JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Eight months and one day. That’s how long it’s been since Cliff Warren and his Jacksonville University men’s basketball team last laced up the sneakers and took the court. The wait comes to an end on Friday night in Tallahassee as the Dolphins travel to face Florida State at 8 p.m. from the Donald L. Tucker Center. Fans that can’t make it to the game can watch online on ESPN3 or listen to the radio broadcast on 92.5 FM in the Jacksonville area. Scott Manze will call the action with Artis Gilmore providing the commentary on the radio home of Dolphins basketball.
Fans can look forward to an exciting season of hoops from JU, who return three starters and a total of seven letterwinners from last year’s team. Joining those seven will be seven new faces – five freshmen and two graduate transfers – who will push for playing time and give the Dolphins needed depth at every position.
Much is expected this season out of senior Keith McDougald. Jacksonville’s leading scorer last season at more than 13 points per contest, McDougald improved in nearly every category once the Dolphins entered conference play and put together a scoring average of over 15 points per game within the Atlantic Sun. He was one of 10 players chosen for this year’s Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team.
Back for their sophomore seasons after breakout freshman campaigns are Jarvis Haywood and Kordario Fleming. Each was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team in 2012-13. Haywood finished second on the team in scoring (11.5 ppg) while making 30 starts. Fleming led Jacksonville in minutes played a year ago and was the team’s second-leading rebounder (5.4 rpg).
Also returning for the Dolphins is senior Javon Dawson, who won A-Sun Newcomer of the Week honors twice last season after transferring in from Utah. He’s joined by big man Tyler Alderman, who played in every contest as a freshman and looks to expand his role as a sophomore. In the backcourt, junior Jeremy Bogus and sophomore Marcellous Bell return as well. Bogus and Bell each sprang for big nights in some of JU’s more high-profile non-conference games last season, with Bogus posting seven points at Indiana and Bell going off for 17 at South Carolina.
Leading the newcomers is a pair of graduate transfers who could make an immediate impact. RJ Slawson joins Jacksonville after playing for South Carolina for the past three seasons. A starter in 15 contests for the Gamecocks last season, he averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds out of his forward position. In the backcourt, floor general Vince Martin comes to JU from Young Harris College. With the Mountain Lions he earned All-Peach Belt Conference third team honors after pumping in more than 17 points per game while leading the league in assists.
A quintet of outstanding freshmen will also have a chance to shine this season. Sam Hunt is a talented point guard who comes to Jacksonville from Greensboro, N.C. Marcel White and J.R. Holder are a pair who could see time in the backcourt or at forward. Josh Murray adds size and strength down low for the Dolphins while Omar El Manasterly joins JU as a walk-on after spending time on the Egyptian U16 National Team.
Opposite Jacksonville on Friday night will be the Florida State Seminoles. Last season’s 18-16 record ended a streak of four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids for the ‘Noles, who then settled for the NIT and lost a first-round matchup to Louisiana Tech. Gone from that team is leading scorer Michael Snaer, a player known as much if not more for his numerous late-game heroics as he was for his overall scoring ability. In his absence, senior forward Okaro White (12.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg in 2012-13) is expected to step up his offensive production and possibly contend for a spot on one of the all-ACC squads. The Seminoles certainly don’t lack for size, with three seven-footers on the team and a total of six players measuring at 6-9 or above.
A series that used to be contested at least once and often twice a season throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the meetings between the two sides have dwindled in recent years. This will, however, be the third time in the past five seasons that Florida State and Jacksonville have opened its seasons against one another. FSU has won 17 straight dating back to the 1987-88 season and hold a 46-19 all-time series edge.
Jacksonville makes its home debut at Swisher Gym on Tuesday night, facing the Florida College Falcons at 7 p.m.