What does the future hold for the men’s basketball team?

Sophomore guard Dashon Gittens driving to the basket for a layup. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

After taking a 78-59 loss to the Sam Houston Bearkats in the Conference USA Championships on March 13, 2024, the FIU men’s basketball enters the 2024 offseason with more questions than answers.

Last season, the Panthers finished their campaign with an 11-22 overall record and struggled to find any sort of consistency throughout the year. They finished the season in last place of the CUSA standings due to their 5-11 record in conference play.

A large factor contributing to the team’s inconsistency was their inability to win games in enemy territory. Despite finishing with a 9-6 record at home, they finished with a 1-12 away record and a 1-4 record in neutral territory.

Beyond their record, FIU’s on-court play was heavily dictated by statistical extremes on both sides of the ball. They finished the season with a 73.6 point per game average and were the fourth highest scoring team in the conference.

Their high scoring average was a direct result of both a fast pace of play and the team’s overall shot selection. On the season, they averaged 8.3 made 3-pointers per game, which was the second highest volume in CUSA.

Senior guard Javaunte Hawkins acted as the linchpin of the Panthers’s perimeter attack, as he shot 38% from beyond-the-arc on nearly 6.9 attempts per game. He also finished the season with an average of 13.1 PPG, which is the highest of his career.

Despite FIU’s areas of efficiency on offense, their efforts were often undermined by their lapses on defense. On average, they allowed their opponents to score 76.5 PPG, the most points allowed per game in the conference.

Besides the high volume of points they allowed, they also allowed their opponents to shoot an average of 39.5% from 3-point distance. They also averaged the fewest rebounds per game in the conference and finished the season at 31.6 RPG.

However, the Panthers’ defensive gameplan wasn’t entirely ineffective, as their game plan was centered around creating steals. Last season, they averaged the second most steals in the conference and came away with a 10.21 steals per game average.

Sophomore guard Arturo Dean played a large role in the team’s defensive scheme through his ability to get into passing lanes. He finished the season with the most total steals in the NCAA and held a 3.3 SPG average.

Upon the season’s conclusion, Dean announced that he entered the NCAA transfer portal and will take his talents elsewhere for the 2024-2025 season. Between both his and Hawkins departure, FIU enters the offseason looking for a new identity.

If the team wishes to look inwards for improvement, sophomore guard Dashon Gittens announced that he will be returning to the team next season. After he missed the final 10 games due to injury, he averaged 9.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.6 SPG on the season.

In the Panthers game against the Houston Christian Huskies on Nov. 15, 2023, Gittens finished with 20 points, which was his season-high in scoring. His efficiency from 3-point distance helped the team collect their only road win of the year, as he shot 4-6 from deep.

Outside of internal improvement, sophomore guard Asim Jones announced his commitment to the team on Tuesday, April 2. 

Jones, the 6-2 combo guard, has spent his last two seasons with the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles. Last year, he started in 24 of his 25 games played and averaged a team-high 17.5 PPG.

Although he held the highest point per game average on the team, Jones acted as more than just a scorer for the Golden Eagles. Making an impact in all areas of the game, he also averaged 4.1 RPG, 2.12 SPG and 4.8 assists per game.

Currently, Jones is the player outside of the roster to make a commitment to FIU for next season. His two-way ability to impact the game should help supplement some of the scoring the team lost from their departures.

According to 247Sports, the team has tendered 12 scholarship offers to prospective athletes for next season. However, five of the 12 players are already committed elsewhere, which leaves seven potential recruits on their board.

With a long offseason ahead for the FIU men’s basketball team, they could enter the 2024-2025 season with a completely different composition from the last.

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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