Julian DeBose has had a whirlwind of a year. From breaking out at FGCU, to winning gold as a member of Team USA at the World University Games, it's been a high-flying ride of nonstop success for him. Still, the sting of losing in the Atlantic Sun semifinals hasn't gone away, and he's doing what he can to reverse that feeling at the end of this season.
"That's very detrimental at the end of last year," he said. "But it's pushed me to work harder on my game, pushed me to be on my guys a little bit more, let them know 'hey, last season we felt like this, and we don't ever want to feel like that again,' and I definitely don't want to feel like that again. It's my last season."
This summer, DeBose competed for Team USA at the WOG in South Korea under Kansas coach Bill Self. Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley is a former assistant of Self, and recommended DeBose to him. On a team made up primarily of Kansas players, the only additional players were DeBose and Nic Moore of SMU.
While he wasn't one of the stars of the team, he had a very respectable showing off the bench for Team USA. He averaged nearly 11 minutes per contest, along with 4 points on 50-percent shooting, and 2.3 rebounds. His best game came against Switzerland, where he went off for 18 points. On top of his performance, he was thrilled for the opportunity to represent his country while learning from one of the great mentors of the game in Self.
"It was an awesome experience. Just being there, getting all the love from people around the world, and having that moment up on the podium and recieving the gold medal was awesome," DeBose said.
As a redshirt senior for the Eagles, he's putting all his effort into making sure he has one last successful college basketball run in him. In his first season in Dunk City, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard was a staple of the team's offense. He played in 30 games and started 25, managing to average nearly 12 points and 4 rebounds per contest. He shot a solid 43-percent from the floor, along with a 32-percent clip from behind the long line. However, he believes that he can still become a better shooter.
"I've been working on my shot. I would say last year that was the weakest part of my game, but working with coach Q (Senque Carey) in the early preseason, my shot's getting a lot better," DeBose said.
After starting the year suspended the first three games, he was immediately thrust into the starting rotation after Jamail Jones received a suspension. DeBose did not disappoint at all. In his first game in a FGCU uniform, he threw down a punishing dunk over Eric Truog of Marist in the Gulf Coast Showcase. That moment made it blatantly clear that he was going to fit right in.
DeBose's speed and athleticism made him one of the Eagles' biggest threats on both ends of the floor. On the offensive end, he was the team's third leading scorer. On defense, he totaled 28 steals and blocked 23 shots. This year, he's going to take on the unique challange of having to play even bigger than he already is to account for the lack of size on the active roster. This is nothing new for him, though.
"I've always had to learn how to play bigger than I am," he said. "Whether it be boxing bigger guys out or having to guard bigger guys, I've done it before."
Before attending FGCU, DeBose played two seasons at Rice. However, due to his aggressive play and passion for the Eagles, you wouldn't be able to tell that he's not an original member of Dunk City. Voted a preseason selection to the All Atlantic Sun team, he is looking to capitalize on his final year of college ball. He's well aware that the team is young, in fact the term he used to describe the team was "young guns," but that hasn't dissuaded him from having a positive outlook on the season.
"I think the minds of the young guys will be easily molded, and they'll be able to follow by me, Filip (Cvjeticanin), and Brian's (Greene Jr.) example, and I think they'll mold right into what we want," DeBose said.
What exactly does FGCU want this year? You guessed it. An A-Sun conference tournament championship, and a chance to get back to The Big Dance. In fact, DeBose expects that to happen, no ifs, ands, or buts. Under Dooley, there are no excuses, and the attitude of his team represents that. With a talented roster led by DeBose, that goal is more within reach than what some may say.
"I expect us to win outright," he said. "A-Sun champs."
In his final season of college basketball, it's time to make it happen.