Eastern Florida State Titans Open Weekend With Young, Eager Basketball Team
By Mark DeCotis // October 29, 2015
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – From season to season a college basketball coach will turn a page or two when it comes to building a new team.
At the NJCAA level a coach might turn a chapter or two.
But with only three players returning from the 2014-2015 team that won the Titans’ third straight Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference championship. and with only one having played appreciable minutes, Eastern Florida men’s head coach Jeremy Shulman is beginning with a book of blank pages.
“I love coaching at this level for many reasons, one of which is every season you get a fresh start,” Shulman said.
“This season is a much fresher start but it’s been fun so far.”
Shulman is in his sixth season at Eastern Florida with a resume of 118 victories, four appearances in the FCSAA/NJCAA Region 8 Tournament, two in the championship game, and an appearance in the 2015 NJCAA National Championship tournament.
Not to mention a 47-game home winning streak at the Titan Field House on the Melbourne Campus.
Equaling or exceeding those accomplishments will fall to a team of four sophomores and nine freshmen and a coaching staff bolstered by the addition of assistants Reggie Freeman, the third leading scorer in the history of the University of Texas and a former European pro, and Lynn Cundiff, who coached Independence (Kansas) Community College to the 1978 NJCAA national title.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Shulman said. “The conference will be even tougher this season and our non-conference schedule will be the toughest we’ve played since I’ve been here.”
“We as coaches and our sophomores will have to be the guiding lights as our freshmen endure the steep learning curve that comes with playing at this level. At the same time the sophomores and the freshmen will be held to high expectations.”
The three returnees are 2014-2015 first-team All-Southern Conference selection 6-foot, 7-inch forward Djordje Beronja, 6-9 center Zavier Peart and 6-1 guard Will Gibson.
The fourth sophomore is 6-6 guard/forward B.J. Gladden, who came from NCAA Division I Akron University and was noted as one of the top transfers by the NJCAA.
The freshmen are 6-4 guard and captain Jon Martin; his brother 6-4 guard Joey Martin; 6-3 guard Kareem Brewton, noted as one of the top newcomers by the NJCAA; 6-7 forward Joan Duran; 6-5 guard/forward Richard Gaines; 5-10 guard Keoni Wallington; 6-2 guard C.J. Jackson; 6-3 guard Jalen Glover; and 6-6 guard/forward Austin Awad.
The Titans, ranked third in the FCSAA/Region 8 pre-season poll and 25th in the NJCAA poll, open the season by hosting Friday and Saturday’s Eastern Florida Halloween Classic. They play USC-Salkahatchie at 7 p.m. Friday and Atlanta Metro at 2 p.m. Saturday. Also participating is Daytona State College which plays Atlanta Metro at 5 p.m. Frtiday and USC-Salkahatchie at noon on Saturday.
Admission is free.
Red Devil Academy comes calling on Nov. 4 and then always tough College of Central Florida on Nov. 6.
There also are home-and-home games against St. Petersburg College, which has given Eastern Florida fits twice in the FCSAA/Region 8 tournament; a three-game tournament at Snow College in Utah, a tournament at South Georgia State and the Florida JUCO Shootout at Santa Fe College.
Then things get real with 15 games in the Southern Conference which is not only among the toughest in Florida but the toughest nationwide with Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State, Broward College, ASA Miami and Indian River State.
“If you love fast-paced, hard-nosed, compete on every possession basketball you’ll love the Southern Conference,” Shulman said.
“That we have won three straight championships in this conference is something to be very proud of.”
“It’s 15 games of exhausting, give everything you’ve got basketball and that’s why our gym is full for our home games.”
Speaking of home games, while Shulman hasn’t stressed the 47-game winning streak his players, especially his sophomores, are well aware of it.
They also are aware that they came within one game last year of equaling the school record for wins in a season, finishing 29-5.
“I am going to fight for every ball,” Beronja said. “I want my team to fight for every ball, every possession. I’m not going to lose one possession.”
Six Eastern Florida home games will be televised live on WEFS-TV and streamed live at www.efsctitans.com
They are: Nov. 6 vs. College of Central Florida; Jan. 9 vs. Broward College; Jan. 23 vs. Palm Beach; Feb. 2 vs. Miami Dade; Feb. 9 vs. Broward College and Feb. 16 vs. Indian River.
“You are going to see a great brand of basketball and more than anything you are going to see great players,” Shulman said.