The USF 2008-09 Basketball Season is Here

The Bulls 2008 mens basketball exhibition season has begun and the start of the regular season is only days away. Now get a look at USF Head basketball Coach Stan Heath's 2008 Bulls. Only on


The 2008 hoops season is upon us and the USF basketball team has an almost completely new look under Head Coach Stan Heath.

The Bulls return four starters from last season including rookie sensation Dominique Jones, senior guard Jesus Verdejo, senior forward Mobolaji Ajayi and junior guard Chris Howard.


As a freshman, Jones was an All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection and All-Rookie team pick.. Along the way Jones set a new USF freshman scoring record last season with 531 points,  17.1 points per game. 


Last season Verdejo started 29 games and finished the season as the 3rd leading scorer on the team at 10.7 points per game, and was 2nd on the team from the free throw line, shooting 80.3 percent.


Junior Guard Chris Howard played in all 31 games on the year, and averaged 8.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. Led the team with 150 assists on the season which ranked 9th on the USF single-season list, and his 4.8 assists was 6th in the BIG EAST.


Senior Mobolaji Ajayi played in 29 games with 13 starts in his first season asa Bu7ll and first playing Division I basketball after transferring from Palm Beach CC. B.J. averaged 2.7 points and 3.8 rebounds for the year but over the last 10 BIG EAST games of the season, averaged 5.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 23.6 minutes per game BIG EAST play.


Senior Aris Williams has battled injuries through out his USF career, played in 18 games on the year as a reserve, and will continue that role in 2009-09.


Junior college transfer Ryan Kardok has joined the team for the 2008-09 season as as a walk-on. Kardok spent two years playing at Broward Community College. He attended Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where he averaged 17 points and six assists per game as a senior.


Two potential impact players will also be joining the Bulls at the conclusion of the first semester. Maryland transfer, freshman forward/center Augustus Gilchrist, and Georgia transfer, junior guard Mike Mercer.  Both players will miss the first six regular season games of the season, becoming eligible for the Dec. 14 game vs. Iona.

Also joining the Bulls roster are walk-ons Mitch Emory an all-star forward from Cocoa Beach and B.J. Daniels a duel sport star from Lincoln HS, who is coming in on a football scholarship.  Heath will build off the strong performances by guards Jones, Verdejo, and Howard, and it will be very interesting to see what Stan Heath's team will look like when they hit the court.

The Bulls also have two commits for '09 guards Shaun Noriega and Jordan Dumars.

"We're very pleased with the additions were making to our basketball team, We feel like we've added players that will help us be better in a lot of areas."
--Coach Stan Heath.

2008 returning roster

Pos Player No. Ht Wt Class School
F Aris Williams 32 6-9 235 SR Georgetown Preparatory, MD
C/F Mobolaji Ajayi 33 6-9 225 SR Palm Beach Community College
G Jesus Verdejo 23 6-4 205 SR The Winchendon School, MA
G Chris Howard 3 6-3 200 JR Friendly HS), MD
G Dominique Jones 0 6-4 205 SO Lake Wales Senior HS, FL
G Mike Mercer   6-4 190 SO* South Gwinnett HS, GA


 2008 Commits

Pos   Player Ht Wt School
C/F Gus Gilchrist 6'10 235 Progressive Christian Academy, MD
SG Gaby Belardo 6-2 187 Notre Dame Prep, Fitchburg, MA
F/C Alex Rivas 6-10 220 Pratt CC Pratt, KS
PG Justin Leemow 6-1 175 Durham, NC Mt. Zion Christian Acad
PF Eladio Espinosa 6-7 210 Hargrave Military Acad, Chatham, VA


2009 commits 

Pos   Player School Ht Wt Status
SG Jordan Dumars (Detroit Country Day School) 6-4 230 Committed to South Florida
SG Shaun Noriega (Northport HS)
Northport, FL
6-4 195 Committed to South Florida

"We're very pleased with the additions were making to our basketball team, We feel like we've added players that will help us be better in a lot of areas."
--Coach Stan Heath.

 Meet the new Bulls



Gus Gilchrist

High School: Progressive Christian Academy
Previous HS:
Friendly High School (Md.)
AAU Team: D.C. Assault
Clinton, Md.

Gilchrist was ranked the 55th best prospect and the ninth best center by Scout in the 2007 class. He was named MVP of the 2007 Capital Classic after scoring 24 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Gilchrist attended Progressive Christian Academy (Md.) as a senior averaging 24 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots per game. Spent his first three seasons at Friendly High School (Md.), where he was a teammate of current USF guard Chris Howard, and as a junior, averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds. Originally signed with VT in '06 but was granted a release. Then enrolled at Maryland in January but the ACC ruled he would not be eligible for '08 due to ACC transfer rules, before signing a grant-in -aid with USF.Also played for the D.C. Assault AAU program.

