When one thinks of household names in the college basketball world, the Florida International Golden Panthers don’t usually come to mind in terms of national discussion, let alone in their own conference.
Playing in the Conference USA, the Golden Panthers are often overshadowed by the likes of the UAB Blazers, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, among others. While they have had some talented players over recent years, including big man Adrian Diaz, who should have garnered much more attention than he received, the Golden Panthers haven’t been able to compete for a conference title.
On Wednesday afternoon, they gained a commitment from a coveted graduate transfer that will bolster their roster in 2016-17.
Forward Michael Kessens committed to the Golden Panthers, after transferring from the Alabama Crimson Tide following the 2015-16 campaign.
Florida International will be the third different school for Kessens, who played one year with the Longwood Lancers before transferring and playing two seasons with the Crimson Tide.
The 6’9”, 223 pound forward from Nyon, Switzerland put up impressive numbers with the Lancers as a freshman back in 2012-13. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 53.7% from the floor.
In two years with Alabama, he didn’t quite live up to the expectations after his strong freshman year. His playing time decreased last season, in comparison to the 2014-15 year, and his production followed suit.
Kessens averaged 3.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a junior, shooting 55.8% from the field. In each of his three seasons in the NCAA so far, Kessens has shot 50% or better from the floor in each.
Kessens’ commitment gives the Golden Panthers a big boost next season. The team will be without two of their top three scorers from a year ago, including Diaz, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game while anchoring the front court.
Guard Daviyon Draper is also gone, and he led the team in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per contest.
Kessens has the opportunity to step in and contribute right away. With him having experience playing in one of the best conferences in the country for the last two seasons, he will take on a leadership role for fourth-year head coach Anthony Evans in 2016-17.
Florida International went 13-19 last season.
Kessens also considered the Dayton Flyers, the Stony Brook Seawolves, and the Wichita State Shockers before committing to Florida International.