Boca Raton, Florida - Back in March of 2020, the eighth-seeded Fighting Knights fell to top-seed and national No. 5 Florida Southern in the first round of the SSC Tournament. It was the end of a season, and while the end of any year is always difficult, the Fighting Knights had no way of knowing just how long it would be before they would get to take the court again.
Just a few days after their loss, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sports at Lynn University. Things remained shuttered heading into the winter of 2020, and it was ultimately decided that the 2020-21 basketball season would be canceled altogether.
It wasn't until Nov. 1, 2021, 607 days after their loss to the Mocs, that the Lynn Fighting Knights finally took the court again, taking on the FAU Owls in an exhibition game. While the result was ultimately a loss, the men's basketball team was back in action on the road with plenty of the Blue and White faithful there to support the team. It was clear from the turnout that basketball season was back, and the excitement for what's to come is very high.
The regular season is slated to begin this Saturday, and Head Coach Jeff Price is happy with what he sees from the Fighting Knights. "Having not played in almost two years is a concern, but once we get back in rhythm we will be fine," Price said.
Getting into rhythm should be a little easier thanks to all of the returning players that Lynn welcomes back from 2019-20. The group is headlined by Christian Peevy who was named the SSC Newcomer of the Year in 2019-20 for his work on the court. The transfer from Incarnate World averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, leading Lynn in both categories.
But he's not the only key player the Fighting Knights return. Lynn also welcomes back point guard Brandon Bornelus who started 17 games for the Fighting Knights in the 2019-20 season, averaged 12 points per game and led the way with 3.4 assists per game.
They also bring back Cameron Gaines who started 22 games for the Fighting Knights, averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, Branden Ellis, who started 15 games and averaged 8.8 points per game, Ibrahima Sankare who played nearly 12 minutes per game, and Jamison Evans who appeared in 24 games as a freshman and averaged 40.4% from three-point range.
There will also be a group of new players joining the team, headlined by Tommie Luke who transfers from Webber International, and Servet Kurnaz who joins the team after playing with the University of Denver. Both players will look to make an immediate impact when the season gets underway.
In addition to the new players, changes have been made to the coaching staff as well. This offseason, Head Coach Jeff Price promoted Nick DeAtley to head assistant coach of the program after DeAtley served as a volunteer assistant coach with the team during their last season. While it's a new role, DeAtley is very familiar with the team and ready to watch them grow as a unit.
"I could not be more proud of our guys for the patience and perseverance they have displayed over the last 19 months," DeAtley said. "I look forward to seeing our senior-laden team lead us in an always very tough SSC conference."
And Lynn will also add a familiar face from one of the most successful runs the Fighting Knights have ever had, as Mike Baez will join the coaching staff as a graduate assistant. Baez was a member of the Sweet 16 team from 2018-19. During that season he was named a member of the All-SSC First Team.
The Fighting Knights were picked fifth in the SSC preseason poll, and they received a first-place vote in the ranking. Perhaps the SSC head coach who voted for Lynn atop the standings is seeing what those closest to the program are seeing.
"I'm extremely excited about this team," Price said. "We have a great group that gets it both on and off the court. They will be fun to watch."
The Fighting Knights open the regular season at home on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. against Mississippi College.