Each year college basketball teams face the challenge of losing some veteran players and adding new faces into the mix.
For the Owls, the quest for a second Sun Belt Conference Championship this season will include adding a mixture of new players — a transfer from Baylor University, a graduate student, a screenwriter and a saxophonist.
While the FAU men’s basketball team shares a common goal of earning a trip to the annual NCAA tournament in March, the different pieces that make up the team are anything but common.
Kelvin Penn, a Washington native, is a master of the saxophone.
“I’ve been playing the saxophone since the sixth grade,” he said.“I can play the guitar too and I taught myself the piano two years ago.”
Penn played high school basketball in Washington, where he was a two-time league MVP, before going to Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. At Massanutten, Penn averaged a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) per game.
“My post game is solid I am just working on my shooting game now,” said Penn. “I hope to graduate with a business degree, but for now I am enjoying the ride that basketball takes me on.”
Penn also credits coach Jarvis with his decision to come to FAU.
“When I spoke to him he let it be known that there would be expectations for the basketball program,” said Penn. “There were offers on the table from schools like UAB and the University of Ohio, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to play with a winning team and a well respected coach.”
For Omari Grier, playing basketball and writing a movie are relative to each other.
“I control what happens in both,” he said.
Grier, a 6’4” shooting guard, averaged over 20 points per game as a senior in high school. But shooting a basketball isn’t his only hobby. Grier also has two full screenplays to his credit.
“I really enjoy how films are made,” Grier said. “I don’t have a lot of time now because of basketball, but my best friend and I write comedies together. I have two of my own.”
Grier’s best attribute is his shooting. According to the Delaware Times, Grier is at his best in catch-and-shoot-opportunities, but can also be a slasher, and score points in the paint.
“I’m not selfish but my best ability on the court is my shooting,” said Grier. “When I’m out on the court I try not to think to much and if I’m open I take the shot.”
Grier credited coach Mike Jarvis as the reason he chose FAU.
Dragan Sekelja is hard to miss.
Standing seven feet tall, he will be charged with the task of being FAU’s big man on the court. The problem: He is ineligible to play for the 2011-12 season.
Sekelja, a 20-year old junior, transferred from Baylor after appearing in only 23 games in two seasons. Under the NCAA transfer policy, he will sit out the season and prepare for the 2012-13 season.
“I look at it as a year to get better. It’s going to be beneficial,” said Sekelja. “It would be nice to play, but at the same time I’m going to get better for next year.”
Born in Bosnia but raised in Croatia, Sekelja has plenty of experience under his belt. He played for the U16 (under 16) and U17 (under 17) Croatia National teams, and played in the 2007 European Championships in Greece. In 2008-09, Sekelja played professional basketball in Croatia, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds a game.
“The experience I’ve had helps me with some of the material Coach Jarvis teaches,” said Sekelja. “It also is beneficial since some of the younger guys haven’t played as much.”
For Sekelja, an aspiring NBA player, the year off will provide a chance for him to get acquainted with Mike Jarvis’ system and to become a big impact for the team in the 2012-13 season.
For now, Sekelja understands his role. “I am here to learn and help this team repeat as Sun Belt Conference champs.”
It’s not often that graduate students are student athletes. For Jelani Floyd, however, the task is manageable.
“I love basketball but I also love reading the Wall Street Journal,” said Floyd. “When I’m icing a leg after practice I just pick it up and read the latest news on stocks and business deals.”
Floyd, who played his undergraduate basketball at UC-Davis, is pursuing his Masters degree in non-profit management and trying to help the Owls win back-to-back conference championships.
“I’ve never won any conference championships and I don’t have any rings,” said Floyd, referring to last year’s Owls team. “But I’m here now to help this team win and continue a tradition of winning basketball at FAU.”
Floyd stands at 6’8”, though it wasn’t always that way.
“As a freshman in high school I was 5’8” and played point guard, but at the start of my college career I was 6’6”, so I’ve played almost everywhere on the court,” he said. “I’m a versatile player and I’m ready to win.”