Stellar team chemisty fueling solid start for Panthers

FIU guard Willy Nunez Jr. (20) makes an acrobatic dunk during the Panthers’ matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 27 at the Ocean Bank Convocaion Center. (Richard Lewis/FIU Athletics)

By Xavier Holloway/Asst. Sports Director



With the FIU basketball program barreling its way into the exciting month of December filled with scheduled opponents such as Arkansas, University of South Florida, and Ohio, the Panthers’ already established camaraderie will be the key to garnering a successful run.

“We’re a big family,” said senior guard Willy Nuñez, Jr. “We all keep each other accountable for everything because everyone on the team holds that bond.”

In head coach Jeremy Ballard’s inaugural season, the Panthers have gone 4-1 in their first five games, with first and second string players scoring in double figures.

The team is also averaging 17.8 assists-per-game and is holding their opponent to only 12.5 per game.

The unselfishness is evident in team leader Brian Beard, Jr. who has proclaimed his desire to break the team’s record in assists and steals.

“My confidence to shoot comes from my teammates and coaches,” said Nuñez. “I had a bad first game. They didn’t have to keep finding me, but they did, and I hit the open shots.”

The players’ camaraderie on the team has also helped improve their defense as they keep their opponents to 81 points-per-game while outscoring them by a 15.8 margin.

“It’s huge that these guys continue to be unselfish,” said Ballard. “The only numbers that matter are the ones in the final score and in the win column.”

Following their first six games to the season, the Panthers have been struggling at the free throw line with them posting a 58 percent completion percentage.

The Panthers find themselves at the charity strike often throughout games and will need to fix this issue for them to accomplish more success.

“We gotta a lot of guys that can really shoot the ball so we gotta make sure our players get up there with a clear mind and go through the routine that we practiced,” Ballard said. “I think we’re gonna be there a lot, so we need our players to be confident knock the shots down.”