made a lot of trips to see him play. Eric has a strong and sturdy stature, and he had a special season.”
Lovett was named a third-team JUCO All-American, averaging 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Furcron started just 14 of 32 games at Pratt yet led his team in scoring (17.4) while adding 5.7 rebounds.
Ballard said three-point shooting is an FIU need he and his staff identified, and both Lovett and Furcron can help, judging by the numbers.
Lovett, a Georgia native, shot 79.2 percent from the foul line, 48.9 percent from the field and 40.7 percent on three-pointers. He scored in double figures 27 times.
Furcron, a Michigan standout, shot 74.5 percent from the foul line, 50.9 percent from the field and 43.5 percent on three-pointers.
In total, FIU has signed three players in this recruiting cycle, and all of them are wing-type players. The other recruit is 6-6, 220-pound Dante Wilcox, a West Palm Beach standout who signed in November.
Cameron Corcoran, a 6-1 point guard from Arkansas Little Rock, is also set to make his FIU debut this winter. He sat out last season as per NCAA transfer rules.
“Cameron is extremely skilled,” Ballard said. “He can make shots.”
On the other end of the spectrum, FIU graduated star point guard Brian Beard and also lost seniors Michael Douglas and Elhadji Dieng.
Willy Nunez, who led the team with 79 three-pointers, left to Rider University as a graduate transfer. Marcus Burwell, who only played 13 games, and Phil Smith (seven games) also left FIU’s program.
With the remaining available scholarships, Ballard wants versatile players.
“We switch a lot on defense,” Ballard said. “We play fast on offense, and we want guys who can fit that philosophy.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ FIU’s baseball team took two of three road games from Middle Tennessee this past weekend, and Panthers third baseman Austin Shenton extended his hit streak to 22 games, the longest such run since the program joined Conference USA in 2013.
With just this weekend left in the regular season, FIU has an 11-16 conference record. Eight teams qualify for the C-USA postseason tournament, and six schools have essentially clinched spots. That leaves six schools — including FIU — with either 10 or 11 league wins. Only two of them will qualify.
FIU will host Louisiana Tech (15-12) for three games this Thursday through Saturday to close out the regular season.