Previewing UNF men’s basketball upcoming season

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

Coming off of a season that was anything but ideal, the Ospreys are poised to return to their winning ways this year.

Things looked bleak in 2020 as UNF found themselves with a 0-7 record. However, in a COVID-shortened season, the Ospreys went on to finish the season with an 8-8 record in their remaining games. A disjointed loss to North Alabama in the ASUN tournament brought an end to the season, offering a chance to regroup in the offseason.

While it can’t get much worse than starting 0-7, this season’s non-conference slate could bring about a similar start. Let’s take a look at the first five matchups for the Ospreys.

@ Texas Tech (2019 Final Four appearance)

@ Texas A&M (SEC program)

@ Grand Canyon (NCAA Tournament appearance)

@ Arizona State (PAC-12 program)

@ UCLA (2021 Final Four appearance)

This doesn’t even include later trips to Kentucky, Florida, and Florida State, which will also be big challenges. The schedule may be tough and will likely produce some losses, but it will help the Ospreys gear up for ASUN play.

The low point of last season was by far the home loss to Division II Flagler College. After the game, Driscoll said, “They earned this thing from the get-go.” The Flagler Saints went on to appear in the NCAA Division II national semifinals, but this is still a game that UNF should have won.

Photo by Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer (via AP)

This loss clearly left an impact on the team, as they bounced back, winning five of their next seven games. It’s safe to assume that something like this won’t be happening again, but it serves as a lesson to never underestimate the opponent.

One noticeable issue for UNF last season was youth. Head coach Matthew Driscoll had to depend on inexperienced players at times last year, and it was evident. This doesn’t have to be a death sentence but merely serves as growing pains as younger players acclimate to the college game.

With a full-fledged offseason under their belts, these young players are likely to make great strides this season. Second-year forward Jonathan Aybar spoke on this at UNF’s media day event.

“Obviously, coming in here as a freshman, you get to learn a lot,” Aybar said. He added that “You’ve got to let the game take you, you can’t rush into it.” 

Aybar showed flashes of great potential during his freshman year but struggled with foul trouble. Coach Driscoll referenced this as something that was holding him back early on in the season. With more experience, this is something that the forward will conquer and continue to improve with time.

Adding to the young talent is more newcomers, but this group is not highlighted by college freshmen. The Ospreys brought in some additional assets in the form of transfers. Arguably the most exciting of these fresh faces is Jarius Hicklen, formerly of Oklahoma Baptist University at the Division II level.

Hicklen, the 6 foot 3-inch guard, brings all kinds of excitement to this team. One look at his highlights is all it takes to see just what he’s capable of. While new faces are fun to see, the team will rely largely on a familiar one.

UNF men’s basketball. (Justin Nedrow)

Carter Hendricksen has been the de-facto face of UNF basketball, and that’s not going to change this year. The 6 foot 7 inch Kentucky native has been an anchor in the frontcourt during his time as an Osprey. He dealt with injury last season but looks forward to a fresh start.

“I’m 100 percent healthy and excited to hopefully have an injury-free year,” Hendricksen said.

The road matchup against Kentucky on Nov. 26 will serve as a bit of a homecoming for Hendricksen, who played his high school ball in Lexington, Ky. Look for him and his teammates to put up a strong fight against the powerhouse Wildcats led by head coach John Calipari.

As for conference play, things are going to look a bit different. The ASUN has added some new members, which is sure to add to the already competitive nature of the league.

As per usual, the Liberty Flames are heavy favorites to win the conference again. However, recent news of Liberty’s upcoming departure from the conference could leave a power vacuum, with other teams vying for the top spot.

The 2021-22 season will ultimately be what the Ospreys make it. Winning the conference is a tough ask, but it’s a great goal to shoot for. As these young Ospreys continue to gain more and more experience, the future only gets brighter. Here’s to an exciting season, Osprey Nation!


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].