USF rising senior standouts Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins are among 54 players invited to try out for the USA Women's Basketball team that will compete in the Pan Am Games and World University Games.Full Story
Invitations were issued Wednesday. Tryouts will be held in Colorado Springs May 14-17.
"They've both solidified themselves as two of the best players in the nation, so this will be a chance for them to play on a national stage and really show USA basketball what they're capable of doing," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said in a USF news release. "I'm extremely excited for both of them."
Williams, an AP honorable mention All-American last season, and Jenkins are among 28 trying out for the first time. The field also includes 16 USA Basketball gold medalists and 10 who previously have tried out.
The two helped lead USF (27-8) to the best season in school history this past winter. The Bulls reached a conference tournament final for the first time and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Williams, among 12 finalists for the prestigious Wade Trophy, led the American Athletic Conference in scoring (20.3 ppg) and established a new USF season scoring record (710 points). Jenkins (12.8 ppg, 11.3 rpg) finished fifth nationally with 23 double-doubles.
DANIEL WALLACE | Times
USF softball coach Ken Eriksen's team likely needs to win this weekend's American Athletic Conference tournament to secure an NCAA Tournament berth.
One of USF's few NCAA Tournament mainstays embarks Thursday on what it hopes will evolve into a three-day struggle for its postseason life. Full Story
The fifth-seeded Bulls softball team (35-19, 6-10), which failed to win a league series outright in April, plays No. 4 East Carolina on Thursday in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference tournament at UCF. The tournament champ earns an automatic NCAA bid.
As it stands, that may represent USF's only shot at securing its fourth consecutive NCAA berth.
The Bulls enter with a modest RPI (55) and 1-8 record against the current top-30 RPI teams. Their first victory against a ranked foe didn't arrive until Saturday's 3-2 triumph at No. 15 UCF.
While the pitching staff owns a 2.80 ERA in its last six league games (compared to 4.12 in its first 10), the Bulls have dropped six of their last nine AAC contests.
Reversing such fortunes in the tournament seems a daunting undertaking. If it defeats East Carolina on Thursday, USF would face tourney host UCF -- which took two of three from the Bulls in the same ball park last weekend -- late Friday afternoon.
Spivey, Claudio honored: Junior C Lee Ann Spivey and senior UTIL/P Karla Claudio were first-team selections on the All-AAC team released Wednesday. Plant City High alumnus Kristen Wyckoff, a sophomore second baseman, made the second team.
A second-team pick in 2014, Spivey leads the league in batting (.383) and slugging percentage (.698), and ranks second with 51 RBIs. She leads USF in five other offensive categories as well.
Claudio, profiled recently by the Tampa Bay Times, has a league-best .710 slugging percentage in conference play and ranks third nationally with seven saves. Wyckoff ranks second in the American in runs (45), triples (five) and stolen bases (25).
OCTAVIO JONES | Times
USF center Austin Reiter (No. 78) was selected Saturday by the Redkins in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
As of Monday afternoon, eight members of USF's 2014 team have found at least tentative employment with NFL franchises.
In addition to the Bulls' two draftees, OLB Reshard Cliett (Texans, sixth round) and C Austin Reiter (Redskins, seventh), six other players have reached terms with various teams as undrafted free agents.
The latest is DT Todd Chandler, who confirmed Monday he is headed to the Jaguars' rookie minicamp. The Bulls' other free-agent signees: WR Andre Davis (Bills), PK Marvin Kloss (Browns), TE Mike McFarland (Texans), DL Elkino Watson (Bears) and LT Darrell Williams (Rams) …Full Story
OCTAVIO JONES | Times
USF outside linebacker Reshard Cliett was drafted in the sixth round Saturday by the Houston Texans.
The 11th hour of the NFL Draft represented one of USF's finest hours in recent memory.
OLB Reshard Cliett (Texans) and three-year starting C Austin Reiter (Redskins) were taken in the sixth and seventh round, respectively, Saturday afternoon. Cliett was taken with the 211th overall pick, 11 spots ahead of Reiter.
