There is no truth to the rumor that the IPFW men’s basketball team will be changing its nickname to the Floridians to emulate the old ABA franchise, however, one could not blame the program if it thought about.
The Mastodons added their fourth native of the Sunshine State this spring – and sixth overall - on Tuesday, as it signed Pierre Bland out of Florida State College in Jacksonville.
“I thought that Pierre was a good fit with our roster,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. “He can really distribute the ball and he has a good basketball IQ.”
Jasick discovered a diamond in the rough in 2008, when he recruited a scrawny, non-shooting Frank Gaines off of a strong high school team in Fort Lauderdale. Fast-forward to today and Gaines is a strong, 195-pound athlete that may be the best player in the Summit League this coming season. After that experiment worked out so well, Jasick has taken a liking to recruiting the state of Florida.
“We have some connections to the state of Florida that have been helpful,” Jasick said. “And I think that Florida is under recruited because of its geography. With no states to the east, west or south of it, not a lot of schools go (recruiting) there.”
IPFW added another wing in Herbert Graham (North Miami Beach) a year ago, before the mother-load of talent joined the program this spring.
The Mastodons have signed four Florida junior college players in Bland (Jacksonville), Steve Forbes (Clermont), Kevin Harden (Orlando) and Luis Jacobo (Sanford) in the past months.
“There are not a significant number of mid-major programs in Florida,” Jasick said. “So there is a large talent pool with not a lot of mid-major schools recruiting those players.”
The 6-foot-2 Bland has been a standout point guard at Florida State College in Jacksonville for the past two seasons. He averaged 12.1 points, 4.2 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game this past season and was named to the All-State / All-Region VIII squad, and First Team All-Florida College System Activities Association.
“Pierre can defend on the perimeter and plus, he’s a great guy,” Jasick said.
Bland will provide depth at point guard position along with sophomore Isaiah McCray. Earlier this month, junior guard Justin Jordan injured his knee and will be out of action until late 2012, while returning sophomore guard Jonny Marlin elected to transfer to Indiana last month.
“We didn’t necessarily have a set plan for our last scholarship,” Jasick explained. “But with Justin’s injury, adding stability to that position was something that we looked at. But we are working like crazy to get Justin healthy.”
One of the aspects that appeals to the players from the south when they visit IPFW is the importance of the sport of basketball. The emphasis on the sport is much stronger in this state than Florida according to Jasick.
“They visit here and are excited about what we have,” Jasick said. “There is positive feedback on the Coliseum, which presents itself very well. The arenas in the south are not that big and basketball in the Midwest is just emphasized more.”