The Barry University Buccaneers, who made it to the Elite Eight round of the 2018 NCAA Division II tournament in men’s basketball, graduated four of their top seven players.
Those personnel losses help explain why the Bucs are ranked just No. 2 in the Sunshine State Conference preseason poll, but Barry coach Butch Estes doesn’t see that as a slight.
“I feel honored we were picked second,” Estes said. “We lost a lot. Being ranked second is an indication of our consistency.”
The Bucs, who went 23-9 last season, have won three consecutive regular-season conference titles.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
In addition, only Barry and Lincoln Memorial (Tennessee) have made the Division II Elite Eight round in two of the past three years. And the Bucs might have gone even further last season had they not run into Ferris State, the eventual national champions. Ferris State beat Barry in a close game, 87-84.
The Bucs have since had to replace point guard Elvar Fridriksson, a third-team All-American; forward Sunday Dech and the Glick brothers, Kooper and Sawyer.
Fortunately for the Bucs, they return 6-8 forward Daniel Mortensen and 6-7 senior forward Marko Tomic.
Mortensen, who is from Denmark, averaged 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. Tomic, who is from Serbia, averaged 9.4 points and led the team in field-goal percentage (67.3). In that loss to Ferris State, Mortensen and Tomic tied for team-high scoring honors with 17 points.
“We will count on them a lot this season,” Estes said.
Evan Walshe, a 6-4 junior from England, scored 13 points against Ferris State, and his role should increase this season.
David Moya, a 6-0 junior, ascends to the starting point guard in his third year in the program. But he is more of a “set-up” point guard, said Estes, who cautioned against expecting Moya to put up numbers similar to his predecessor, Fridriksson.
Role players include three Division I transfers: Leandro Allende, a 6-6 shooting guard from Puerto Rico who started 37 games the past two years at The Citadel; Lars Espe, a 6-1 guard from Norway and the University of Montana; and Isaiah Hobbs, a 6-4 wing from West Palm Beach who playing sparingly at the University of Texas.
Two players who sat out last season at Barry are back: Tylan Birts, a 6-6, 220-pound junior small forward; and Kenan Guzonjic, a 6-8, 235-pound center. Guzonjic will battle 6-9, 235-pound junior Johannes Dolven — a Norway native who played for Drake two years ago — for time in the post.
Estes is excited about the potential of two freshmen: 6-5 guard Marcelo Perez, a Chile native who played at Miami Christian; and 6-8 forward Justinas Marcinkevicius.
Barry’s schedule includes four top-25 teams in Division II, including No. 1 Bellarmine on Dec. 18 in Louisville.
“Our record probably won’t be glorious because this schedule may be the toughest in school history,” Estes said. “But we have potential. I think we’re strong on defense and on the boards. The offense will have to come.
“I’m just hoping we can win our conference.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ St. Thomas men’s team suffered a blow in July when coach Patrick Gayle left the school to take the top job at Albany State. Gayle was The Sun Conference Coach of the Year last season after the Bobcats won the league and reached the second round of the NAIA tournament.
▪ The Miami Dade College men led the nation in scoring last season (108.2) and added 6-9 Division I transfer Nicolas Kratholm from Duquesne University and five freshmen.
MEN’S BASKETBALL — BARRY
Coach: Butch Estes. Last season NCAA Division II: 23-9, 14-6. Top players: Daniel Mortensen (6-8 sr. F); Marko Tomic (6-7 sr. F). Noteworthy: The Bucs have won three straight Sunshine State Conference regular-season titles.
Coach: Anthony Q. Anderson. Last season NJCAA: 15-12, 5-7 Southern Conference. Top players: CJ Roberts (6-2, fr. G, Texas Tech transfer); DeAndre Pinckney (6-8 fr. F); Bralyn James (6-4 so. G). Noteworthy: Broward has no returning starters. Anderson replaces long-time coach Bob Starkman. Anderson, a long-time assistant, has two years of experience as a head coach in the NAIA.
Coach: Ansar Al-Ameen. Last season, NAIA: 15-10, 8-10. Top players: Omar Outar (5-8 jr. PG); Eugene Harvey III (6-6 sr. F); Kase Carrera (5-11 soph. SG). Noteworthy: Outar averaged 13.6 points and a team-high 3.3 assists, but FMU lost eight of its top 10 scorers.
JOHNSON & WALES
Coach: David Graham. Last season, NAIA: 8-20, 6-12. Top players: Jacknelson Joseph (6-1 sr. G); Dwayne Adams (5-9 fr. G); Tristan Stephens (6-4 fr. F); Gustav Ling (6-9 so. F). Noteworthy: The Wildcats, who return six lettermen and brought in nine new players, were picked to finish 10th and last in The Sun Conference this season.
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
Coach: Kevin Ledoux. Last season, NJCAA: 16-14, 5-7. Top players: D.J. Russell (6-7 so. F); Montese Blake (6-0 so. G); Kaevon Tyler (6-2 so. G). Noteworthy: Russell led the team in scoring (15.0) and rebounds (8.0) and made first-team all-conference.
Coach: Jim Crutchfield. Last season NCAA Division II: 17-10, 11-9. Top players: David Dennis (6-1 sr. G); Nick Smith (6-1 so. G); Dwayne Gibson (6-5 sr. F). Noteworthy: The Sharks ranked fifth in the nation in scoring (90.1) and fourth in steals (10.2).
Coach: Adrian White (interim). Last season, NAIA: 23-8, 16-2. Top players: Philip Saunders (6-3 sr. G); Khalil Williams (6-6 sr. F); Fotios Malelis (6-8 jr. F). Noteworthy: Bobcats last season made the second round of the NAIA national tournament for the fourth time in school history.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL — BARRY
Coach: Bill Sullivan. Last season, NCAA Division II: 19-11, 11-9. Top players: Ida Andersson (5-10 sr. G); Harriet Swindells (5-9 so. G). Noteworthy: Four starters graduated, including first-team All-Sunshine State Conference post Kiara Palmer. The Bucs are picked to finish sixth in the league.
Coach: Brian McCormick. Last season, NJCAA: 11-19, 8-4 Southern Conference. Top players: Margarita Pleskevich (5-9, so. PG); Vendela Danielsson (5-8 so. G); Pernilla Sorenson (6-0 so. G/F). Noteworthy: Pleskevich, from Russia, made All-Region last season. Danielsson and Sorenson, both from Sweden, made first-team and second-team All-Southern Conference, respectively.
Coach: Gregory Stanback. Last season, NAIA: 16-10, 11-7. Top players: Brianna Battle (5-5, so. G); Kanesha Battle (5-5 jr. G); Tyesha Battle (5-3 fr. G). Noteworthy: Six of their 14 players are from Broward County, including the Battle sisters, two of whom transferred from Bethune-Cookman. The Lions will have to replace Abreona Cabell, who averaged 18.8 points and made third-team All-American.
JOHNSON & WALES
Coach: Kymberly Hope. Last season, NAIA: 13-16, 8-10. Top players: Tianna Ayulo (5-9 so. W); JoNae Gonzales-Smith (5-8 sr. PG); Bevin Mays (5-6 sr. SG); Alexis McClain (6-0 so. F). Noteworthy: Hope and recruiting coordinator Krystal Saunders are both ex-Miami Hurricanes players. JWU is picked to finish fifth in The Sun Conference. Ayulo led the team in scoring (16.9) and rebounds (8.0).
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
Coach: Susan Summons. Last season, NJCAA: 22-8, 11-1. Top players: Ganette Chism (5-9 so. G); Diedra Harris (6-3 so. C); Shay Harper (5-6 so. G); Michelle Pruitt (6-0 so. F, Stetson transfer). Noteworthy: MDC returns eight players from the team that won the Southern Conference title last season. But Cheah Rael-Whitsitt graduated and signed with Texas A&M; and Savannah Clark graduated and signed with Rhode Island. Rael-Whitsitt ranked second in the nation among junior college players in rebounding (14.2).
Coach: LeAnn Freeland-Curry. Last season, NCAA Division II: 13-14, 9-11. Top players: Alison Hughes (5-7 sr. G); Megan Piggott (5-10 sr. G); Skyla Osceola (5-8 so. G). Noteworthy: NSU’s five-year NCAA-Tournament streak came to an end last season. Hughes made 44.3 percent of her 3-points, averaged 13.1 points and made second-team All-Sunshine State Conference.
Coach: Candace Walker. Last season, NAIA: 21-10, 16-2. Top players: Samara Auguste (5-5 sr. G); Ebony Griffin (5-10 sr. F); Keiana Brooks (5-7 jr. G). Noteworthy: In Walker’s first season at STU, the Bobcats made the NAIA national tournament for the first time since 2015. Griffin averaged 17.6 points and finished second in the nation in steals.