Tuesday is more than a game for Jeantal Cylla


Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Jeantal Cylla (2)

Elijah Mize, Contributing Writer

Jeantal Cylla has worked for this.

He’s worked in the weight room, team meetings and practice courts. He’s worked for the opportunity to play in a meaningful game for UNC Wilmington, a school and campus he has called his own now for over a year. That moment arrives on Tuesday against Campbell.

The Iron Man who didn’t play

To say Cylla took the year off though would be misleading because he did a lot more than sit around waiting for this season to arrive. Cylla took advantage of every opportunity he could get when it came to improving not only his individual game but also getting up to speed with a new system under Head Coach C.B. McGrath, who at the time was also in year one at UNCW

“It made me see basketball in a different viewpoint. It made me see it from the sidelines so I was able to pick up a few things I probably wouldn’t’ pick up playing.” said Cylla during Media Day. “I’m not gonna lie it was tough, not being able to play basketball for a whole year.”

It was also apparent that Cylla put in some serious work with head strength and conditioning coach Ben Fleming. Proof that the work Cylla put in was legit, he reaped a benefit of that hard work back in April when UNCW recognized the now redshirt-junior forward with the Male Iron Athlete-of-the-Year award during UNCW’s annual Athletic Awards Banquet.

Representing Haiti

In the months that followed, Cylla was named to the Haitian men’s national team. He was a focal point and averaged over 15 points-per-game while Haiti beat every opponent they faced including a 33 point effort in Haiti’s first game versus Barbados.

“We put our names on the map, they know who we are,” said Cylla.

Though Haiti was disqualified, later on, Cylla’s contributions did not go unnoticed in Wilmington. The experience he and freshman teammate Kai Toews (Japanese national team) gained over the summer are invaluable to the Seahawks this year.

Florida Atlantic to the Port City

Cylla started a total of 55 games out of 63 played over two years while averaging 8.5 points-per-game, 3.4 rebounds-per-game, and 24.3 minutes-per-game playing at Florida Atlantic.

“It taught me a lot,” Cylla said about his time at FAU. “Florida Atlantic gave me the opportunity to see what I’m capable of doing.”

Cylla showed at Florida Atlantic that he could show up when the lights were bright and the competition was superior. He played a college career-high 38 minutes while scoring 15 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in an upset win over Ohio State as a sophomore.

A match made in teal heaven

When it comes to Cylla on the court for this coming season with the Seahawks and his potential impact, he should be able to benefit from all of the attention that fellow teammate Devontae Cacok will see in the low post.

The addition of a six-foot and seven-inches, 215 pound athletic forward like Cylla gives the Seahawks another rebounder at both ends of the court to pair with Cacok. Cylla’s ability to guard multiple positions gives UNCW the option to switch on screens on the perimeter while relieving some of the defense burden put on Cacok last season down low.

The transition from a young inexperienced starting freshman at Florida Atlantic, to now redshirt-junior at UNCW, has been a process for Cylla. A process that will reach a culmination of sorts on Tuesday at Campbell University when the lights get bright again and Cylla puts on that Seahawk jersey for the first of many times to come in the future.