Florida International U

FIU Panthers men, women look for improvement

At Friday night’s FIU season-opening basketball doubleheader, one FIU basketball coach will be starting his head-coaching career. The other FIU basketball coach will be happy with a win and knowing he’s got more home games left than fingers.

Respectively, that is women’s basketball coach Marlin Chinn and men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans.

The first game of the two-for-one, Florida A&M vs. FIU, will be the first game that counts for Chinn (FIU lost an exhibition game to Barry Wednesday). Chinn came in with a clear idea of how he wanted this year’s Panthers to look.

“We’re going to be a transition team,” he said. “Some days, it’ll look pretty. Other days, it’ll look OK. Other days, it’ll probably look ugly. We want to transition at every opportunity. We want to be an up-tempo team. We’re going to try to reach 80 points a game. Without giving up 81.”

After watching about half the games in last year’s 3-26 season, Chinn thought some building blocks remained from the last team of the three-decade Cindy Russo-Inge Nissen era. Russo as coach and Nissen as her top assistant coach kept the program as perhaps FIU’s most consistently successful before last season’s disaster.

“I saw a couple of players like [senior guard] Taylor Shade, [senior guard] Destini Feagin and Kiandre’a Pound [who will miss the season having a child] who could at least get us started to where we want to go,” he said. “You add [junior guard] Tiana Alvarado, [freshman guard] Kristian Hudson and [junior forward] Soraya Paige, those athletic folks will allow us to do what we want to do.”

What Evans wanted to do this year was play at home. Only 12 of FIU’s 33 games last year were at FIU Arena. The Panthers played only three home games before Jan. 15.

This year, FIU has six home games in the first nine, the three exceptions being a tournament at James Madison.

“For any team, that’s a tough thing,” Evans said, referring to last season’s schedule. “This year, we want to take advantage of however many home games we have. It’s important to play in front of our home crowd. It’s important for the new guys to get comfortable and play in that environment.”

The greater depth Evans believes the many new players give FIU’s lineup includes players such as 7-1 freshman Nate Brown Bull, the only player with as much height as 6-11 Adrian Diaz. Two 6-7 junior college transfers, Elmo Stephen and Cameron Smith, match up well with returning 6-7 forward Daviyon Draper.

“Last year, Adrian was playing against guys who were smaller than he is,” Evans said. “It wasn’t what he needed. He needed to be pushed every day. And Daviyon’s being pushed every day. It’s forcing us to be bette men, women look for r whether they like it or not.”

FAMU at FIU women

When/where: 5 p.m. Friday; FIU Arena.

TV/radio: PantherVision live streaming free on YouTube.

Trinity Baptist at FIU men

When/where: 7 p.m. Friday; FIU Arena.

TV/ radio: PantherVision live streaming free on YouTube.

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