Coming off of an Elite Eight loss in the NCAA tournament last year, expectations are high for Florida Southern basketball this year.
A team that returns three starters includes sophomore Tyler Kelly, juniors Dominic Lane and Lamar McKnight and eight players from last year’s NCAA tournament run.
Four transfer players include senior Frank Adams, juniors Tyler Logan, Stephen Battle and Bubby Johnson and freshman Stephen Turner.
“I think that we can be better than we were last year,” Kelly said. “I think that a National Championship is definitely a realistic goal for a team of this caliber.”
Kelly, a 6 foot 2 junior who started a majority of the games at the point guard position last year as a sophomore, said that winning a National Championship would mean a lot to him, and to this program.
“It would mean a lot,” Kelly said. “We haven’t won one in a while. That’s what we came here for. We come here to win, and we are expected to win, so that’s definitely the goal.”
Head Coach Linc Darner said that the ultimate goal for the team is playing well at the right time to put them in a position to win the conference.
“Right now, we have to improve,” Darner said. “We really want to see a lot of improvement now, so that when we hit January, we will be in a position to win the league. That’s our first goal – we want to win the league, we want to win a conference championship and get back to the Elite Eight. I think that those are goals that every person on this team should have.”
Starting the year with exhibitions against two powerhouse Division I programs in Florida and Tennessee will only help the team, and will get them ready for teams down the road this season, according to Darner.
“It’s an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up,” Darner said. “We are playing Florida on the first of November, Tennessee on the second. I think it will be a great experience for our guys. We are going to try to get ourselves ready for the season.”
Replacing five seniors, however, is not easy, with Seth Evans, Brett Bailey, Jon Gardner, Jay Hubble and Brant Leitnaker having graduated last year. But with five new players, FSC’s box scores will look quite different than a year ago.
Bubby Johnson, a junior transfer from Utah State University Eastern said that he chose FSC because of the recent success.
“I chose to come here over other schools because of the recent and historic success of this program,” Johnson said. “This team making the Elite Eight last year was a big deciding factor for me. I knew that if I came here, I would have a chance to win, and to fight for something, and it makes all of the practices and the hard work worthwhile.”
Johnson feels that the National Championship is the one goal for this team.
“That’s the only goal right now,” Johnson said. “I feel like with the guys that we have, anything short of a National Championship, we didn’t get the job done.”