Chose USF over Maryland, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia

Gus Gilchrist Center/Forward
6-10, 235
Scout rating

EVALUATION:  Gilchrist is a versatile big man with a broad set of strong shoulders, with a surprisingly good perimeter shot, and can put up points from inside and out. Can use his body to seal off players in the post and he catches the ball well on the run, something not all post players do well. Also has the ability to be a good off-ball defender and his strength allows him to hold his position on deep post ups and he can power the ball up for baskets in a crowd. His footwork is quick enough inside and his low post skills are continuing to show improvement.

"I'm very excited about Gus's commitment to USF. He has the potential to have a tremendous impact on our program. His versatility to play inside and out makes him a dual threat and a very difficult match up. I am very confident in our compliance staff that they will work vigorously in helping Gus gain his immediate eligibility. This is a quality, high character young man and one that our fans will be excited to cheer for."
--USF Head Coach Stan Heath



Alejandro "Alex Rivas Sanchez

Junior College: Pratt Community College, KS High School: St. Benedict's Prep, N.J.
AAU Team:
Team Breakdown
Santiago, Dominican Republic

While at Pratt earned 2008 KJCCC All-Jayhawk West second team honors after averaging 8.7 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks for the season. He ranked sixth nationally in junior college with 12 rebounds per game. Had a 19 rebound game, two 17 rebound games and two 16 rebound games during last season. As a freshman averaged 5.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. Originally from the Dominican Republic, went to Laurinburg Prep in Laurinburg, N.C. before attending Pratt.

Chose USF over over Baylor, Nebraska, West Virginia, Tennessee Tech, FAU, SMU and Texas Tech.

Alex Rivas Sanchez Center/Forward
6-10, 230
Scout rating
EVALUATION: Rivas was known for his defense, ability to gather rebounds and as a shot-blocker. Rebounding and his ability to block shots may be is strengths, but he can also run the floor pretty well for his size. For a big man Rivas also likes a fast paced game and likes to run. When he gets a rebound he can push the Ball and run or put the ball in on offense. He needs to work on becoming more consistent, improve his post moves, add more muscle and get stronger to excel at the next level..
 "I'm excited to add quality players to our roster this late in recruiting.  Alex is an active player with very good size. Our concern with lack of size last year should be addressed with Alex as well as some of the other new players coming into the fold."." --USF Head Coach Stan Heath

Eladio Espinosa

High School: Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.)
Previous HS: Victory Christian Academy in Charlotte, N.C
AAU team: Carolina Cobras AS
Hometown: Norlina, N.C.

Averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds per game and helped lead Hargrave Military Academy to the National Prep School Championship and an unbeaten season at 29-0. A 3-star prospect rated the 38th best power forward nationally by ESPN.  As a  junior at Victory Christian he averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, while shooting 62-percent, was  honorable mention all-conference and was named to the all-tournament team after helping lead Victory to the National Association of Christian Athletes national title where he had 15 points and 8 rebounds in the final

Chose USF over Cincinnati, Tulane, Marshall, Fordham, Charlotte, Wichita State, and Winthrop

Eladio Espinosa
Power Forward
6-7, 220 
Scout rating
Evaluation:  Espinosa's athleticism, speed, quickness and potential rate him as a Division I-A performer, but he needs to work on his finishing skills and more consistency as a scorer from the low blocks. He likely can get by on athleticism and explosiveness around the rim until he polishes his skills. Espinosa has a tremendous upside, so his improvement should happen quickly with a strong work ethic.
"Eladio had an outstanding year. His team went undefeated, was the No. 1 prep school in the country and he was a significant part of that. His coach has told me all the wonderful things of how this kid is motivated, plays hard, competitive, great personality out there on the floor. He fulfills a major need that was lacking from our team and that's what I say is a true power forward player. I do feel he'll have the ability to play inside and outside. His rebounding and athleticism as well as his approach to being aggressive on the court will really help solidify that position on the court which we struggled in this past season."
--Head Coach Stan Heath




Mike Mercer

Previous College: Georgia
High School: South Gwinnett, GA

AAU Team: Georgia Stars
Hometown: Hempstead, N.Y.