Shortly afterward, four undrafted Bulls -- WR Andre Davis (Bills), PK Marvin Kloss (Browns), TE Mike McFarland (Texans) and LT Darrell Williams (Rams) -- signed or agreed to free-agent deals with their respective new teams. …Full Story
Photo provided by Masters Basketball Association
Former USF basketball player David Bastian, 54, is an annual competitor in the Masters Basketball Association (MBA) National Masters Championships.
Like many in his line of work, New Tampa-based accountant David Bastian will observe the end of another tax season with an extensive dose of R&R.Full Story
Running and rebounding, mainly. While Bastian's getaway will take him to the balminess of Florida's east coast, the only salt water in which he's likely to soak is of the Epsom variety. If all goes as planned, Bastian, a 54-year-old former USF guard, will play five basketball games -- NCAA rules -- in as many days.
"I'm telling you right now, it's a tough tournament," he said. "And there's pain, and you can't really prepare for it."
More than 30 years after his USF eligibility was exhausted, Bastian's poised to get exhausted again with his annual indulgence of May Madness. He'll be among hundreds of middle-agers (and older) competing in the upcoming Masters Basketball Association (MBA) National Masters Championships in Coral Springs.
Thinking glorified rec league? Think again. The field is rife with guys with college and pro experience. The level of intensity's as profound as a varicose vein. Past participants include NBA alumni Tim Hardaway, Artis Gilmore, Mitchell Wiggins and Billy Thompson; and even Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter.
Consider this line from the MBA website: We cannot over-emphasize the very competitive nature of these games.
"It's not for everybody," Bastian said.
Bastian's playing this year in the 50-over division for 2014 runner-up South Florida Elite, which lost to Bastian's former team in last year's finals. His current roster includes 52-year-old Tarpon Springs boys coach Jerry Woodka, former UNC-Charlotte player Emery Atkinson and University of Miami alumnus Mike Noblet. Woodka, who played overseas and spent time with some short-lived domestic leagues, has been competing in masters-type events for more than a decade.
His first impression? "The competition level," he recalled.
"Most of the guys were definitely high school players and a lot were college, and a few were either former NBA guys or European players, and they still had the love for the game like I do. They were in great shape, and the pace of the game was still fast. It was just very, very good basketball."
The tournament's parameters are clear. The seven age divisions range from 40 to 75-and-older. Older players can compete in younger age groups, but not vice versa. There are two 20-minute halves and a 35-second shot clock. Three rounds of pool play are followed by semifinals and a title game.
That's up to five games in as many days. By week's end, even the young at heart realize hamstrings aren't so ageless.
Small price to pay for the competition and camaraderie.
"It's just a bunch of former college guys that like to keep playing and are lucky enough to keep playing," Bastian said. "You go to those things and you see people and friends, and the older you get, you appreciate it more."
JOEY KNIGHT | Times
USF junior men's tennis standout Roberto Cid has been named American Athletic Conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
The sequel to Roberto Cid's breakthrough season is shaping up to be as dazzling -- if not more so -- than the original.Full Story
Cid, who recently led the 19th-ranked USF men's tennis team to its second consecutive American Athletic Conference tournament title, has been named the AAC Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Similarly, Bulls coach Matt Hill earned league coach of the year honors for the second consecutive time. The entire all-conference team was announced Thursday.
A 6-foot-3 junior from the Dominican Republic, Cid has won 14 of 18 matches at the No. 1 singles spot this spring, earning a No. 19 ranking from the ITA and a second at-large bid to the singles portion of the NCAA Tournament. He reached the singles quarterfinals in 2014, upsetting top-seeded Clay Thompson of UCLA along the way.
Three other Bulls -- Sasha Gozun, Oliver Pramming and Justin Roberts -- joined Cid on the doubles all-conference team. The Bulls begin their quest for a team championship in the NCAA first- and second-round matches next weekend in Blacksburg, Va.
