JU basketball teams look to build on last season for more success

Jacksonville University men’s basketball coach Jordan Mincy had to establish a new culture last season.

JU women’s coach Darnell Haney had to remind his players of who they once were after a disastrous 2020-21 season.

Both have a strong core of returning players to build on winning seasons as the Dolphins face their first games of the 2022-23 season in just over a week.

More JU basketball coverage

The JU men’s team (21-10, 11-5 in ASUN last season) will play their first-ever game at Duke on November 7 (7 p.m., ACC Network) and will be the first team to face the Blue Devils without coach Mike Krzyzewski in 42 years.

Krzyzewski retired after last season with five national championships, 13 Final Four appearances and 15 ACC titles under his belt, with former player Jon Schreyer replacing him.

The JU women’s team (16-13, 8-8) opens at home the same day against Johnson University in Kissimmee at 11 a.m.

Mincy has six returning players from the team that posted the Dolphins’ first 20-win season in 11 years and reached the ASUN Championship Game before falling to Bellarmine 77-72. JU finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 59.3 points per game, and enters the season on a 15-game winning streak at home.

Among the returning players are senior point guard Kevion Nolan (13.9 points, 4.0 assists per game) and a parade of beefy post players at senior Osayi Osifo (6-foot-8, 235 pounds, 7.9 points , 5.9 rebounds per game), senior Bryce Workman (6-7, 9.8, 5.6) junior Mike Marsh (6-10, 250, 8.7 and 5.4) and transfer Omar Payne (6-10, 240).

“If we stay focused on the laser…everything will go as it should,” Mincy said Tuesday at JU Basketball Media Day. “Hold them accountable in all aspects of your life and that’s how you guard against complacency.”

Haney welcomes back senior fullback DeShari Graham (9.9, 3.6 rebounds), senior forward Shynia Jackson (9.1, 5.4), sophomore fullback/forward KayKay Hayes (6, 5, 5.3) and second-year guard Jalisa Dunlap (6.1 points).

The Dolphins were 4-17 overall the previous year and 1-13 in ASUN. They were so battered by injuries that for a time in December 2020 they had to train with volunteer players from JU’s volleyball, softball and crew teams, and the players were in and out of conference COVID protocols.

It was their worst record since 2001-02, but Haney undermined the transfer portal and kept players who wanted to turn the season around, like Graham, Hayes and Makayla Edwards.

“The group came together and showed a lot of courage and fighting,” Haney said. “They were relentless. We were knocked down the previous season with injuries, it was the COVID year and we came back with a vengeance.

JU men: Better on the perimeter

The Dolphins could score inside last season. Osifo shot .662, tying for the fourth-highest season field goal percentage in ASUN history. Workman hit .534 and Marsh hit .519.

But when the inside was closed, Nolan was the only reliable 3-point shooter and he tended to be streaky.

Mincy thinks the Dolphins will be better on the outside, with the transfer of Jarius Cook from North Dakota State, Dylan O’Hearn from NJIT and rookie Josiah Sabino from Orange Park.

Josiah Sabino will follow his prolific journey from Orange Park High School to the University of Jacksonville this season.

Cook shot the 3-pointer on a .397 clip at the NDS, O’Hearn .372 at the NJIT and Sabino, the 2021-22 Times-Union Player of the Year, averaged 20.8 points per game and set the Raiders career scoring record with 1,453 points.

Also on the outside offense is senior graduate Jordan Davis (8.9). Mincy is also hoping for more development from second-year Gyasi Powell, a graduate of Bishop Snyder who provided an instant attack off the bench.

“We struggled to get the ball off the ground, especially when the teams grabbed Kevion Nolan,” Mincy said. “We wanted to find guys who could stretch the floor and I think we did that.”

Mincy said the usual suspects will be in the ASUN mix: defending champion Bellarmine, Liberty, UNF and Lipscomb, to name a few. He said new conference members Austin Peay and Queens would not make it easy.

But the Dolphin players said they were not about to take advantage of the progress they had made last year or granted.

“We changed our mentality in terms of hoping to win,” Nolan said. “Being strong mentally… we don’t really bend in critical times. We completely changed our mindset… being one of those tough, serious teams.

Osifo followed Mincy to JU from Florida and knew the Dolphins would be better.

He admitted to being amazed at how quickly Mincy turned the show around.

“I know Coach Mincy and was willing to bet what it would be in the future,” he said. “I was a bit shocked how quickly the culture changed and we started winning.”

JU women: relentless again

It all came down to the reinsertion of a key word into the Dolphins vocabulary last season. And even new players understand.

“It’s relentless,” said graduate guard Seraphine Bastin, transferred from Wichita State. “It’s a special program with a lot of good people, good coaches, a good atmosphere to grow.”

Jacksonville University women's basketball coach Darnell Haney (right) watches freshman guard Kyshonna Brown during recent preseason practice.

Jackson said the team learned early in the preseason in 2021 that it wasn’t going to reverse a .191 winning percentage overnight.

“We rebuilt our trust by focusing on the details and trusting the process,” she said. “We really locked ourselves in, we kept trying to improve despite all the adversity they had the year before. We competed.

And then came the season opener, when the Dolphins stunned Minnesota on the road 69-66, their first victory against a Big Ten team and their first against a Power Five conference team since their victory over the Florida in 2007.

“We made a statement and we stuck to it,” Jackson said.

Haney will have his usual group of scrappy defenders who will challenge every pass and every inch of the ground. The Dolphins led ASUN and finished 30th in the nation in steals per game with 10.1 and have four of the team’s top five players in steals, led by Graham with 48 and Hayes with 38.

The main weakness was peripheral fire. JU shot .265 from beyond the arc, but Haney said Dunlap said Dunlap had “pulled ball cover”, and said three key newcomers would help from outside, Bastin and the students of freshman Kyshonna Brown of Augusta, Georgia, and Jules Royale. from Spain.

But the identity of the team will continue to be defensive and transitional offensive. That’s what fueled three straight 20-win seasons from 2016-18 and Haney isn’t about to change.

“They know they have to put on their helmets,” he said. “What we can pack for games on the road is what we do defensively, and this group is growing us and will continue to grow.”

Contact Garry Smits at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter