Road to perfection

Road to perfection

By SETH STRINGER

NICEVILLE – Since Steve DeMeo took over the NWF State program five years ago, the standard has remained the same.

"Play your best every day," the veteran coach said matter-of-factly.

This applies not just to games, but to practice as well. Translation: There's no letup for a program expected to win conference, regional and national titles.

At 19-0 and 2-0 in the Panhandle Conference, the top-ranked team in the country is indeed putting its best foot forward every day.

Just reference Wednesday's 95-53 win over visiting Gulf Coast State at The Arena.

NWF State executed in every facet, shooting 57 percent from the floor, forcing 23 turnovers and limiting the Commodores to 32-percent shooting and a 3-for-16 clip from beyond the arc.

Off the bench, in transition, on the boards ... the Raiders held every advantage. Even when they pulled their starters halfway through the second half and the presses were called off, the Raiders still expanded the lead.

Yet in a 42-point win, DeMeo reminded his men to be humble.

"The one thing I don't like is to win by big numbers because you have to play these teams two more times and that's tricky," he said. "Complacency is human nature, but I told the guys to enjoy this tonight but we have to get back to work tomorrow and win practice.

"My job is, how can I keep them on track? How can I keep them from starting to believe their something special. Because when you do lose that one game, it can quickly turn into two or three losses in a hurry."

To that effect, DeMeo said the team refuses to look at the big picture.

"We gotta focus on the daily stuff and that's something I'll keep reminding them of every day," he said.

Up next for the Raiders is Saturday's 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Chipola (13-3, 1-0), which DeMeo said houses "probably the best frontcourt in the country" and the "No. 1 Juco player in the country by all reports."

That player is 6-foot-11 Yuat Alok, who enters averaging 13.1 points a game on 56-percent shooting and a 46-percent clip from beyond the arc.

"He can shoot, he can pass and he can handle the ball," DeMeo said.

His frontcourt mate is Shamarkus Kennedy, a 6-9 forward who DeMeo said has "great bounce and a second jump." Kennedy is averaging 15.7 points a night on 65-percent shooting to pair with 7.7 rebounds a game.

Depth-wise, DeMeo said Chipola is "probably the best team Brett (Campbell) has had since he got there."

NWF State is adding to its depth every day, but the core is there.

Andres Feliz in the clear frontrunner for Panhandle Player of the Year, the sophomore point guard averaging 25.5 points per game in conference play, shooting 62.2 percent from the floor and putting up 6.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds a night.

"Obviously Andres has been the motor to this boat," DeMeo said.

Tray Boyd III follows with 14.7 points per game, sixth man Chris Duarte is posting 13.6 points, Derek Funderburk adds 11.1 points and Kelvin Robinson is right at 10. The fifth starter, Karim Ezzedine, is posting 7.3 points and finding other ways to contribute.

"Karim Ezzedine doesn't get a lot of accolades and he does a lot of things that don't show up in the box score," DeMeo said. "Derek Funderburk's numbers are improving, too, and he also does a lot that doesn't show up in the box score. Tray Boyd III isn't scoring as much in conference, but he did an outstanding job of defending the other night, and the same goes with Kelvin. And Chris does a little bit of everything – scores, passes, rebounds.

"We have a top eight, but if we can get Jonas (Parker) and Ludgy (Debaut) going we can get back to being a really deep team."