UNF basketball squads preview upcoming seasons at media day

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

The men’s and women’s basketball teams of the University of North Florida (UNF) took to the stage Tuesday, speaking about their upcoming seasons at their annual media day.

For both groups, last season was anything but ideal. The men’s side fought through injuries to a 9-18 record, while the women finished at 13-17, losing nearly all of their production during the offseason. 

Despite this, both teams – players and coaches alike – are looking forward to the upcoming season as a chance for a fresh start. This won’t be an easy task, though, as additions of Queens University of Charlotte and Austin Peay State University bring the ASUN Conference to 14 teams, the most competition the league has ever seen.

Coach Driscoll listens to question from media member
Matthew Driscoll wore the same suit and tie that he donned in his introduction as UNF head coach in 2009, something he was sure to point out during Tuesday’s festivities. (Riley Platt)

Men’s basketball head coach Matthew Driscoll spoke about this on Tuesday, comparing the conference to a “Thanksgiving pumpkin pie” now being sliced 14 ways. 

“I believe there are seven or eight teams that can win the tournament,” Driscoll said. “When you get to the end of March, you’ve [only] got to be hot for three [games to win the tournament].”

Luckily for Driscoll, his once young and inexperienced group has now grown as a unit, entering this season with the most experience of any Ospreys squad since the 2019-20 ASUN regular season champions.

His counterpart, women’s basketball head coach Darrick Gibbs, can’t say the same, though. Following the season, their roster was gutted, leaving only two returning players: forward Emma Broermann and guard Kaila Rougier. While acknowledging the obvious challenges a situation like this presents, Gibbs has faith in Broermann and Rougier to lead the group into battle.

“[I’m] really excited about their opportunity to lead this team as we go forward,” Gibbs said.

Coach Gibbs addresses the media during media day
Coach Gibbs isn’t afraid of starting fresh with his roster, facing the challenge head-on. (Riley Platt)

As always, the men’s squad grabbed headlines with its schedule release in September. Their non-conference slate includes games against three of the nation’s top-four ranked programs. 

While these mostly serve as a fundraiser for the athletic department, the Ospreys are looking forward to these as opportunities to put their skills to the test against America’s best.

“I’m excited about what’s in front of us,” Driscoll said. “We’re going to embrace today and we’re going to embrace going 1-0.”

Coaches aside, the face of UNF basketball over the past few years has undoubtedly been forward Carter Hendricksen. His 2022 campaign was halted by injury, but he returns this year fully healthy for his final go-round with the Birds of Trey.

Hendricksen looks on as Coach Driscoll addresses the media
Carter Hendricksen (left) is poised to bounce back from injury, which has severely limited his availability over the past two seasons. (Riley Platt)

With his combination of shooting ability and size, Hendricksen has drawn the eye of many larger programs throughout the upper levels of Division I basketball. The transfer portal came calling, but he never picked up the phone, opting to remain at UNF.

“I want to do everything I can to help bring that happiness and joy that comes with winning something big to [UNF’s fans],” Hendricksen said. “If I have an opportunity to play another year, I’m going to do it just because of those people.”

Optimism at an event like this is nothing out of the ordinary. No team goes into a season expecting to struggle. Essentially, progress on the court needs to be made, specifically with the men’s side. 

Basketball players smile in interaction with media
Jadyn Parker (right) is a key example of improvement over the years, rising to become an integral piece of UNF’s attack both offensively and defensively. (Riley Platt)

This group has matured through growing pains and – with it being team leader Hendricksen’s last hoorah – this could be the year that the Ospreys return to the glory of years past. None of the talk means anything unless it’s followed by results on the court.

The women will get things started on Monday, Nov. 7 when they host Warner University. The men will begin their gauntlet later that night on the West Coast, facing off with No. 2 Gonzaga University. Their home debut will come later on Saturday, Nov. 19.

As cliché as it may seem, the sky’s the limit for these teams. It won’t be easy – far from that – as the ASUN has become a legitimate force in mid-major college basketball. With continued dedication and on-the-floor application, the possibilities are limitless for the Ospreys.

Coach Driscoll put it best:

“When you’re hungry, you’ll be humble,” Driscoll said. “When those two things meet, you’re gonna be able to do whatever you want to do.”


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