OCALA-- Under coach Tim Ryan, the College of Central Florida men's basketball program has made its mark on the national scene.
With an NJCAA National Championship in 2013, coupled with nine consecutive appearances in the FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII Tournament, the Patriots have been a model of consistency.
This time around, CF comes into the regular season without a returning starter for the first time since 2008 and returns just one player from last year's roster.
The last time there was this much turnover in the Patriot program, they lost just one conference game and qualified for the state tournament behind two-time All-American Ricardo Ratliffe.
Despite a new roster, the message behind the CF program has been sent.
"They have an understanding about what kind of program that we have here," said Ryan, who was elected into the FCSAA Men's Basketball Hall of Fame last spring. "They want to go to a place that wins and a place that they have the opportunity to play at.
"Each year, your team is going to be different. That's JUCO. "
Whoever the Patriots have been able to have on the court during Ryan's 11 years, they've been successful, most notably the past two years.
CF is 14-5 over the past two seasons against state qualifiers and were 7-4 a year ago against teams ranked in the state coaches poll.
A year ago, the Patriots ranked sixth in the state coaches poll, before a loss to eventual state champion Chipola ended their season in the opening round of the state tournament.
"When I recruit, I don't recruit to a system," Ryan said. "We want coachable kids who are going to work hard and be the type of player that the community can be proud of both on and off the court."
CF's success is evident in terms of how successful they've been at home.
At virutally every home game dating back to the Gene Smithson era, the Patriots have played to a near-capacity or capacity house.
CF has lost just six homes games since December 2012 and had a 33-game overall homecourt winning streak coupled with a 21-game streak against conference opponents during its past two-plus seasons.
The Patriots, who open regular season play on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against East Georgia State, will start off this season ranked No. 4 in the state.
"We have more wide bodies than we had last year," Ryan said. "Plus, this year's team will shoot much better than what we had last year. We don't have the type of high-flying athletes that we had a year ago, but we still have good athletes."
CF's backcourt will feature the likes of Terrell Rogers and Diamante Lewis, while Brandon Tabb, Barrington Alston, Corbyn Jackson, Amir Warnock, Eddy Polanco, Miguel Cartagena Reyes, Allen Costely, Dwayne Daniel and Iseoluwapo Jegede are others to watch on the floor for this season.
Rogers averaged 29.3 points per game as a high school senior and is the son of Shawnta Rogers, who holds several career records at George Washington and earned Atlantic-10 Player of the Year honors as a senior in 1999.
Lewis, a transfer from Florida International, earned Star-Banner Player of the Year honors for Lake Weir and helped his high school program earned its first district title since 1975 four years ago.
Alston (6-8, 225), Jackson (6-7, 250), Warnock (6-8, 240), Jegede (6-7, 240), Costley (6-5, 215), Devaughn Jenkins (6-8, 200) give the Patriots solid size, while Polanco (6-3), Daniel (5-9) and Cartagena (6-1) are among the shooters that CF brings to its arsenal this season, along with Austin Bowman (6-0), the lone returning player from a year ago.
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