It's that time of the year again, the always electrifying March Madness has finally arrived. For the next two weeks many will be glued to the TV/web/smart phones, not wanting to miss that epic upset, buzzer beater, or bracket buster. March Madness truly is a time when die hard college basketball fans come alive and celebrate their favorite team's accomplishments. Like these fans, we celebrate the fact that four of our own IMG Academy basketball program alums and their teams have made the 2012 NCAA Tournament through their hard work and determination. These players and their teams include:
Jared Swopshire (University of Louisville)
Under Coach Rick Pitino, the 6'8â junior forward is starting to get his rhythm back after a season ending groin injury last year. He had a stellar season in 09-10, where he averaged almost 8 points and 6 boards a night reaching double digits on 12 different occasions. He also was ranked 6th in the Big East in free throw percentage, shooting an impressive 84 percent from the charity stripe; something most big man can't even dream of doing. This season, he slowly but surely got back into the Cardinals rotation as the only returning starter from the 2010-2011 season. The 2012 Big East Champions finished the season with a 26-9 record and look to continue their win streak throughout the tournament. The fourth seeded Cardinals face the 13th seeded Davidson Wildcats (25-7) today at 1:40.
Joey Moreau (Florida State University)
IMG Academy alum Joey Moreau has played on two NCAA Tournament teams for Florida State University and helped lead the Seminoles to 45 victories in his first two seasons as a member of the men's basketball team. As one of the teams most hard working and enthusiastic players, he has played in 15 games during his career and earned playing time in the Seminoles' big win over Notre Dame in the 2011 NCAA Tournament - a victory that advanced Florida State to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 1993 season and for the fourth time in school history. During the first two years of his career, the Seminoles were 15-0 in the games in which Moreau has earned playing time and he is a perfect eight of eight from the free throw line in his 15 appearances. Moreau has helped Florida State defeat six ranked teams in the first two seasons of his career including No. 1 Duke and No. 5 Notre Dame during the 2011 season. The 24-9 Seminoles have been on a tear this season, seeming almost un beatable at times. They have let no team stand in their way, not even the likes of powerhouses UNC or Duke. They truly have their eye on the prize this year, entering the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The Seminoles swept through the always challenging ACC tournament in a breeze, and are now ready and focused on their next challenge that lies ahead. Florida States journey at the big dance begins against St Bonaventure on Friday, March 16th 2:45.
Teeng Akol and Spence Sheldon (Western Kentucky University)
Two of IMG Academy basketball program's Alum, Teeng Akol and Spence Sheldon, were a part of what many are calling the greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history against Mississippi Valley State earlier this week. The Hill Toppers came back to win 59-58 after trailing by 16 points with a mere five minutes left in the game. Even President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron (who both had front row seats to the game) were baffled yet enthused about the engrossing finish.
The big surprise was the contribution from 6'11â center Teeng Akol. After transferring mid season from Oklahoma State University, he has been a solid big man off the bench for the Hill Toppers. The Sudan native is averaging three points and 3 boards a night as well as shutting down any opposing player that enters the paint with his impressive wingspan and shot blocking abilities. Against Mississippi Valley State, Akol provided that much needed lift for the 16-18 Hill Toppers, scoring 9 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and producing 5 blocks. His team fed off his enthusiasm, hustle plays, and overall passion to make one of the most legendary comebacks in NCAA history. Head Coach Ray Harper and the Hill Toppers face the number one seeded Kentucky Wildcats today at 6:50 in the South Regional bracket.
DeAndre Daniels (University of Connecticut)
The 6'8â athletic Daniels started his freshman season at the University of Connecticut with a bang to say the least. He made an immediate impact for the reigning national champs, starting at small forward in early games including Maine, where Daniels peaked with 15 points in 29 minutes. Since, he was greatly impacted by the flu in the early part of the season, âThat kind of threw me off track,â Daniels said. Even though his numbers have fallen, there is much potential and hope for Huskies' fans for this California native. While at IMG Academy, Daniels was the 10th ranked player overall and the number three small forward in the class of 2011 according to Rivals.com. He was also rated as the 19th-best prospect in the class of 2011 by Maxpreps.com and at one point was the highest ranked unsigned prospect on the market. With a resume like this, we are sure to be hearing the name DeAndre Daniels a lot more in the near future. During the regular season, the 20-13 Huskies had impressive wins against Notre Dame, West Virginia and Florida State University. The reigning National Champs look to repeat in the tournament this year, facing Iowa State in the first round tonight at 9:20. With Jim Calhoun and his 30 appearances at the big dance, the Huskies will most definitely be on everyone's radar.