With the ‘07/'08 season coming to an end, Coach Stan Heath has the South Florida men's team playing some of the best basketball that Bulls fans have seen in years. Twelve wins with two games to go might not seem like a successful season, but for Coach Heath and the new staff, it's a positive start to his career at USF.
A key contributor on-and-off the court this season has been sophomore guard Chris Howard. He's not one to talk about moral victories, but he does see this season as a step in the right direction.
"I think it's a start" Said Howard, "It's not a success because our goal is to play in the Big East Tournament every year and beyond."
"That being said, the things we have accomplished and the way we have fought, can be seen as a success."
Some of the accomplishments that Howard alluded to were a seven game win streak prior to conference play, USF's first Big East road win last week against Rutgers and they showed the ability to hang with some of the elite teams in the Big East including Connecticut, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Seton Hall.
"This will carryover to next year, a lot of the young guys will have more confidence next year and not be surprised when we have the lead against some of the top teams in the Big East."
Howard has noticed that the personality of their head coach has rubbed off on the rest of the team.
"Coach Heath really loves to win and that's his goal. Practice is hard and intense, the focus is never on just playing hard, it's all about winning." Adding, "We follow him as a leader and just like he expects to win every game – so do we."
One of the bright spots this season has been the emergence of Dominique Jones, the 6-foot-4 guard was named rookie player of the week in the Big East, an unprecedented four times this season. Jones is averaging 16.6 points per game, which leads the team. With two games to go, he has already passed B.B. Waldon's record of points scored by a freshman, set back in the '98-'99 season.
"At first he had that freshmen mentality" Howard explained, "Every high school player that goes to college was the best in their city, county and district, but when you get here none of that matters."
To Jones' credit, Howard says he's worked hard and adapted to the physical nature of the Big East, and he only sees success in the young mans future.
"We all push each other. There is never one guy working out in the gym. If one of us is there, we are bringing a teammate with us."
This has been Chris Howard's first full, healthy,season playing for the Bulls. Injuries have haunted Howard in the past, but with that behind him he's excelled on the court this year and is eager to start work in the off season. Howard has learned that it's not a sprint, college basketball is a marathon. Not only is it a drain on the body, but also the mind.
"This season I kind of felt like a freshman." Howard said, "Me playing a whole college year has showed me I need to work a lot on conditioning this off season
"I learned to take care of my body, eating right and sleeping right will take you deeper into the season. The little things that you do off-the-court are just as important as the fundamentals that make you better on-the-court."
The Bulls have two games left this season, Howard says they would like to finish the season on a high, but even if they don't, the future is bright.
"We were in some dog-fights this year. I feel like we are more mentally tough, a lot of our guys are young and Coach Heath will push us this off season to be even better. We are headed in the right direction."
Howard confident about the future
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