Polk State Basketball to celebrate seven outgoing sophomores in season finale

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Prior to Polk State Basketball playing its last game of the 2023-24 season on Monday night against No. 14 Eastern Florida State College, seven sophomores will be celebrated as they take the Health Center floor for the final time.

The Eagles will celebrate their annual Sophomore Night during the season finale. This season’s sophomore class includes four players who were part of the program last season.

“For the first time in a while, we’ve had guys who were here for two years,” Head Coach Brandon Giles said. “It takes time for guys to get used to the culture.”

The familiar faces

Carson Beisner, Dominick Nelson, and Jeremiah Russell are the three returning players for Polk State this season. Rod Timmons, who was in his second year with the program, has a unique story. After spending last season as a student manager, he earned roster spot this season.

“I never had many opportunities to be part of a team,” Timmons said. “I’ve gained so much knowledge from my coaches, my teammates, my professors from the College – the whole nine.”

In addition to ranking sixth on the team in made 3-pointers, Beisner was named a team captain and has excelled off the court. An FCSAA and NJCAA All-Academic Team selection, Beisner started his own apparel brand during his time at Polk State called THEPJCT – pronounced “The Project.”

“Coach Giles has helped me a lot to mature as a man and in business – and that’s priceless,” the Fort Myers native explained. “He’s helped me a lot on the defensive end. I’m just trying to get better all the time.”

A native of Ocala, Russell has been one of the top defenders for the Eagles over his two seasons with the team. He ranks fourth on the team in both steals and blocks.

“I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, and matured a lot as a person and as a basketball player,” Russell said of his time at Polk State. “(My coaches) impacted me a lot on the court and off the court.”

As a sophomore, Nelson has enjoyed a breakout season. After earning second-team All-Suncoast Conference honors as a freshman, Nelson is one of the top scorers in the state of Florida, averaging 20 points per game.

“Over these two years, I feel like I’ve grown so much with all the work I put in and how everyone has helped me in this program,” Nelson said. “I feel like I’m getting better every day.”

Although Polk State was eliminated from FCSAA Tournament contention last week, Giles said he’s seen growth in his returning players. Regardless of what happens in Monday’s finale, Polk State has increased its win total from last season.

“With Rod Timmons, Carson Beisner, Jeremiah Russell, Dom Nelson, you can see their growth individually in a lot of different areas,” Giles contended. “It’s evident and that’s what’s most important.”

The transfers

While the majority of Polk State’s sophomore class features players who spent two years as part of the program, it also includes three players who began their college careers elsewhere – Moses Gordon, Derrick Jones Jr., and TrayVon Osborne.

“Derrick, TrayVon, and Moses – the uniqueness with them is they all come from another college program,” Giles added. “They knew the importance of what team chemistry, leadership – those types of things – were.”

An NCAA Division I transfer from Radford University in Virginia, Jones has been a significant contributor for the Eagles. The Charlottesville, Va. native has averaged 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.

“What really stood out about my time here at Polk was being in a new environment, building new relationships with guys from this area,” Jones said. “Them showing me their hometowns and where they grew up was a unique experience.”

Gordon, one of two international players from the roster, spent his freshman year at Williston State College, a junior college in North Dakota. A native of London, Gordon had a strong February, scoring in double figures in games against Miami Dade College and Hillsborough Community College.

“What’s special about Polk State is this group of people and this group of coaches,” Gordon said. “It’s a real grind. You have to really want it to be able to go out and get it every day.”

After playing his high school basketball at Discovery High School in Lake Alfred, Osborne spent his freshman year at Spoon River College in Illinois. In what has served as a homecoming this season for Osborne, he’s averaged 6.5 points per game.

“What’s been unique about this year is coming back home, meeting new guys,” he said. “I feel like I learned more here.”

Moving forward

Although the seven sophomores’ Polk State careers will be over, Giles expects many to move on to four-year schools. Last year, Polk State had six players sign to four-year programs.

“Coach Giles and (Assistant Coach Josh Jackson) helped me a lot with my recruitment in trying to get back to the Division I level,” Jones noted. “They’ve given me the confidence I need to be a great basketball player.”

Nelson was the first to sign as he will move on to Long Island University-Brooklyn, an NCAA Division I program in New York. Polk State was Nelson’s lone scholarship offer out of high school in Miami. He credited the coaches for their role in his development.

“Both coaches had a huge impact on me,” Nelson said. “They’ve helped me from the get-go. I couldn’t have asked for any better coaches.”

As Polk State players prepare for graduation and the next stages of their lives and careers, Giles hopes the program’s impact has been bigger than basketball.

“One day the ball’s going to stop bouncing,” Giles concluded. “We tell them, ‘You’re going to be a man longer than you’re going to be a basketball player.’ My only hope is that as they’ve spent these one or two years here within our program that they’ve really learned what that means.”