August 30th, 2006
Basketball Preview: South Florida
Bulls' top two scorers from last year, Solomon Jones and James Holmes,
completed their eligibility. Coach Robert McCullum will miss Holmes' 16.6
ppg at shooting guard and Jones's 13.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg at center. Jones was
undeniably one of the most surprising success stories in the conference last
season. No one could have predicted he’d be the #33 pick in the 2006 NBA
In addition to the loss of the two starters, reserve guard Collin
Dennis decided to transfer as did frosh, Frane Markusovic. Dennis will be
missed as he averaged 19.9 minutes per game. Markusovic won't be as he
played a total of five minutes all season. So, who remains?
Melvin Buckley is back at the 3. He averaged 13.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg. He
shot 38% overall and 37% from behind the arc. After transferring from
Purdue, he has turned into a solid player - at least offensively. He should
be the number one option on offense.
McHugh Mattis, a juco transfer a year ago, played well last season. He
averaged 9.6 ppg and 7.2 rpg, and he shot 60% from the field. He'll start
at the 4 for the Bulls. Without Jones alongside him, he will become the
main interior scoring threat, so his point production should climb to at
least 12 ppg.
Chris Capko, who was originally a walk-on, started at point all year
and averaged 31.7 mpg. He's not exactly an offensive threat as his 2.9 ppg
illustrate, but he did average 4.4 apg. He's a terrible shooter - 33%
overall - and he went the entire season without hitting a trey in 13
attempts. When he's in the lineup, part of the opponents' game plan has to
be to sag off him and let him shoot.
player USF counted on to start at point a year ago, Chris Howard, tore his
ACL and was out for the season. He recently tore an ACL again and is now out
for the upcoming season as well.
Melvyn Richardson returns as a sub on the wing. He didn't do much
offensively either - 1.9 ppg in 14.4 mpg, but he may get more time this
year. No one else returns who did much of anything last year. Zaronn Cann
was expected to contribute as a frosh last season, but injuries disrupted
those plans, and he played in only four games before red-shirting.
Three transfers become eligible, two of them at mid-season. Jesus Verdejo, a 6'4" guard, has followed a rather a strange path to Tampa. He
originally committed to Temple but didn't qualify, so he attended prep
school where he averaged 22 ppg. He then went to Arizona but saw little
playing time as a frosh (2.3 mpg) and transferred at mid-season to USF. He's
the odds-on favorite to replace Holmes as starting off guard once he becomes
eligible. He's more of a scorer than a pure shooter. Because he hasn't
played much the past two and a half years, it's hard to know what to expect
from him, but if he's paired with Capko in the backcourt, he's going to have
to become a scoring threat.
Kentrell Gransberry was a highly-regarded juco player two years ago. He
went to LSU but left the program at mid-year. The 6’9” center also becomes
eligible in January. In junior college, he earned a reputation as a solid
rebounder; in fact, he led all jucos in rebounding as a sophomore. He will
almost certainly be the starting center second semester.
Until then, 6'9" Aris Williams, a transfer from Valparaiso, should hold
down the center spot. However, Williams averaged only 1.5 ppg and 1.7 rpg
for the Crusaders, so it's hard to expect a major contribution from him this
In terms of the Bull’s recruiting effort for the Class of 2006, the
best word to describe it is bizarre. USF received a commitment from Rob
Thomas, a highly-regarded prep school power forward, but he decomitted and
is now going to St. John's, which is definitely the Red Storm's gain and the
Bulls' loss. Coach McCullum also received an oral commitment from 7'0"
center Franklin Jones, but he, too, decommitted and ended up at UTEP.
Meanwhile, wing forward Amu Saaka (6'6") originally committed to Furman
but then changed his mind and decided on USF. Similarly, point guard
Solomon Bozeman originally committed to Mississippi but then decommited and
also chose the Bulls.
The last incoming recruit is Dante Curry, a 6'4" guard from Florida,
who is probably the best of the three new arrivals. Rivals listed him #133,
and Hoopmasters had him at #181 in the class. Scout ranked him at 3 stars
but he's not included among Scout's Top 35 at his position.
So, what do all these transfers in and out and commits and decommits
mean? First, there will be two different USF teams - the first-semester team
and the second-semester team. Both Verdejo and Gransberry will have to play
major roles once they become eligible. One has to wonder how those players
whose minutes will be dramatically reduced will respond to the changes. The
only certainties for the upcoming season are that Buckley will play huge
minutes at the 3 and Mattis will do the same at the 4.
The Bulls could pull a couple of upsets because Buckley and Mattis
aren't bad. However, there is no proven three-point threat outside of
Buckley and not much size throughout the roster. There is also not much
depth up front, where only Mattis has demonstrated he can play at an
upper-level D-1 program.
The Bulls have to replace more than 34 ppg, but it's difficult to see
where those points will come from. It's going to be another long season in
Tampa, though anything can happen on any given night as Georgetown
discovered last March. The Bulls should double or triple last year's
conference win total (one). Any victories beyond that should earn McCullum
serious consideration for Big East Coach of the Year.
- Predicted Finish: 16 of 16