Column: Calling all leaders

Photo Credit: Sean Patterson
Andy Diaz is no longer a starter, but he could still make an impact through leadership.

The UNF men’s basketball team has played the first leg of its conference schedule, and the results have been less than impressive. In fact, they’ve been un-pressive.

UNF is in the middle of a three game losing streak after two road losses — one to ETSU Jan. 26, the other to USC Upstate Jan. 24. Finally, it had a home loss to JU, Jan. 18.

During the streak, and throughout the conference schedule, UNF has shown an inability to win close games. Against the Bucs of East Tennessee, the team carried a 12-point lead into halftime, only to watch the lead evaporate in the second half, resulting in a 75-89 loss.

Head coach Matthew Driscoll has built a team that lives and dies by the three, and the game against ETSU showed what a slow death looks like. In the second half, UNF scored 30 points, shot a combined 4-18 (22 percent) from three-point range, and surrendered 56 points on defense.

Bad defense and poor shooting aside, the trend of losing close games makes me question the leadership of the players.

The team has four seniors who see significant playing time — Andy Diaz, Will Wilson, Parker Smith and David Jeune — but none stand out as the clear-cut leader on the floor.

When asked, most players point to Wilson as a leader. But Wilson is a quiet blue-collar player who does most of his leading when calling the plays. Smith is the best player on the team, but like Wilson, he’s about as vocal as a phone on vibrate. Diaz doesn’t seem too happy with his new role as a bench player, and is often seen sulking on the pine. Jeune is scrappy and makes all of the hustle plays, but Jeune is soft-spoken and lets his play do the talking.

I haven’t seen much vocal leadership from anyone other than Driscoll, who sometimes reminds me of a smaller, whiter DMX.

Watching the run of the Baltimore Ravens through the NFL playoffs and into the Super Bowl has made me realize the importance of a vocal leader.

There’s something to be said for a player who garners the respect of the players, and who isn’t afraid to get in another player’s face when they miss a screen or don’t box out. UNF needs a player like Ray Lewis, Drew Brees or Chris Paul to fire up the team before a big road game and demand that everyone play at their highest level.

When the a team is making a run and the shots aren’t falling on the offensive end, who will step up and demand more from his teammates?

As of right now, no one.

The coach can’t be the only one to get the team ready to play or rally the team for a crucial stop. UNF needs someone wearing sneakers and a jersey to step up and become a vocal leader if they want to make a dent in the conference tournament.

With a 3-6 conference record, and the next two home games coming against the top two teams in the conference, FGCU (6-3) and Stetson (6-3), someone (I’m looking at you Smith and Wilson) needs to turn up, grow a larynx and unleash their inner Waka Flocka before it’s too late.

I would suggest bringing in outside help to fill the void, but I think Ray Lewis is busy this weekend.

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