Scouting Florida Atlantic
Mike Jarvis has led three different programs (Boston University, George Washington and St. John's) to the NCAA tournament during his career, but the second-year Florida Atlantic coach has quite a bit more work to do if he plans to add a fourth team to that list. The Owls finished 6-26 (2-16 in Sun Belt play) last season during Jarvis's first campaign at the school and are off to a 5-6 start this season.
Florida Atlantic has nine players on its roster this season that were not there last year and possesses just five returning members. The school offered $99 all-you-can-eat upgrades to its season-ticket holders, if that provides any additional perspective on the current stage at which the program is situated.
"In our attempt to build this program, we couldn't be in a better position in the sense of being able to play so many young kids," Jarvis said in a phone interview. "We think in terms of the season, of the long-term, as opposed to one game."
Two true freshmen lead the way for the Owls. Diminutive point guard Raymond Taylor (5-foot-6, 145 lbs.) runs the offense, while Greg Gantt (6-foot-2, 205 lbs.) fills out the other backcourt spot.
Taylor is the team's leader in scoring (17.6 ppg) and assists (6.3 apg). He is shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three-point range. He also has tallied 19 steals.
"We just put the ball in his hands and said, 'Okay little guy, run this team and do what you can do,'" Jarvis said. "And he's done pretty well."
Jarvis said Taylor reminds him of Shawnta Rogers, who was the Atlantic-10 player of the year in 1998-99 at George Washington under Jarvis. "They were both little guys, and yet they both have incredible influences on the game," Jarvis said.
Gantt is averaging 13.5 points per game while shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three-point range. Jarvis described Gantt as a "young, long-armed, left-handed three-point shooter."
"When he's making threes," Jarvis said, "it gives us a chance."
Redshirt junior guard Sanchez Hughley (6-foot-4, 210) completes the Owls' backcourt. Hughley is averaging 8.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He has tallied 15 steals and is shooting 45.6 percent from the field.
While Florida Atlantic's backcourt appears fairly set, its frontcourt has been equally unsettled as Jarvis attempts to find the right combination of players. In their most recent game -- a 77-60 loss to Georgia on Dec. 23 -- the Owls started junior forward Brett Royster (6-foot-8, 235 lbs.) and redshirt sophomore center Justin Davis (6-foot-10, 250 lbs.). Davis is averaging 0.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Royster, on the other hand, was the team's top rebounder and the Atlantic 10's top shot-blocker last season before taking on a more secondary role this year. Due to Florida Atlantic's influx of young talent, Jarvis said Royster has not been relied on as much for his rebounding and defensive skills.
"Last year we weren't very good," Jarvis said. "So we had to have him block shots because people were out of position. That's not as critical this year because we're starting to play better defense."
Naturally a power forward, Royster has spent some time at small forward this season and mostly has come off the bench. He is averaging 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He also has tallied a team-high 38 blocks.
Freshman forward DeMonte Simpson (6-foot-9, 270 lbs.) has spent a good amount of time in the starting lineup. He is averaging 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.0 percent from the field. Simpson has proven to be a bit foul-prone early in his college career.
"His best days are ahead of him," Jarvis said of Simpson. "We'd like to get more rebounding out of him, and we will. He's held his own so far."
Other frontcourt options for the Owls are freshmen forwards Jordan McCoy (6-foot-6, 185 lbs.) and Andre Mattison (6-foot-7, 220 lbs.). McCoy is averaging 3.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, while Mattison (Coolidge) is averaging 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.
Providing Florida Atlantic with some backcourt depth are sophomore guards Alex Tucker (5-foot-11, 165 lbs.) and Shavar Richardson (6-foot-3, 180 lbs.). Much like Royster, Tucker and Richardson have had their roles downsized a bit this season after having to carry much heavier loads last year. Last season, Tucker finished second in the league in assists; this year he is spelling Taylor off the bench.
Tucker is averaging 3.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, while Richardson is averaging 9.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Richardson is shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three-point range.
As a team, the Owls shoot 40.1 percent from the field, 37.6 percent from three-point range and 70.4 percent from the free throw line. The own a -3.8 rebounding margin, a +1.1 turnover margin and a 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
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