By Jake Henning
In 2013, FGCU showed the country their high-flying antics and three-point shooting when they landed themselves in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
As a No.15 seed, most teams are counted out and predicted to lose to big conference programs that run the ESPN highlight reel. In only their second year of full NCAA eligibility, the Eagles won the Atlantic Sun Tournament, beating top-seeded Mercer in the championship game, to earn their first ever bid to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 15 seed in the south region.
Many of FGCU’s core players were never regarded as stars coming out of high school and into college. Sherwood Brown began his collegiate basketball career as a walk-on and had no attention as a high school recruit. Brown was the third player in Florida Gulf Coast Eagles history to score 1,000 points and the first FGCU player to score both 1000 points and grab 500 rebounds in his career. Brown also won the Atlantic Sun player of the year in his senior season.
Starting point guard Brett Comer wasn’t exactly acclimated to his position when he first arrived at FGCU, coming from Winter Park High School, where he was a backup to future NBA player Austin Rivers. Comer would then go on to record 31 assists in three NCAA Tournament games, the third-highest for a player in tournament history.
Chase Fieler was another that had little attention as a high school recruit, but quickly found success with the Eagles. In their ASUN championship season, Fieler averaged 12.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and shot 56 percent from the field. He was also named to the Atlantic Sun All-Conference Second Team and earned a position on the A-Sun All-Tournament Team after averaging 16.0 points and seven rebounds per game in tournament play.
As a young team led by Chase Fieler, Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer, FGCU came into their first game at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia against No. 2 seed Georgetown. Georgetown, who had now NBA player Otto Porter, was just coming off a tough loss to No.19 ranked Syracuse a week before.
The Eagles came out and shocked the world when they controlled a two-point halftime lead over the Hoyas. A flying one-handed alley-oop dunk by Chase Fieler with 1:54 left put an emphatic exclamation point on the game and brought the crowd to its feet.
Sherwood Brown had 24 points and Bernard Thompson finished with 23, while FGCU scored 54 points in the second half and sent the Big East regular-season champion Hoyas home early.
The highlights from that game would grace the cover of every sports media show and paper in the country. “Dunk City” was born and FGCU suddenly became a household name.
FGCU would continue their exciting run when they took on No. 7 seed San Diego State. A back and forth game from the start, the Eagles continued their dominance against the Aztecs.
The Eagles trailed by five points going into the first half, but they managed to keep it close and found themselves trailing by just one heading into halftime.
The Green and Blue raced to a double-digit lead midway through the second half with a 17-0 run. Fueled by the crowd in attendance, FGCU would hang on for the 10-point win.
Their next game would match them up with No. 3 seed Florida, proving to be a very tough squad throughout the year.
Unfortunately their season would come to a close, as the Eagles weren’t able to make their way past the third round. Still, FGCU still holds the record as the first No. 15 seed to ever make it to the Sweet Sixteen.