Former Florida assistant coach Dusty May learned he had plenty to sell when he took over as Florida Atlantic’s head basketball coach last March.
Granted, FAU’s basketball history has produced just one NCAA Tournament appearance. That happened in 2002 when former UF point guard Taurean Green’s father, Sidney Green, coached the Owls.
But being located in Boca Raton has its advantages. There’s the weather. The beach. The nightlife. A cosmopolitan city that attracts celebrities. Renowned former NBA shooting guard Ray Allen stopped by FAU’s gym for a workout a few months ago.
“Joe Girardi was here the other day,” May said, referencing the former New York Yankees manager. “His daughter was at our women’s camp. So it’s just a different deal down here but we’re going to learn from it, take advantage of it and learn from these people, kind of pick their brains of former coaches and players.”
May has already made his mark reshaping FAU’s roster, announcing a signing class of 10 players last Friday. The roster overhaul was needed considering FAU went 12-19 last season and hasn’t posted a winning season since 2010-11. The Owls were 7-11 in Conference USA.
The signing class includes former Mississippi State guard and grad transfer swingman Xavian Stapleton, who began his career at Louisiana Tech under both May and current UF coach Mike White.
“Xavian Stapleton can be one of the better players in the league next year,” May said. “If he stays healthy, I think he can be an all-league.”
From the high school ranks, May signed incoming freshman guard Michael Forrest from nearby Ely High School in Pompano Beach. The 6-foot Forrest led Ely to a Class 8A state title this past season, averaging 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists.
“He comes from a great program down here that always wins, so the competitiveness there and the expectation of winning,” May said. “That’s one of the things most the guys who signed, every one of them come from extremely successful programs, which we prioritized.”
May made recruiting a priority when he took the job in March, hiring three full-time assistants, including former Florida director of basketball operations Kyle Church. Time will tell if the signing class pays dividends next season, but it’s certainly a positive first step. May said he would be open to schedule Florida and coach against one of his mentors, White, if the opportunity presents itself.
“It would be a fun game,” May said. “It would be great for our guys. We’re playing Miami the next three years. But it would be hard, I’m sure, if we played at Florida, I would get caught up in the environment of the game. That’s one thing I was talking about the other day, how much I’m going to miss game days and the student section and the fans, and what a great game day environment they have and we’re going to try to take that to a smaller scale here. “