State Colleges

Barry University prepares for men’s basketball season by playing top-tier Division I schools

Barry University Buccaneers head coach Butch Estes gives instructions to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against the Miami Hurricanes at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on on Tuesday, October 30, 2018.
Barry University Buccaneers head coach Butch Estes gives instructions to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against the Miami Hurricanes at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on on Tuesday, October 30, 2018. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

For the fourth year in a row, the Barry Buccaneers men’s basketball team will play at least one exhibition game against a Division I opponent.

Two years ago, the Bucs — who compete in NCAA Division II — traveled to Alabama and shocked the Auburn Tigers, 100-95, in overtime. Auburn went on to win the SEC title that year.

Other exhibitions have not gone as well for the Bucs, who are 1-5 against Division I teams since coach Butch Estes took over the program six years ago, including losses to top-10 teams Florida and Louisville during his first season.

On Oct. 22, the Bucs will be back at it as they travel to Tallahassee to face a deep and talented Florida State team.

“Our players enjoy the challenge,” Estes said of these high-profile games. “It gives our program and players exposure. It also gives our guys something to be excited about during the grind of the preseason.”

The Bucs finished 18-11 last season and were eliminated in the Sunshine State Conference semifinals, losing 88-77 to emerging power Nova Southeastern University.

That loss snapped Barry’s streak of five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Even so, in six years at Barry, Estes has led the Bucs to a 134-49 record, and he is the only coach in program history to take his team to five consecutive NCAA appearances.

Now, though, the Bucs have company in South Florida as the Sharks, in two years under coach Jim Crutchfield, have made their presence known after reaching the Elite Eight in 2019 for the first time in their history.

“We have great respect for Coach ‘Crutch,’ ” Estes said. “It’s a real battle against [NSU], and it’s great for local basketball.”

This season, the Bucs — despite graduating starters Daniel Mortensen (team leader with a 13.0 scoring average) and Marko Tomic (7.4 points per game) — have an experienced team.

Barry has a core of six seniors, including former South Dade High 6-6 forward Tylan Birts, who was second on the team in scoring last season (12.6); and starting point guard David Moya, a 6-foot Plantation native who led the team in assists.

The other seniors are 6-4 wing Evan Walshe, who is from England; 6-6 wing Leandro Allende (Puerto Rico); 6-9, 235-pound power forward Johannes Dolven (Norway); and 6-1 guard Charlie Francis (South Carolina).

Barry’s junior class includes 6-5 shooting guard Jake Kakar (Boston); 5-7 point man Milon Sheffield (Jacksonville); 6-8 forward Raivis Scerbinskis (Latvia); and 6-3 guard Chris Mejia (Hialeah Gardens).

Kakar, a transfer from Barton College, was one of the leading three-point shooters in Division II last season.

“He’s a complete player,” Estes said. “He should be instrumental for us this season.”

Young Bucs players who could emerge at some point this season are 6-8 sophomore forward Justinas Marcinkevicius (Lithuania); 6-5 guard Marcelo Perez (Miami Christian by way of Chile); 6-0 freshman guard Toru Dean (South Miami); and 6-7 freshman forward Tomas Mikyska (Czech Republic).

THIS AND THAT

Barry won the 2018 national title in men’s soccer, but the Bucs (3-8) have struggled this season due to personnel losses (graduations and transfers) and injuries.

Meanwhile, the NSU women’s soccer team — while not yet ranked nationally — is 10-0-1 with six consecutive shutouts. The Sharks are 4-0-1 in conference play and have allowed only one goal all season.

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