JOEY KNIGHT | Times
USF's baseball team is seeking its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002.
Whether first-year coach Mark Kingston ultimately can elevate USF's prominence on the college baseball map remains to be seen, but the college baseball calendar is another story.Full Story
At the dawn of May, Kingston has directed the Bulls smack into the heart of a pennant race.
USF (28-16-1, 9-6) enters this weekend's three-game series at UCF (26-19, 5-10) tied with four other teams atop the American Athletic Conference leaderboard. The series begins an eight-game road swing (including a Tuesday contest at No. 10 Florida) for the Bulls, whose RPI (24th) currently is the conference's second-best.
"It should be a lot of fun," Kingston said. "A lot of good baseball here late. We're gonna make the most of it."
If they do, the Bulls could find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2002. An upset of the Gators, whom the Bulls haven't defeated since 2012, and perhaps four wins against UCF in the teams' six upcoming games, might secure an NCAA Tournament bid.
"Shoot, that's what's fun about it," Kingston said. "The alternative is, you're just running out the string. Our focus, as it always has been in my coaching career is, we're gonna make sure we're doing the things so that we can give ourselves a great chance to finish strong."
Florida Highway Patrol photo
Former USF men's basketball standout B.B. Waldon was injured Monday when his vehicle (above) slammed into the rear of a garbage truck.
Former USF men's basketball standout B.B. Waldon remains in intensive care in a Lakeland hospital after his vehicle slammed into the rear of a garbage truck late Monday morning in west Polk County.
Waldon, 35, suffered "serious" injuries, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. Former USF team captain Anddrikk Frazier, a close friend of Waldon, confirmed he remains hospitalized but said the family is requesting privacy at this time.
FHP trooper Ronald Drake, who responded moments after Waldon had been transported to nearby Lakeland Regional Medical Center, told the Tampa Bay Times he saw two large pools of blood upon arriving at the scene.
"I can only assume that he was distracted in the car and never saw the garbage truck," Drake said.
Waldon, driving a 2005 Nissan Altima, wasn't wearing a seatbelt, the report states. The driver of the garbage truck, 45-year-old Kenneth Mack, was unhurt.
"He never hit the brakes, no skid marks, no yellow marks, just straight into the back of the garbage truck," Drake said. "He hit it so hard that the drive shaft actually came out of the garbage truck. I would estimate 45-50 mph when he hit the garbage truck." …Full Story
Mark Heise | USF Athletics
Led by individual medalist Ryan Fricker (third from left), the USF men's golf team won the American Athletic Conference Championship, which concluded Monday in Lecanto.
A three-round birdie bonanza by the USF men's golf team ended Monday afternoon with the Bulls hoisting their second league trophy in three years, and senior Ryan Fricker brandishing the most glistening scorecard.
Led by Fricker (11-under-par 205), three Bulls finished below par over 54 holes at Lecanto's Black Diamond Ranch, propelling 18th-ranked USF (27-under 837) to a 13-stroke triumph at the American Athletic Conference Championship.
Runner-up SMU shot 15-under as a team in the final round, but couldn't approach a Bulls lineup that included three rounds of 1-under or better Monday.
"We had all kinds of different battles, but golf is ultimately an individual sport and they all took care of their individual business,” first-year coach Steven Bradley said. “Obviously we had an individual champion and a team champion, so it couldn’t have worked out any better.”
A 24-year-old Bethune-Cookman transfer, Fricker finished the tournament with 15 birdies -- including seven in the second round -- and an eagle. His 1-under-par 67 Monday included three birdies on the front nine. …Full Story
JOEY KNIGHT | Times
USF reliever Tommy Eveld joined his teammates and coaches in getting their heads shaved Sunday for cancer awareness.
By the end of Sunday's overcast afternoon, the USF baseball team's lead in the American Athletic Conference standings had vanished.Full Story
So had its collective vanity.