Mercer appeared in 51 games for UGA in two-years, starting 27, and averaged 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. Prior to his injury last year, he was leading Georgia in scoring and minutes played and was ranked 18th in the SEC in scoring, 14th in assists (3.6), 8th in steals (1.70) and 13th in assist/turnover ratio (1.43), and was named SEC Player of the Week  As a freshman, he averaged 11.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

As a HS senior in 2005 was rated the No. 7 point guard in the country and No. 44 overall by, after averaging 19.8 points, 8.1 assists and 6.0 rebounds, helping South Gwinnett to a 28-3 record and the quarterfinals of the Georgia Class 5A state tournament.  As a junior, he averaged 18.1 points, when SG HS went 31-2 and won the 5-A championship.

Chose USF over Cincinnati, St. John's, La Salle, UMass, Clemson, and Providence.

Mike Mercer Guard/Point Guard
6-4, 190
Scout rating
EVALUATION: Mercer, was a 4-star prospect coming out of South Gwinnett HS, and excelled at Georgia. Is considered a consummate point guard with sick passing skills, tremendous court vision and an improving scoring ability. Is a playmaker and makes people around him better
"He's a kid that is very talented, and my opinion, is a difference maker and an impact guy," head coach Stan Heath said.  "His versatility will help our basketball team in a lot of ways. His ability to play all over the court, (the) one, two or three. He's athletic, he can defend. We really expect this to be a win-win for Mike and a win-win for us. Sometimes a change of environment can be really helpful for a kid."
--USF Head Coach Stan Heath




Gaby Belardo

High School: Notre Dame Prep, Fitchburg, MA Previous HS: Montverde Academy Montverde,Fl
AAU Team: Miami Tropics
San Juan, Puerto Rico

First played for nationally ranked Montverde Academy, helping lead the Eagles to a 30-0 record and a national championship, averaging 11 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.4 steals per game. While at Notre Dame Prep Belardo returned from injury and had a great showing at the National Prep School Invitational shooting 6-of-7 from the 3-point line. He also had a break-out performance playing for the Miami Tropics scoring over 30 points ten times, while averaging over 22 points 6 assists, and 4 rebound per game

Chose USF over Hofstra, Duquesne, Virginia Commonwealth, UCF, Florida International and SMU.

Gaby Belardo Guard/Point Guard
6-2, 180
Scout rating
EVALUATION: Gaby is a special player that brings experience with him. He's a hard nosed kid that is very hard to defend. He's a scorer, very good off the bounce, and can take people off the dribble and score. He can also defend and is the total package
 "Gaby is a young man that really got a lot of attention late in the year. His play really picked up during the AAU season and definitely caught our attention. He's a guard that can play with or without the ball, a good shooter who plays very hard. He has an aggressive, tough, mentality."
--USF Head Coach Stan Heath


Mitch Emory

Mitch Emory

6-6, 205
High School: Cocoa Beach
Hometown: Cocoa Beach, Fla.

A walk-on in 2008 was a 4A honorable mention and an All-State selection while playing for Cocoa Beach. After his senior year was named the Florida Today's Sun Coast Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, while helping Cocoa Beach to a 22-5 record and the Cape Coast Conference title. Has steadily improved after averaged 12 points as a junior. A versatile proven scorer capable enough to bring the ball up court, and almost averaged a double-double, but proved his worth by often clamping on an opposing team's top inside player.

"Mitch is a terrific addition to our team. He's a 6-6 forward who's desire to become a very good player will aid our basketball team this season. Mitch comes here on high academic scholarships and is just beginning to scratch the surface on the court. He has a lot of upside. His best basketball is ahead of him. We really feel like his work ethic and desire to be a part of our program will fuel his growth." -- Head Coach Stan Heath



B.J. Daniels

B.J. Daniels

Guard/Point Guard
6-1, 200
High School: Lincoln, Tallahassee FL
Hometown: Tallahassee FL

At Lincoln HS averaged 27 points per game as a senior and was named the Tallahassee Democrat's Co-Big Bend Male Basketball Player of the Year. Is believed to be the first player to win the Democrat's Player of the Year honors in both basketball and football in the same season. Named 5A first-team All-State, and broke the school's season record for scoring average. Had season high of 45 points and also had a 37-point game. Averaged 16 points per game as a junior. Four year varsity starter in basketball and football. A USF Football signee who is expected to join the basketball team after the completion of the football season.

"From everything I've learned, he's going to be as good a walk-on as we're going to have," Heath told the St. Pete Times. "And he's a quarterback, and I always want to have players with leadership skills on my team."  
-- Head Coach Stan Heath


USF opened its exhibition season last Tuesday with an 80-41 victory over Division II West Florida, with guard Dominique Jones leading the way with 26 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.


The Bulls wrap up their exhibition season at home vs. intra-city foe Tampa on Monday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. and then open the regular season vs. SMU on Friday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Sun Dome. It will mark the start of the 38th season of USF basketball.



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