Florida Gulf Coast Basketball – From the Swamp to Prominence

florida-gulf-coast-university-georgetownA No. 15 seed beating a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament is nothing new. In fact, before Friday night, it had happened six times in college basketball history.

However, the seventh time proved to be a charm as it was the greatest upset in college basketball history. Florida Gulf Coast University, which has only existed since 1997, proved to be the ultimate giant slayer as they took down the mighty Georgetown Hoyas by a score of 78-68.

And this ‘greatest upset’ billing isn’t to knock FGC by saying that they’re a total luckbox team. After all, the Eagles finished second in the Atlantic Sun Conference and beat the Miami Hurricanes earlier this year. But what truly stands out about FGC’s victory is where they were just over a decade ago. Let’s discuss the Eagles’ humble beginnings and how they quickly assembled enough talent to knock off a legitimate championship contender.

A Dream that began in the Swamp

To understand the magnitude of Florida Gulf Coast’s win, one must go back 12 years, to a time when FGC’s athletic department was a collection of trailers in a swamp. There was no basketball team here, no arena, and certainly no players capable of leading this team past a storied college basketball program. All there was were a group of people who believed that they could one day build a successful team.

chase-fieler-georgetown-dunkAssociate athletic director Michael Estes, who was with the school even back then, recalled the primitive conditions by saying, “We had golf and tennis – and a dream.” It’s hard telling if anybody truly envisioned a victory over No. 2 seed Georgetown in this dream, but that’s where the vision has ended up in just FGC’s second year of NCAA tournament eligibility.

A Look at Those who made It Possible

Looking at Georgetown’s roster, one can see a number of players who were three, four and five-star recruits in high school. In fact, future NBA Lottery pick Otto Porter Jr. himself should have been enough to take down an obscure team like Florida Golf Coast. The Eagles, on the other hand, consist of a bunch of one and two-star recruits.

Nevertheless, this group of unheralded players looked like top-tier talent against the Hoyas. First off, there was 6’8″ junior Chase Fieler throwing down several highlight-reel dunks that would rival LeBron James. Then there was senior guard Sherwood Brown, who put all the losing seasons of the past behind him with a 24-point, 9-rebound performance last night.

Brown definitely got some help from fellow guard Bernard Thompson, who scored 23 points thanks to 10 free throws and three 3-pointers. Outstanding guard play proved to be a theme for FGC since Brett Comor also chipped in 12 points and 10 assists.

andy-enfield-georgetownFinally, we can’t forget head coach Andy Enfield, who’d served as an assistant coach in the NBA and at Florida State before signing with FGC on March 31st, 2011. Going into the Georgetown game, all anybody wanted to talk about was Enfield’s supermodel wife, Amanda Marcum. But following the huge upset, more people will learn about the story of Enfield.

This story is a good one too since it involves a man taking his first head coaching job at a no-name school with few prospects of success. This made recruiting a near nightmare and things only got worse when FGC’s leading scorer, rebounder, and assist man all transferred after Enfield signed on.

Nevertheless, the 43-year-old did what he learned as an assistant to great coaches such as Rick Pitino and Mike Dunleavy. And just two years later, he’s in the spotlight for an unbelievable win over the Hoyas.

Why Florida Gulf Coast could get Better

As mentioned before, it’s been pretty hard for Andy Enfield to draw elite players to his school. First off, FGC has only been a Division I program for seven years – and not a very good one at that. Secondly, Enfield said that most recruits thought the university was just an inland JuCo program near the state line.

florida-gulf-coast-university-beach-viewBut the truth is that FGC is no longer the swampy, trailer-sporting campus that it was 12 years ago. Instead, this Fort Myers-based school has quickly built up to a legitimate unversity and features some pretty incredible views of a lake beach. Chase Fieler actually made a few headlines when he tweeted pictures of his excellent dorm room view (see right).

And Florida Gulf Coast offers more than just nice views because students can play various water sports at the lake such as canoeing, paddle boarding and wakeboarding. As if this isn’t enough, students can also visit the Gulf of Mexico, which is just minutes away from the college.

That said, you can bet Coach Enfield will be using the free water sports, beach, and convenient ocean location to his advantage with recruits. Sure a beach may not transform FGC into mid-major powers like Gonzaga or Creighton overnight, but it’ll sure give this school a leg-up on other Atlantic Sun teams.

Of course, Enfield has another big recruiting tool thanks to his team’s win over Georgetown. And don’t forget that this Cinderella story isn’t over just yet because they face off against San Diego State in a winnable game.