Still, when Louisiana Tech (15-7, 5-4) comes to The Burrow on Thursday for the first time since May assumed the FAU job, there’s certainly going to be some reflection.
“It’s going to be fun just because it’s another league game against a place that we’re all very fond of,” May said. “I think it would be a lot different if we were playing there, and the familiarity with the people and the place. Coming here, it really isn’t that big a deal.”
May spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech and looked to be the favorite to claim the head spot – a job May said he wanted “initially” – when coach Mike White left the Bulldogs for Florida.
But following White’s departure La. Tech launched a hiring process that May would only classify as “odd,” prompting May to join White’s staff in Gainesville.
“Those are decisions that are made by other people,” May said of the Bulldogs’ coaching search. “At the time it was the right thing for me and my family to go to Florida.”
Leaving Ruston, La., turned out to be easier for May than it was for FAU forward Xavian Stapleton. White and May jumped from the bayou to the swamp following Stapleton’s freshman season, prompting the 6-foot-8 forward to transfer, too. Ideally, Stapleton wanted to follow White and May to Gainesville.
Louisiana Tech reluctantly agreed to grant the transfer, but blocked him from more than 50 schools throughout the south, most notably Florida.
The Bulldogs didn’t back off their block list until Stapleton threatened to appeal the school’s decision to the NCAA and involve the media.
“They didn’t want that type of attention,” Stapleton said. “I didn’t either, but I was going to do what I had to do to get into a school.”
In wake of Stapleton’s threats La. Tech acquiesced, removing many of Stapleton’s potential transfer destinations from the blocked list, but not Florida. Stapleton ultimately transferred to Mississippi St. before joining FAU (12-9, 3-5) prior to this season as a graduate transfer.
Battling chronic knee issues all season, Stapleton’s 13.2 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game rank second among Owls who have played more than 10 games despite the senior’s limited minutes.
Stapleton says the announcement of his decision to transfer to FAU initially drew criticism on social media from La. Tech fans but he hasn’t heard much this week. He’s excited to face his former team.
“This is my first school ever,” Stapleton said. “They recruited me out of high school. I met coach May there. It’s just a lot of emotion.”
The Stopper: Kevaughn Ellis’ statistics from FAU’s 89-72 victory over Florida International on Saturday didn’t exactly jump off the page but that didn’t matter to May, who praised the freshman guard’s effort on the defensive end of the floor. Ellis missed all five of his shots, but he grabbed three rebounds, blocked two shots and recorded one steal in 21 minutes. May believes that kind of effort is a sign of coming improvement as a defensive stopper. “Coming out of high school we expected him to be much better defensively,” May said. “He struggled like most freshman do but he’s going to evolve into that role. He’ll emerge as he gets older into a very, very good defensive player for us.”
Hard Court Shula Bowl: Given time to reflect on last week’s home-and-home series with rival FIU, May concluded he liked the idea of scheduling rivalry game twice in the same week. Each school won on its rival’s court, and both schools drew their largest attendance of the year. “We felt is was very healthy for basketball in South Florida,” May said.
Half a Century: Of all the Conference USA results this season, none was more surprising than Southern Miss (12-9, 4-5) beating a good Marshall (12-9, 5-3) team by 50 on Saturday. May said he was “flabbergasted” when he saw the 101-51 final score. That victory marked only the second time the quick and athletic Golden Eagles topped the 80-point mark once against a D-I opponent. “It’s good to see what they’re capable of when they’re at their best,” May said. “Sometimes you watch a team and you watch them at their worst and you say, Wow, we should be fine in this game. And then you watch them play another game and you say, Oh, man, we might be in trouble.” Southern Miss comes to The Burrow on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tip-off. “It’s definitely concerning that they are playing at such a high level right before they play us,” May said.