Immediately after the Bulls' 6-2 loss to Houston, players, coaches and at least one administrator converged at the center of Red McEwen Field to have their heads shaved by stylists from Great Clips.
The gesture was part of the program's ongoing effort to raise cancer awareness. Its honorary team captain, 11-year-old Nick Wolf, is in the final stage of his valiant battle with brain cancer.
Wolf's mom and younger brother attended Sunday's event. So far, the Bulls have teamed with the Vs. Cancer Foundation to generate more than $16,000 in donations, ranking fifth among the 65 teams participating.
"What it really means to me is, just the chance to take a second and reflect on those kids that are battling something that we as baseball players never really have had to deal with," said veteran 2B Nik Alfonso, who surrendered the brown locks that dangled well below his neck.
"I think it's awesome and it's for a good cause. ... It's humbling and it's a pretty cool experience to do something like this with your team. It's definitely something I'll remember forever."
Preceding the loss of hair was another loss to Houston, which entered the three-game weekend series ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Bulls (28-16-1, 9-6 AAD), who prevailed in 11 innings in Friday night's series opener before dropping the last two, now find themselves in a four-way tie for first in the AAC.
Next up: an eight-game road swing that includes weekend series at UCF and Tulane, and a May 5 contest at Florida.
"Shoot, that's what's fun about it," first-year coach Mark Kingston said. "The alternative is, you're just running out the string. Our focus, as it always has been in my coaching career, is we're gonna make sure we're doing the things so that we can give ourselves a great chance to finish strong."
For nine nearly-flawless innings, USF junior Jimmy Herget and Houston counterpart Andrew Lantrip used their respective right arms to make the price of admission worthwhile to an announced crowd of 724 Friday.Full Story
But it was the ensuing free baseball that proved priceless for Bulls fans.
First baseman Buddy Putnam's one-out, bases-loaded single to right field in the bottom of the 11th clinched a 2-1 Bulls victory against the Cougars, pushing USF's lead in the American Athletic Conference to two games.
Putnam finished 3-for-3 with two walks, while Herget and Lantrip combined to strike out 24.
"No matter who won that game, that was a great college baseball game," Bulls coach Mark Kingston said. "Great pitching on both sides, great defense. I thought both teams managed the game well to get out of really tough situations. It was two really good teams that battled. We got one big clutch hit there at the end by Buddy."
Houston (27-15, 7-6) put runners in scoring position three times in the last five innings, only to watch the Bulls (28-14-1, 9-4) come up with a critical strikeout or defensive conversion.
With one out and runners at the corners in the seventh, Herget (nine IP, seven hits, 11 strikeouts) fielded an Ian Rice bunt and threw out speedster Corey Julks at home. In the eighth, he surrendered a leadoff triple to Kyle Survance, then retired three of the next four batters -- two on strikeouts -- to snuff out the threat.
Meantime, Lantrip (8 1/3 IP, six hits, 13 strikeouts) was equally mesmerizing. His lone blemish surfaced in the seventh, when he issued a leadoff single to Luke Borders and walk to Putnam two batters later. Borders ultimately scored on an Austin Lueck single up the middle, tying the score at 1-all.
Herget threw 118 pitches, nine fewer than Lantrip.
"I think it's two of the better guys in the country, I don't think there's any question," Kingston said. "Two polished guys with great stuff; really hard to get on either one's fastball. You've got to tip your hat to their guy. He was great and Jimmy was great tonight, too."
Former Steinbrenner High standout Kevin Merrell led off the 11th with a walk off Houston reliever Patrick Weigel, and moved to second when Levi Borders was hit by a pitch. Burly freshman left-hander Aaron Fletcher replaced Weigel, striking out Luke Borders before issuing a single to Luke Maglich.
That set the stage for Putnam, who sent an 0-2 pitch into shallow right and was mobbed by teammates immediately thereafter.
"There's nothing more fun that that, and that's the first (walk-off) I've ever hit," Putnam said. "It's a great feeling."
