Preview: Men’s basketball opens season on the road vs. Michigan State

Joslyn Simmons

Sophomore Wajid Aminu. Photo by Lili Weinstein.

With a 4 a.m. wake up call and chill in the air, Men’s Basketball can finally say the season is here. North Florida tests it talents on the road in Lansing against the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans Nov.10.

North Florida will start five sophomores with the reigning ASUN Freshman of the Year Wajid Aminu and Garrett Sams leading the charge. Aminu and Sams are the only two starters from last year’s stacked roster of upperclassmen.

Unlike previous seasons, Head coach Matthew Driscoll will play two smaller guys on the court at the same time with transfers JT Escobar and Ivan Gandia-Rosa. The two guards are listed at a modest 6’2” and 6’1” respectively.

During Driscoll’s time at Baylor, the program used a similar formula of having multiple shorter players on the court at the same time for an one-two pouch.

On Michigan State’s side, four out of five starters are back for another round at the NCAA tournament. While the Ospreys have a roster full of new faces, the Spartans come back with eight out of 10 players from their most recent March Madness run.

Driscoll describes his 2017-2018 squad as inexperienced rather than young. During media day, Driscoll compared the growing pains of the squad to what former UNF players Dallas Moore and Beau Beech faced early on in their basketball careers.

North Florida is 2-12 against teams from the Big Ten Conference with wins against Purdue and Illinois in back-to-back seasons.

Both squads have several underclassmen players that are a threat on any spot on the floor. There will be 9 listed sophomores on the court at tip-off with Jaren Jackson Jr. as the lone freshman starter.

Spartans’ Miles Bridges, Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year returns for his sophomore campaign this season. Last season he averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds for Michigan State. His 6’7” frame provides length for the Spartans.

His teammate, Nick Ward also comes back for the Spartans for his second year. The Preseason All-Big Ten member averaged 13.9 points per game last season. The 6 foot 8 guard racked up 22 double digits performance.

For the Ospreys, Aminu brings a defensive presence and length. ASUN Preseason Defensive Player of the Year swatted away 36 blocks last season. With a 7 foot wingspan, the forward has pulled in an average of 6.5 rebounds a game.

Sams, the three-point specialist will have Escobar on the opposite wing this season. Both players are known for their shooting abilities from downtown which could be an asset in this matchup.

Despite the new look, Driscoll has the same style of playing this season, which will be key if North Florida want to leave 1-0 from their season debut.

“We want layups and dunks and wide-open threes. That’s the way we’ve always been,” Driscoll said.

The matchup will be aired on the Big Ten Network at 7 p.m.



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