FGCU Eagles Aim to Soar with 3-Point Prowess: Shooting is in the FGCU women’s basketball team’s DNA; ‘Raining 3s’ isn’t just a slogan, it’s a system.
Under Coach Karl Smesko, the Eagles topped the nation in made 3-pointers for four seasons, setting an NCAA record with 431 triples in 2017-18.
To emphasize FGCU’s dedication to the long-distance game, every player on the 2023-24 roster, from 5-foot-4 Casey Santoro to 6-foot-1 Ajulu Thatha, is designated as a shooter.
“We’ve always had position-less players,” Smesko said. “Guard, forward, center, that doesn’t work for us. We list everyone as a basketball player, aspirational in wanting everyone to be shooters.”
This season, most shooters are unproven at FGCU, with nine players, including all five starters, departing from last year’s 33-4 ASUN champion team.
Replacing such quality players is a challenge, but Smesko, the six-time consecutive ASUN Coach of the Year, is optimistic about the talented additions, balancing patience with urgency.
To aid the learning curve, FGCU relies on redshirt junior Maddie Antenucci and fifth-year player Kierra Adams, veterans reinforcing the finer points of the Eagles’ system.
In last year’s postseason, Antenucci and Adams played crucial roles, with Antenucci scoring 14 points in the ASUN Tournament championship and Adams delivering 12 points in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite key departures, FGCU, ranked No. 2 in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Poll, is the preseason favorite for the eighth consecutive ASUN title. Success relies on significant contributions from eight transfers, including local talents Emani Jefferson and Maca Retamales.
FGCU’s newcomers, especially fifth-year players Sofia Persson (Eckerd) and Thatha (SIU-Edwardsville), show consistency in preseason practices. Persson led the Tritons to their first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance, averaging 17.6 points and eight rebounds per game. Thatha notched 14 double-doubles for the Cougars last year.
FGCU faces a challenging early-season schedule against three Power 5 opponents, No. 21 USC, Kentucky, and Duke, and a potential matchup with No. 3 Iowa and National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark in the Gulf Coast Showcase.
The Eagles aim for their 11th ASUN title in the program’s Division I history once ASUN play begins in January, maintaining their commitment to excellence despite the challenges ahead.