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ARLINGTON, TEXAS – As the FGCU men’s basketball team continues to travel the country for its postseason tournaments, the students associated with the team do as well.
The FGCU cheerleaders and pep band have been courtside or in the stands playing for every Atlantic Sun Conference and NCAA tournament game this March.
Through trips to Macon, Philadelphia and the Dallas area over the past month, the band members have witnessed firsthand just how much the legend of FGCU has grown.
“It’s pretty awesome that people from around the world are finally realizing our potential,” said freshman band member Chelsey Minnig, referring to FGCU. “It’s intense because we are making history for our school. It’s pretty cool being a part of history.”
The on-court success has led to FGCU’s story being covered by dozens of national sports media outlets over the past week.
FGCU has even been mentioned by mainstream media entities including CNN and NBC’s Today Show.
“Where I live no one had even heard of Fort Myers or our school,” said Minnig, who came to FGCU from Sorrento, Fla. “Everyone is finally recognizing us now.”
The pep band did some sightseeing on Friday morning in Dallas stopping in Dealey Plaza, the location of the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy in 1963. The band members saw the exact location where Lee Harvey Oswald fired a rifle that killed Kennedy and the exact location on the road where Kennedy was hit.
“I’ve also been a big space buff so that means I’ve also been a big Kennedy buff,” said freshman Jack White, a band member from Lehigh Acres. “It’s really sad that he died here but it also led to a lot of things. It solidified the nation’s promise to go the moon in 10 years.”
FGCU: America's Team?
It seems that every game that Eagles play increases their popularity around the country and ESPN has picked up on that.
ESPN’s Sportsnation asked fans whether or not they were rooting for the Eagles in Friday night’s game and an astounding 83 percent of the 67,990 fans that voted before 7 p.m. on Friday said they were indeed cheering for FGCU.
On top of that, 74 percent of the 2,516 fans from the state of Florida said they were supporting the Eagles.
The lopsided results show just how far the FGCU men’s basketball program has come over the last week. According to another Sportsnation poll, just 29 percent of the 22,982 people surveyed had heard of FGCU prior to the NCAA Tournament.
As FGCU waited to enter the playing surface after Michigan defeated Kansas 87-85 in overtime, the Eagles were given a warm welcome from the victors.
Michigan players and coaches slapped hands with the Eagles and recognized that the Eagles were “Dunk City” on their way back to their locker room to celebrate their victory.
Were the Wolverines just being friendly or perhaps were they wanting the No.15 seed Eagles to knock off the No.3 seed Gators to create a more favorable matchup for themselves in Sunday’s South Regional final?
Either way, it was well-received by the Eagles and they were smiling as they took the court to warm up.
Houston Rockets and former University of Florida forward Chandler Parsons made some interesting comments about Friday night’s game on his Twitter account (@ChandlerParsons) this week.
On Monday, Parsons tweeted that the game between the Gators and Eagles would be the “Varsity vs. JV” and added on Friday that he was “impressed with FGCU and what they have done. But it’s over.”
Southwest Florida basketball fans may remember Parsons from his high school playing days as he participated in the City of Palms Classic with Winter Park Lake Howell High School in 2005 and 2006.
After beating Georgetown last Friday in his first game as a head coach in the NCAA tournament, Andy Enfield quickly ducked aside in the post-game locker room celebration when his players threw water on him.
But it wasn’t because the successful entrepreneur who flourished in New York City was protecting his tailored suit, or not solely because of that, anyway. He had another one for Sunday.
“I try to bring numerous suits, ties, shirts,” said Enfield, who incurred the wrath of his players after Sunday’s win over San Diego State after mocking them for throwing only a cup of water on him Friday.
“They got me back. It felt like a couple jugs on me whatever they threw, because I was drenched.”
Whether being positive or just prudent, Enfield came to Dallas prepared for two more games again.
“We’ll bring two outfits,” he said. “I always try to pack for the maximum amount of games you can play.”
It took just 4:21 of game time for FGCU to get its first dunk of the night against the Gators. Sophomore point guard Brett Comer stole an errant Gator pass, drove down the court and tossed an alley-oop to senior Sherwood Brown, who slammed it home. The Eagles finished the game with five dunks, good for a total of 149 this season…FGCU drew 40,626 total fans this season at Alico Arena. The announced attendance for Friday’s NCAA South Regional semifinals at Cowboys Stadium was 40,639…Chicago Bulls and former UF forward Joakim Noah was watching the game…Florida in now 23-1 when outrebounding its opponent this season…FGCU’s 50 points tied a season low, set against Alcorn State on Nov. 21 in a two-point win…Eagles sophomore guard Brett Comer finished the game with seven assists, his 18th game this season with at least that many helpers.
– The News-Press staff writers Seth Soffian and Dan DeLuca contributed to this report.