Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Team-First Philosophy Paying Off for Ospreys

by Tom Yelich

University of North Florida men’s basketball head coach Matthew Driscoll has the Ospreys moving in the right direction. Entering his fifth season at the helm, Driscoll hasn’t skipped a beat following the departure of the 2012-13 senior class, the winningest class in program history (57 wins).

The 2013-14 Ospreys got off to their best start in program history, winning their 10th game against Stetson, Jan.11, the fastest an Osprey team has reached the double-digit win mark in the program’s nine-year Division I era. In addition, UNF raced out to its best start in Atlantic Sun Conference play, including opening the seaosn with three consecutive victories.

The Ospreys have done so with eight newcomers on the 2013-14 roster. The new additions have meshed extremely well with returning seniors Travis Wallace and Charles McRoy, sophomore Demarcus Daniels and 2012-13 Atlantic Sun All-Freshman team selection Beau Beech. Besides adding an element of youth to the North Florida line-up, the new additions have raised the athleticism and competitiveness of the squad as well.

“When you are replacing a group like our senior class last year,” said Driscoll. “You need to find not only tough-minded incoming freshmen, but also a group of talented competitive winners that can withstand and overcome the challenges of being young. This group has surpassed those expectations ten-fold. I’ve said all season that this is the most competitive and resilient group of players I have ever coached.”

UNF possess an unselfish, team-oriented attitude. Against Webber International during the preseason, the Ospreys set a Division I school record scoring 109 points, with five players hitting double figures and all 11 players notching at least five points and playing over 10 minutes.

Perhaps what makes this team more special than in years past is the ability for Driscoll to count on a different player on any given night. The newcomers have given the Ospreys incredible depth, with nine players giving at least 13 minutes per game and no player averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Additionally, all 11 players have scored in double digits in at least one game this year.

“From our workouts in the summer, this group of newcomers showed a very competitive attitude,” said Wallace, a Preseason Atlantic Sun All-Conference honoree. “As a returning player, my goal was to try and set a strong example, and these guys came right in and followed and believed in the things we wanted to do to reach our goals.”

UNF has the right mix of leadership and youth, experience and eagerness, athleticism and competitiveness. This team is built for the present as well as the future. North Florida continues to grow and has shifted gears with a more aggressive, determined attitude.

The 2013-14 Ospreys have their sights set on their first A-Sun Championship. No longer wanting to just maintain and compete, this team is itching to dance come March.

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