What Can We Expect From the UIC Flames In 2014?
The answer to this question will be eagerly awaited over the next few months. The 2012-2013 UIC Flames men’s basketball team turned a huge curve in the rebuilding of the program. Howard Moore, who took over the head coaching position from Jimmy Collins in 2010, had quite the mess to clean up.
The Flames had not been to the postseason since 2004, they were coming off of back-to-back losing seasons, and they were struggling in the recruiting department. It has been an exhausting road but Howard Moore has been able to steer the Flames in the right direction.
In 2013, the Flames had their first winning season since the 2007-2008, their first season with at least 15 victories since the previously aforementioned season, their first postseason bid since 2004, and their first postseason victory in school history. Not a bad turnaround in just three seasons.
It wasn’t easy, but Coach Moore’s formula for success is finally starting to pay off. The first thing Moore did in rebuilding the program is bringing back local recruits. Oak Park-River Forest alum Daniel Barnes, Aurora Central Catholic’s Anthony Kelley, Simeon’s Ahman Fells, Thornton’s Jay Parker, and Whitney Young’s Gabe Snider were all on the active roster in 2013.
Coach Moore was also able to get former Hales-Franciscan big man Josh Crittle to transfer home from Central Florida. Moore also had a knack for finding diamonds in the rough from other parts of the country. Players such as Gary Talton, Will Simonton, Marc Brown, and Jake Weigand.
I think that one of the biggest moves the Flames made was being able to pull Hayden Humes away from the grasp of Valparaiso, Humes’ home town. He was aggressively recruited by the hometown Crusaders but opted to come to Chicago instead. All of these players each played an intricate part in the Flames success this past season.
The biggest reasons for this newfound success were guards Gary Talton and Daniel Barnes, along with center Josh Crittle. They accounted for the majority of the Flames offense this year. Role players such as Kelley, Simonton, Humes, Brown, and Weigand also played a pivotal role.
Now granted the Flames did not make the NCAA tournament, instead they played in the College Insider Tournament. The reason why they didn’t make the big dance was because of bad key losses towards the end of the season. Not helping matters was getting eliminated in the second round of the Horizon League Tournament.
But they did get into the postseason. They beat an upstart Chicago State team in the first round, but got out shot by Northern Iowa in the second round. It’s not what Flames fans were hoping for, but it’s a building block and a good place to start. Of course the Flames will have to work even harder come next season.
Crittle, Barnes, and Talton are graduating next month. One or perhaps all of them could be headed into the NBA. Barnes and Talton were the beginning and the end of this UIC offense. Their leadership will also be a tough act to follow. You can replace the roster spot but it’s never easy to replace the player.
With the dismissal of center Matt Gorski in February, the Flames will have to search for another big man to fill in for Crittle or at the very least back up Will Simonton.
In the meantime, I expect Marc Brown to be one of the starting guards for the 2013-2014 season. The other guard spot will be a battle between Joey Miller, Jay Parker, and Gabe Snider. Anthony Kelley will also be difficult to replace. Kelley was one of those major role players who made a difference when it counted the most.
While it will be hard to replace everything he brought to the table, I’m sure that Ahman Fells will try his best. This is the perfect spot for Fells to prove himself, I can only hope that Coach Moore will give him the opportunity. I also expect to see more out of Jake Wiegand next season.
I think for now it’s safe to say that Brown, Humes, Fells, and Simonton are the probable starters for the Flames next season. Let’s hope that Howard Moore can continue to bring in the local recruits and mix them in with core players on the roster now. Next season begins now for the UIC Flames.
Tonight I will be covering the Chicago Cubs first night game of 2013 when they take on the Houston Astros. The first pitch will be after 7pm, you can look for game updates here on Q101. You can also follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82 #Q101Sports