The FGCU men's basketball season came to an abrupt end on Monday with a first-round loss at the ASUN tournament, a disappointing end to head coach Pat Chambers' first year with the Eagles.
In the first half of the 2022–2023 season, FGCU picked up road wins at USC and St. Louis. Bonaventure, champion of the Gulf Coast Show, and had 13 wins in the Eagles' first 17 games, the best start to the era of the Division I program.
Since November: The FGCU men's basketball team defeated Kansas City to win the Gulf Coast Showcase Championship.
The FGCU men's basketball team extended their first win streak since January against North Florida.
What followed was a flurry of injuries and illnesses, an inability to play enough in tight games, and 11 losses in the last 15 FGCU games.
“It looks like nothing happened after Christmas,” Chambers said. “It doesn't look like we'll ever get back the full roster, the full squad and the chemistry we once had. But we learned a lot from that experience and time.”
The focus now is on next season and what Chambers and his staff can do to continue their success and learn from the failures of the 2022-23 season. Here are a few key storylines to keep an eye on during the off-season.
Can FGCU avoid unexpected transfers?
Chambers said keeping as many players as possible would be critical to his second year in office.
“It was nice to get to know each other and take care of as many people as possible,” he said. "We're doing our best to keep everyone, but the statistics say you're losing two to three people every year."
The NCAA Transfer Portal officially opened on March 13th and will run until May 11th. Chambers returns five transfers, including last season's top scorer Isaiah Thompson and 3-pointer Chase Johnston.
The Eagles are losing to four starters this year, but only to one starter, Caleb Kato. The Southwest Florida Christian alum ended her FGCU career as the program's all-time leader in games and minutes played.
In addition to Catto, eight other Eagles who have played 300 minutes or more this season are eligible for a return.
FGCU currently has two contracts: 6-foot-3 guard Xavier Pina of Navarro College, Texas, and Rahmir Barno, 5-foot-11, three-star security guard at Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Barno was named the Most Valuable Player of that year's City of Palms Classic.
Be better on chalkboard
The FGCU's 61-55 loss to the Queens (North Carolina) was a prime example of the problem the Eagles have faced this season: the inability to make important rebounds, especially on offense. The Royals outclassed FGCU 13-0 on offense, scoring 12 second chance points to help the Queens defeat the Eagles.
In the season, FGCU ranks seventh in ASUN in total rebounding and eighth in offensive rebounding.
"We're going to win, I'd say, four or six more games if we can get through the glass," Chambers said. “You lose possession in the game because you are rebounding offensively, so you have to go forward. This is one of the priority areas at the end of the season.
One way the FGCU should get support in this area is by bringing Josiah Shackleford back to health. The 6'9 sophomore suffered a knee injury in preseason and missed the year. As a freshman at Brunswick Community College, Georgia, Shackleford was the NJCA Player of the Year, averaging 18.1 points and 9.5 rebounds.
“There are still a few years left and we are very excited about it,” said Shackleford Chambers. "We have to go back to 100 percent."
The return of Shackleford, along with the continued development of 6'11" rookie Sam Onu and 6'7" rookie Blaise Vesp, could help the Eagles next season.
Get comfortable while hunting
Chambers said the fast start to the FGCU season caused unexpected weakness, many of which played a key role in their college careers for the first time.
“We are being hunted,” Chambers said. At the beginning of January, we have the best result of all, because we are doing outside the conference. We had no reserve, no room for error. We need to be 10 points better than this jump.
"I think the lessons from that will help us next season."
You also need to increase the mental strength and fitness of your players, Chambers says.
“Resilience doesn’t mean punching someone in the chest and diving in,” he says. “It's about boxing and jumping to get tackles. It's a game with a big foundation."
Chambers said a disappointing end to the season could be justified if FGCU players properly recover.
“I think it worked if we could bring everyone back, we had this setback, learn from them and use that experience next year,” he said. "That should be our mindset."
This article originally appeared in Naples Daily News: FGCU Basketball: Pat Chambers' Season 1 ends in the first round of ASUN.