Plenty of new faces, but optimism running high for JU men’s, women’s hoops teams

New players galore for both Dolphins squads as season approaches

JU men's basketball coach Jordan Mincy answers questions during a media day session Tuesday afternoon. (Justin Barney, News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s getting close and Jordan Mincy knows he’ll have butterflies.

The Jacksonville University men’s and women’s basketball teams are a week from tipoff. There may be a few nerves, but there are more new faces than anything.

For Mincy, that’s the beginning of his college head coaching career. For women’s coach Darnell Haney, it’s the optimism that his team will have a chance to finish what they started after a trying season during the pandemic-plagued 2020-21 year.

For Mincy, tabbed to help bring the Dolphins back into a consistent rhythm, he likes what he’s seen and what he’s heard so far. JU opens its season at home Nov. 9 against Trinity Baptist.

“We’ve had two closed scrimmages, two closed scrimmages. And from both opposing coaches they said, you know what, it’s crazy how physical your guys are, how physical your frontcourt is. And to hear that, it lets us know that everything that we’re doing in practice, day in and day out, is rubbing off on our guys.”

Mincy said those opening night butterflies are tied to the success of his players. He wants them to have that success that they’ve been showing him in practice.

Coaching is the easy part.

Since Mincy was hired late last March, it’s been a crash course on getting plugged in to the program, putting a staff together and assembling a team. JU lost nine players to transfer and another to graduation.

Only four players return — Tyreese Davis, Kevion Nolan, Thomas Owen and Bryce Workman — but Mincy landed some big bodies via transfer. Posts Rod Brown (6-8) and Mike Marsh (6-10) give JU some bite on the defensive end of the court. Florida transfer Osayi Osifo is a 6-8 player who knew Mincy from his time in Gainesville. Add those to returnees like Nolan (16.6 ppg), Davis (11.5 ppg) and Workman (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds per game) and it’s easy to see a strength developing.

Now, it’s finding a way to meld that storied past by creating a program that elite players want to be a part of.

“JU had a rich history in the past. And so how do you connect the rich history in the past with the future, and being able to have those young men and see that we can get back to where we’ve been in the past?,” he said.

“In our recruiting presentations, that’s all we speak on, is that yes, something has been done here before, which means that success can happen. Whether it’s now or in the future, it depends on you and level of commitment you have to working on the floor, but also level of work that you want to put into make sure that this is a national brand, not just a local brand.”

Locally, Mincy said that he’s been blessed by having Vince Martin on staff and connected to the area hoops community. Martin played at JU in 2013-14 and coached at Bishop Snyder. That local connection helped the Dolphins land Gyasi Powell as a transfer from Davis & Elkins. And it’s no doubt helped land commitments from two of the top local shooting guards in the Class of 2022, Episcopal Mark Flakus and Orange Park’s Josiah Sabino.

For Haney, this season is about getting back to normal.

The pandemic strafed the Dolphins women last season, and they limped to the finish with a 4-17 record. This season, it’s about getting back to basketball. JU opens its season Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. at Minnesota.

“It feels tremendously, like tremendously more like true basketball now, being able to have a real preseason, being able to train in the weight room. I’ve been able to implement our system in its entirety over the course of these six months that we’ve been here,” he said. “Summer basketball has been really good. And then being able to come in here in the preseason and prepare like we need to. It’s been excellent for us.”

Guard DeShari Graham leads the JU women’s returnees. She averaged 12 ppg last season. Da’Nasia Shaw is also back for JU. She averaged 7.3 ppg in limited action due to a knee injury. Haney’s big offseason addition was 5-6 point guard Taylor Hawks, a transfer from Jacksonville State. She averaged 11.2 ppg and started all 30 games last season there. Haney said that Hawks has a bit of Chris Paul to her game.

“I think we’re more mature. I think we have some people who’ve been in the trenches a bit and they’re older and they understand a lot of different things that it takes to win basketball games,” Haney said. “So our maturity has helped and that’s helped with the transfers.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.