Mid Bay News’ Christopher Saul stopped by Coach Steve DeMeo’s office to get a read on the upcoming season and what Raider fans should expect from their 2023-2024 men’s team, which was just ranked Preseason #1, this year.
The team returns just four of fourteen players from last year’s squad, meaning the team will look much different than last year.
DeMeo has high expectations for the team in every aspect of the player’s lives.
Here’s our full interview with Coach DeMeo:
“We got a good group of guys. You know, the landscape of college basketball definitely changed with the transfer portal. But, we’ve got a deeper team than we’ve ever had; we might not have the elite level talent at the top – we’ve got 14 guys on our roster weekly, potentially division one basketball, and they’re all good kids, and with a younger group that we’ve had last year as well.
Last year, we’ve, you know, obviously had a hell of a year finishing the national championship game. But this group is a little more locked in with, you know, taking care of responsibilities on a daily basis and just love the fact that they really, really care about each other.”
“Northwest Florida Basketball – we share the ball. We actually have a lot of Division I coaches to call me regularly – they watch us play in a couple of jamborees…They know we share the basketball; we’re unselfish. You know, á la the [Golden State] Warriors. They’re gonna see an exciting brand of basketball and see guys on the bench who are into the game. They’re communicating with each other on the bench a little better than on the court.
But just a fun group of guys to be around and guys who can make threes and pass the ball and pretty good athletes as well.”
“I think last year, we played up tempo a little bit, but like we played more up tempo at a desperation. [we would press an opponent] them out of desperation when we’re down.
This year, I want it to be a weapon where we’re attacking people with it.
And we were really good at last year. My guys last year were phenomenal. The group was phenomenal. They were great communicators on the defensive end. This group has to improve on the defensive end communicating, but I think we have just more bodies; we could throw up people that wear people down.”
“The just kids don’t communicate like they used to. It’s funny because we have people coming up to [watch] practice all the time. Even parents came, and then we got some kids that worked out after us in the gym. And they’re like, ‘You know, we’ve got a hard time – our kids don’t talk [to each other on the court], they don’t listen’. Maybe it’s just a part of the whole COVID deal. But, we work on that everyday communication, and we’re trying to get better at that.”
“The bar is always high. I mean, obviously we’ve got these two trophies up here, National Championship trophies, and that’s what we shoot for every year. And if we don’t shoot for that, it’s not gonna be if we’re not if we’re not in a conversation, that means we’re not doing our job.”
A total of seven players from last year’s team that went all the way to the National Title game went on to play at other schools this year – including five players who are now on D-I schools across the Southeast. They include:
“It’s been a fun ride for us. This is my eighth season here. We sent an average of seven guys [to] Division I every season, and they played pretty high levels. [I coached] Chris Duarte, his trophies right up there, [he was] National Player of the Year. He played for Oregon. Now he plays with the [Sacremento] Kings. Xavier Moon played for us, [he] went to Morehead State, and now he’s with the Clippers in the G League on a two-way deal and played with the Clippers team last year. So we have a lot of guys that have success and move on. And a lot of guys have played overseas, a lot of guys starting businesses. So, we do think we help these guys improve their lives. That’s our mission, give people second chances and you know, get them heading in the right direction. That’s, that’s the mission of a junior college is to help people improve their lives.”
If fans join the Raider Club (nwfraiders.com) for about $300, they have access to all of the Raiders games (Baseball, Softball, and Basketball). They will also have access to the practices and the players.
The team will also have games on ESPN U, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3 this year. Fans will see “some high-quality athletes that represent a community well,” DeMeo Added.
The Raiders have their first tip-off against Southern Union State Community College (Alabama) at home on November 1st at 7:30 PM.