WATCH NOW - Media Day Interview with Gus Gilchrist
The Big Picture: Last year, the Bulls became a factor in the BIG EAST race for the first time in their five seasons as a league member. After winning four games or less in their first four years, USF finished 9-9. Overall, the Bulls had a 20-13 record and were invited to the NIT. It was their first postseason berth since 2002. Coach Stan Heath obviously wants the momentum to continue. He has to find a way to replace guard Dominique Jones who was the league's scoring champion and seemingly made all the big plays for the Bulls.
Who's Back: The frontcourt should be the strength of this Bulls team. Augustus Gilchrist, a 6-10 junior, was slowed by an ankle injury last season, but he still averaged 13.4 points and 5.9 rebounds. The athletic forward is the top returning scorer. Six-eleven Jarrid Famous was a solid contributor, averaging 10.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in his first season with USF. The senior also shot 52.7 percent from the floor. Six-eight Toarlyn Fitzpatick made 22 starts as a freshman last season. He averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 boards. In the backcourt, junior Anthony Crater is the only holdover who saw significant playing time last year. In 23.7 minutes per game, he averaged 3.1 ppg. Sophomores Mike Burwell and Shaun Noriega both saw limited action last year.
Who's Missing: Jones, a first-round NBA draft choice, finished 14th nationally in scoring, averaging 21.4 ppg. He also averaged 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals. Jones was USF's first All-BIG EAST First Team selection. Point guard Chris Howard was a four-year contributor who averaged 10.3 points and 3.8 assists last season. Howard's partner in the backcourt, Mike Mercer, averaged 9.2 ppg.
Storylines: The Bulls' frontcourt will be even stronger with the addition of forward Ron Anderson, a transfer from Kansas State. The 6-8 junior averaged 5.2 points and 5.3 rebounds as a top reserve two seasons ago and is expected to make immediate contributions. Heath knows he needs help away from the basket and his group of newcomers includes guards or wing players who have reputations as good shooters. Two of the junior college transfers are 6-0 Shedrick Haynes, who will compete at point guard, and 6-5 Hugh Robertson, who will push to be noticed at shooting guard or small forward. Jawanza Poland is another junior college transfer though he will have three seasons of eligibility. He is considered a strong perimeter player. Freshmen LaVonte Dority and Jordan Heath are two more guard candidates.