MACON, Ga. — An NCAA Tournament legend was on hand to see the Florida Gulf Coast University men win the Atlantic Sun championship Saturday, and he liked what he saw.
Dereck Whittenburg was the color commentator for ESPN2’s live broadcast of FGCU’s 88-75 win over Mercer. Whittenburg won a national championship with North Carolina State in 1983, one of the biggest Cinderella stories in tournament history. The Wolfpack were a No. 6 seed, one of the lowest to win the title, and won when Lorenzo Charles dunked Whittenburg’s air ball at the buzzer.
After seeing the Eagles overcome an early deficit and run away with a title on Mercer’s home court, Whittenburg was impressed with FGCU’s toughness.
“You’ve got to give Florida Gulf Coast a lot of credit,” Whittenburg said. “It’s essentially a home game for Mercer, and they showed a lot of guts, a lot of determination, a lot of character coming back in the second half and really taking control of the game.”
Like many people at Hawkins Arena on Saturday, Whittenburg was surprised by the emergence of FGCU’s Brett Comer. The sophomore guard averages just 7.5 points a game, but Comer earned tournament MVP honors by scoring 21 against Mercer.
“We expected (Bernard) Thompson and (Sherwood) Brown, their two big guns, to really take over this game,” Whittenburg said. “Brown got hot, but it was Comer who really was all over the court. Defensively, offensively, distributing the ball, getting steals. Brett Comer was the MVP for them.”