Uncaging The Owls: Can Dusty May and Co. Rebuild Florida Atlantic?

High School
Florida

Posted On: 06/1/18 1:34 PM

In his first year as head coach of Florida Atlantic University, Dusty May looks as if he could be in his first year of undergrad. The 41-year-old May walks through the scenic, sprawling Boca Raton campus with the eagerness and boyish enthusiasm of a newly minted fraternity pledge.

For a new athletic regime, one seemingly hell-bent on reviving a recently floundering program, this youthful appearance mirrors the Owls’ mentality of new beginnings. May won and won often under Mike White at Florida. The Gators piled up a 69-37 record during that three-year stay, thoroughly underscored by two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, with an Elite Eight berth in 2017. Scouring the country’s hotbeds for top-shelf talent worked in May’s favor during his time with the Gators.

May’s high order commitment to an around the clock recruiting schedule, one which cross-crossed the country, ultimately enabled him to make inroads. The know-how and connections gained over the years has helped secure homegrown Florida talent thus far.

May brings with him a unique blend of staff with recruiting ties in the area.

And so the infusion of new blood was necessary following the Owls’ dismal 12-19 campaign in 2017-18. The previous squad mustered a meager six Conference USA wins this past season, amassing just 19 league wins to parallel a putrid 39-84 (.317) four year record which ultimately sent Michael Curry packing.

Lauded as a widely respected former NBA veteran–Curry’s savvy and locker room presence catapulted him to the coaching ranks shortly after his final season on the Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers–the departed coach never found the goods despite flaunting a winnable product.

The whole song and dance of off-season buzz and chatter of changing the culture grew redundant.

And it never matriculated.

Viewed as indifferent to recruiting Palm Beach County and never zoning in on South Florida’s regal recruiting real estate, it was time to refresh the brand.

This opened up a unique challenge for May, who learned under Bob Knight and former USC coach Henry Bibby before making it all a livelihood.

May probably can’t purchase a lottery ticket without instantly being carded, albeit you can bet your bottom dollar the pieces for a wild turnaround are in place.

The Owls tapped into the veteran experience compartment by signing Xavian Stapleton, a 6-foot-6 grad transfer from Mississippi State.

Stapleton played under May and White his freshman year at Louisiana Tech. Performances against Vanderbilt (18 points, 6-for-8 FG, 5-for-5 3FG) and North Florida (16 points, 6-for-10 FG) could potentially be emblematic of the seasoned Stapleton’s production at this level.

Another unique pickup for May and staff has been Richardson Maitre, the former West Oaks (FL) star by way of Indian Hills (JUCO).

The hard-edged, Canadian guard led the vaunted backcourt alongside Illinois-commit Andres Feliz during a memorable senior year at West Oaks.

Maitre was an elder statesmen on that young West Oaks team under Kenny Gillion, who has helped build the small Orlando-based school into a traditional national power.

Maitre’s defensive tenacity, off the dribble scoring, and now reliable shooting could bolster the backcourt.

Gillion’s affinity for pressure all across the court and the instinctive defensive style ingrained in Maitre will mirror the approach at FAU.

Another recent pickup who could offer immediate contributions at FAU is Madiaw Niang, from DME Academy in Daytona Beach. Following a pedestrian junior season at The Conrad Academy in Orlando, the multi-positional Class of 2018 prospect rapidly evolved as a borderline high major forward as a senior at DME.

With length and an incrementally improved 3-point shot which opens up the offense, Niang averaged 15.2 points and 10.7 boards in conference.

The 6-foot-8 Niang authored several 30+ point games in the SIAA conference and tore down 23 rebounds in a wild, single-game effort. He wound up narrowing a list that included Oregon State, Buffalo, Long Beach State, Florida International, and several others to FAU and Coastal Carolina.

These past two weeks, South Florida has been pelted by a constant spate of rain.

Yesterday, FAU’s palm tree dotted and sun-baked campus had a vibrant and ultra-serene feeling to it.

Fitting, as the May era could potentially provide the calm after the storm.

You can’t argue the product. There is a spanking new court with all of the amenities.

There is a first rate education, a scenic setting, and the campus’ no secret reputation of scintillating women every which way.

The lifestyle there is comfortable and the hoops pulse could be-a-changing before we know it.

FAU has expressed nary the slightest morsel of hesitance in employing the win-now approach. The campus is buzzing following the football resurgence behind Lane Kiffin, who went 11-3 with a conference USA title during his inaugural season. Kiffin and the Owls thwarted a nine-year drought with a 50-3 trouncing of Akron to win the Boca Bowl.

The eccentric Kiffin was rewarded for both a bounce back season and simultaneously the appeasing taste of national visibility FAU has so aggressively longed for. With several programs looking to woo him, Kiffin penned a lucrative deal which will keep him at the helm until 2027.

May On The Team’s Style of Play

We want to play with great tempo and pace, with unselfishness. We want to press and get up and down the floor offensively and defensively and share the ball. Really, the basic principles of basketball. Year one will be about developing a culture and a mindset and the style of play with everything that we do. We want to make the game really hard to play for our opponents.

The team we put out on the floor this year, we envision that for being a great selling point for recruiting classes where they’re attracted to the way we play.

On His Experience At UF

The most important aspect I learned under (Mike White) was relationships. Relationships with current players. People talk about it all the time in recruiting. It’s about developing relationships with recruits and their coaches and their families. Developing relationships and continuing to develop relationships after they get on campus. Spending a lot of time with our guys in the film room, having breakfast, having lunch, whatever the case with them–just having a great relationship with our guys where they know we have their best interest mind in is most important. Building that relationship where they know we want them to be the best players and people they can be.

On Expectations In Year One

Just to be extremely competitive every night and put a team that plays together that’s fun to watch. If we put a team together a team that plays with passion and heart and plays together, the wins will take care of themselves. If we just take care of business one day at a time, one practice at a time, the end result will be as is. We know what type of ball we want to play and what type of brand we want to put on the floor.