2007-2008 USF Bulls Basketball Preview
South Florida (USF) Bulls -
2006-07: 12-18, 3-13, 15th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
South Florida always seems to be one step away from breaking through and at least competing in the Big East. Coach Stan Heath enters the fray and hopes to be the man who can take the Bulls to the next level. If they need any inspiration or belief that they can do it, they do not need to look any further than their own campus. The hype surrounding the football team is starting to turn into hype around the basketball team. It will be up to Coach Heath and his players to broaden that excitement from Tampa to the rest of the country.
However, taking that next step may prove difficult without the services of McHugh Mattis and Melvin Buckley. Mattis was most known for his shot blocking ability, but he came on strong for his senior season and averaged 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 assist and 1.4 steals on top of his 3.6 blocks. Buckley, the only player besides Mattis to start all 30 games, averaged 14.8 points and 4.9 rebounds and was easily the best shooter on the team. Chris Capko and Melvyn Richardson are not returning after seeing limited action last season.
The Bulls will need a few newcomers to step in and play a role off the bench right away. And they do have three guys who are not true freshmen and have enough experience to do just that. Aaron Holmes was a pretty big recruit for Florida State last year. He was planning to redshirt for the Seminoles, but soon after decided to transfer to Tampa. The 6-5 wing, who will be able to play after the first semester, is a decent athlete who has plenty of range on his shot and should fit into the regular rotation when he is eligible. Point guard Dante Curry was forced to redshirt during his freshman campaign after injuring his Achilles tendon prior to the start of the season. At 6-4, he has good size, but he still needs to gain some strength to get to the basket against Big East opponents. Junior college transfer Mobolaji Ajayi has the versatility to fill in at either forward spot or the center position. His biggest asset to the team will be in the rebounding department, but he can do a little scoring around the basket too. Dominique Jones and Orane Chin are the only incoming freshmen. Jones, a 6-4 shooting guard, is a prolific scorer who will get to the basket. Once he develops a more consistent outside shot he will be quite dangerous. Chin is a quick forward who may need some more time to develop, but he will be thrown into the rotation due to a lack of frontcourt depth.
Who to Watch:
With the newcomers and the return of Chris Howard, USF suddenly has some options on the perimeter. Howard missed more than the first half of the season with a knee injury last year and having him at full strength will be a very good thing for the Bulls. Howard is not a scorer, but he averaged 5.9 assists in the 14 contests he played in last season. The turnovers were a huge problem without Howard and only a big problem with him. Now that the 6-3 sophomore is healthy, those numbers should improve. Solomon Bozeman, the only returning player to hit over one three-pointer a game last year, will start at the shooting guard spot. Bozeman is not really a shooter though. He does most of his damage around the basket or getting to the charity stripe where he shot 88.4 percent as a freshman. Bozeman was rather inconsistent as a freshman, but USF fans hope that disappears with a year of experience. Another sophomore Adamu Saaka could end up starting on the wing. The 6-6 Decatur, Georgia product earned a couple starts as a freshman and brings a rebounding presence to the perimeter. Jesus Verdejo was eligible for the second semester during the 2006-2007 school year after transferring from Arizona. In those 22 games he averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 assists and 1.5 rebounds. Verdejo proved to be a better scorer than Saaka and is a superb athlete. He did not show his true talent last season, but he will sooner or later. The backcourt is young, but the three sophomores have more experience than they should. They took their hits last season, but the group should be ready to make their mark on the program.
Final USF Projection:
No matter how much the perimeter group improves, Kentrell Gransberry is still the star. In his first season with USF, the LSU transfer averaged 15.6 points and 11.4 rebounds. He is an absolute monster on the glass and outrebounded some much more well known opponents day in and day out during conference play. It will happen again this year, but maybe this year a few more people will notice. Without Mattis by his side it will be up to Aris Williams to help free up Gransberry. Williams did not play a game after the new year due to a knee injury, but the transfer from Valparaiso can at least do the dirty work and help out on the glass. Despite the fact that he has only played in ten games for the Bulls, Williams has been on the team for two seasons and knows what the team needs him to do. However, the depth up front is a major concern and the newcomers, especially Ajayi, better be ready to see major minutes or the Bulls will not win more than three games once again.
Projected Postseason Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Chris Howard, Sophomore, Guard, 5.6 points per game
Solomon Bozeman, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Jesus Verdejo, Junior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Aris Williams, Junior, Forward, 3.5 points per game
Kentrell Gransberry, Senior, Center, 15.6 points per game
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