The USF men's basketball program, which began play with the 1971-72 campaign, is easily the youngest program in the BIG EAST in terms of seasons played.
The Bulls will take that to another level in 2005-06, as the
squad prepares for its historic first season in the ultra-competitive
and highly regarded league.
Of the 11 players on the roster able to compete this fall, six
are in their first year with the squad and another redshirted last
season. The Bulls return just one true starter (Solomon Jones) and
senior James Holmes is the only student-athelete currently in the
program with more than one letter.
"An experienced team would be ideal as we enter a conference the
caliber of the BIG EAST," head coach Robert McCullum said. "Having said
that, we do have three players back who did see significant time last
year and Melvin Buckley played two seasons in the Big Ten. There is
some experience there."
While the veterans may not have the extended tenure other
programs enjoy, the group has had a taste of success. Winning three of
the final four games in 2004-05 and advancing to the conference
tournament semifinals for the first time in school history, gave the
players a foundation of success to build on.
With the graduation of four seniors and two other significant
contributors, opportunities are available throughout the lineup for the
newcomers to make an impact this year.
USF's roster features six true guards (two players are also
listed as G/F) and consists of three returnees and a trio of newcomers.
The most experienced position on the team still only owns just
four total letters as a group. Senior James Holmes, junior Chris Capko
and sophomore Collin Dennis all made contributions at various points in
2004-05, with Holmes and Dennis both earning multiple starting
Holmes is the team's most experienced player with 41 career
appearances. He averaged 6.0 points per game last season and played a
key role in the team's victory over Cincinnati in the C-USA Tournament.
Capko appeared in 18 games after becoming eligible second
semester. A transfer from Florida, he made all of his appearances as a
Dennis reached double figures in points on six occasions and
started seven of the 27 games in which he played. He is the team's
leading returning scorer (6.6 ppg.), an honor he shares with senior
"I like our depth at guard and think it could be the strength of
our team," McCullum said. "It's easily the deepest group we have had
since I have been here."
USF's depth is bolstered by newcomers David Sills and Chris Howard. Sills joins the team from the junior college ranks, while
Howard arrives after a standout prep career in the Washington DC area.
"David is a versatile guard who adds a dimension to the team we
haven't had and Chris plays the game with great poise and has a presense on the floor you like to see in a point guard."
Senior Bradley Mosley is the final guard on the roster, but will
not see action as he continues his battle with cancer.
USF's corps of fowards has only one returnee and that's redshirt
junior Melvin Buckley, who watched from the sidelines after transferring from Purdue last summer.
Buckley averaged 5.4 points and 2.5 rebounds for the
Boilermakers as a sophomore in 2003-04, playing nearly 20 minutes per
appearance. He took advantage of his redshirt campaign by developing
his skills and bulking up in the wieght room is expected to make an
immediate impact at both ends of the court.
"We have some versatility at forward, having players that can
play either position," McCullum said. "Melvin's added strength enables
him to play both at both forward spots."
Junior college transfers Melvyn Richardson and McHugh Mattis add
depth at the position, with both players bringing different strengths to the court.
Richardson (6-7, 235) comes to USF after a pair of successful
seasons at Lon Morris College (Jacksonville, Texas), a program that
produced six NCAA Division I players last year.
"Melvyn brings much-needed size and experience to our front
line," McCullum said. "We expect him to provide immediate scoring
Mattis (6-6, 190), while he doesn't have the size of Richardson,
adds an athletic element to the roster. He starred at nearby St.
Petersburg College, helping the Titans to a league title after averaging 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.
"McHugh may be the most athletic player on our roster," McCullum
said. "He is very versatile, especially on the defensive end, where he
can effectively defend each of the three perimeter positions."
Another area product also adds depth at the position. Freshman
Zaronn Cann, who can play either forward position, recently concluded
his prep career at Brandon High School.
"When fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in high
school, Zaronn will create matchup problems for opponents," McCullum
explained. "His ability to post up, as well as shoot from the
perimeter, makes him a dangerous weapon offensively."
Aris Williams (6-9, 235), a transfer from Valparaiso, will sit
out the 2005-06 campaign and will have three seasons of eligibility next fall.
The Bulls list two true centers on their roster, senior Solomon
Jones and freshman Frane Markusovic.
Jones checks in at 6-10, 230 pounds and Markusovic already has a
solid frame at 6-10, 230 pounds as a freshman.
Jones averaged 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a junior
and is the team's top returning scorer along with Dennis. He finished
among the league leaders in blocked shots (64) and will be counted on
again in 2005-06 to be a defensive presence in the middle for USF.
"We expect all of Solomon's numbers to go up," McCullum said.
"After making over 50 percent of his shots last season, he is capable of becoming the 'go-to' guy for inside scoring, similar to Terrence
Leather's role last year."
Critical to Jones' level of contribution will be his ability to
stay out of foul trouble, something that plagued him in his first season with the team.
Markusovic arrives in Tampa after a stop at prep school and
possesses the raw talent needed to contribute on the floor. The key to
his success will be the transition time needed to adjust to the
"Frane is comfortable playing with his back to the basket or
facing it," McCullum said. "He is also a very good shooter."
Including the 13-game non-league schedule, the Bulls will face a
total of 11 teams with postseason experience in 2004-05 and that number
could increase based on the squad's regular season tournament matchups
at Missouri State and Hawaii.
"This schedule is easily the most challenging we have had during
my tenure at USF," McCullum said. "To have two NCAA-potential programs
in Michigan (2004 NIT Champions) and UAB (back-to-back NCAA appearances) makes for an outstanding non-conference schedule at home. We will be extremely well-prepared for BIG EAST play when January arrives."
The 16-game BIG EAST slate features home contests with West Virginia, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall, Rutgers,
Connecticut and Georgetown. The Bulls will make road trips to Syracuse, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Louisville, Notre Dame, Providence and Rutgers. Seton Hall, Villanova and Notre Dame will all be first-time opponents for USF.
The Bulls will tip-off their historic move into the elite
conference with a home matchup against a WVU squad that advanced to the
NCAA Elite Eight last year after claiming the runner-up position in the
"The strength of any conference is its balance and that is
especially true with the BIG EAST," McCullum said. "To open against a
team like West Virginia, a program that played as well as any in the
nation last March, is obviously a big challenge. It also provides an
early opportunity for our fans to see us compete against a top-25
"With the quality of the programs in the BIG EAST, we are going
to be able to feature an outstanding home schedule every year at the Sun Dome," McCullum said.
The schedule makers provided USF with an evenly distributed
schedule. USF's longest conference home stand is only two games, but
back-to-back contests are also the longest duration the team will be
away from Tampa.
USF's longest overall home streak is three games, which begins
with non-league action versus Bethune-Cookman (Dec. 28) and concludes
with the BIG EAST opener against WVU. The Bulls also face UAB on Dec.
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