UNF soccer and basketball bring in promising new talent

Raleigh Harbin

International athletes desire the warm beach weather that comes with playing for a southeast team like UNF.

University sports programs thrive on recruiting, and what people hear about most in the South is college football recruiting. Fans get caught up in the hoopla of where a 17- or 18-year-old athlete intends to go to college.

Fans tend to pay more attention to the larger schools in the state – UF and FSU – than they do about schools like UNF. The Ospreys don’t have a big-time college football team, but they do compete in the Atlantic Sun, a Division I conference in which UNF is pushing to become the prominent school in all its collegiate sports.

The Pitch

This year, men’s soccer made their first ever A-Sun championship appearance. Even though they lost the match 3-1 to East Tennessee State, they laid the groundwork for a promising future. It’s hard to tell whether or not the Ospreys’ appearance in the finals contributed to the signing of five new players, but it certainly is a good sign for the direction of the program.

Before this year, UNF was under NCAA sanctions that prohibited them from recruiting outside of the country, but now four of the five new recruits come from abroad. But what was men’s soccer head coach Derek Marinatos’ biggest selling point to these players who more than likely have never heard of the Ospreys?

“All international players want to play in either Florida or California,” Marinatos said. “It’s the weather – the beaches – because many of them are from cold weather areas.”

UNF’s new international recruits seem to agree. Goalkeeper Tord Pederson is from Norway, forward Helge Pietschmann is from Germany, midfielder Milan Kovacs is from Hungary, and defenseman Aidan D’Mello is from Ontario.

The only player from the Southeast is midfielder Bayley Cashion from Davidson, N.C.

Marinatos said all of the players have a chance to come in and earn playing time immediately. After former keeper Brad Sieknewicz’s graduation, Pederson will compete with current Ospreys goalkeeper Kyle Nasta. Pederson stands about 6-foot-2, compared to Nasta who is 6 feet tall.

With three new recruits on the team, Coach Matthew Driscoll and UNF fans need to show the incoming Ospreys how to swoop.

The Court

The North Florida men’s basketball team also garnered some talent by filling the three scholarships it had available for the 2014 recruiting class.

Six-foot-ten, 250-pound center Ismaila Douda signed on with the Ospreys after transferring from Cleveland State and should provide a presence in the paint after sitting out for a year due to NCAA transfer restrictions.

“He’s very good, very strong,” basketball Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said. “He has a really good motor.”

Another signee is 6-foot-6 guard Nick Malonga, a transfer from McHenry County Community College who will have three years of eligibility to play for the Ospreys.

“He really scores it and has the ability to play the three and the four,” Driscoll said. “He’s long.”

Finally, the Ospreys added a local guy from Florida State College at Jacksonville who will also have three years of eligibility after qualifying at UNF: a guard named Osborn Blount, a 5-foot-10 point guard who went to Providence High School in Jacksonville.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we got two guys from JUCO [Junior College] with three years of eligibility,” Driscoll said.

There are firsts for everything, and hopefully, for UNF, some first time championships will come rolling through as a result of these recruits.