John Kersten | USF Athletics
USF senior Karla Claudio, who hit three home runs in a March doubleheader, leads all of Division I with seven saves.
Her personalized ESPY moment arrived in triplicate, on a crisp March afternoon. Full Story
In the span of a doubleheader sweep of Tulsa, USF senior Karla Claudio sent three Golden Hurricane pitches beyond the left centerfield fence. The first, with one out in the bottom of the seventh of Game One, was a game-tying grand slam. The second, a three-run shot, pulled USF to within a run in the fifth inning of Game Two.
The last, with two out and the score tied in the bottom of the seventh, ended the day. Claudio pumped her fists as she trotted toward home plate, smack into a sea of teammates.
"Oh my God, that day was crazy," said Claudio, who finished the doubleheader with nine RBIs. "Coach (Ken Eriksen) gave me the chance to hit that day after not hitting for I don't even know how many games. The fact he has that confidence in me that I'm able to hit...really helped me and I was having a lot of fun."
The celebration spilled over into Gator's Dockside, a continental-grub sports bar about a half-mile east of campus. That evening, the boneless wings couldn't arrive fast enough for the San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico native, who couldn't read a menu in English -- much less order off it -- only three years before.
But the language barrier had long since been conquered. So had the psychological one. At last, Claudio's approach to the game was as plain as the chipotle honey barbecue sauce on her fingers.
She was having fun.
"Last year it was my first year as a (Division I) player, I was thinking a lot," said Claudio, a longtime Puerto Rican national team member who spent her first two collegiate seasons at Santa Fe College.
"I just felt like I had to show everybody what I could do when I didn't really have to. ... Coach Ken recruited me for a reason, and I'm talented enough to compete at this level, and I think that's what I'm doing now. I'm just having a lot of fun."
These days, Claudio's enjoyment spans from the plate to pitching circle. Seven of her 10 hits -- she has only 44 official at-bats -- have been for extra bases. As the Bulls' primary closer, she owns a 2.90 ERA in 72.1 innings, with a nation-best seven saves.
"At some point in a four-year span, you're hoping they get that," Eriksen said of Claudio's think-less, enjoy-more approach.
"You're hoping they get it as soon as they can. But for her as a (junior college) player, if she got it before her senior year then we've won the battle. Just to be able to go out there and be comfortable, to play and then get good...she's found it. She found it early."
Finding her voice -- at least in this country -- was another matter.
She was discovered by Santa Fe coach Chris Ahern during Puerto Rican national team tryouts in Orlando. When she arrived at the Gainesville campus from San Lorenzo, a mountainous region roughly a half-hour from Puerto Rico's east coast, she knew only a handful of English phrases. Turned out, Ahern was fluent in Spanish and sympathetic to her plight.
To help expedite Claudio's grasp of English, Ahern wouldn't allow her to speak Spanish during practice. The ensuing ribbing she got was was laced with more affection than spite.
"When you get a pop-up you have to yell, 'ball.' ... "I said something like 'bowl' with a really strong accent and everybody started making fun of me," recalled Claudio, who had a juco All-America season (19-6, 1.07 ERA, 17 home runs) in 2013.
"And that's one other thing that really helped me a lot, people making fun of me and making sure that I was saying things the right way. ... And still, to this day, there are still some things I say that make no sense, and people laugh at me. But that's how I learn and I don't mind it."
Today, only a wisp of her original accent is detectable in conversation. Similarly, the anxiety of '14 -- when Claudio allowed 21 hits in as many innings and hit .216 -- mostly has vanished. Armed with a late-breaking cutter evolving into one of her better pitches, she has long since earned the confidence of Eriksen to work in the most tense moments.
Case in point: four solid relief innings (two hits, one earned run) in an early-season loss to top-ranked Florida, when the Bulls squandered the lead after Claudio's exit.
Last weekend against East Carolina, she was inserted in the sixth inning of a 1-all game. Two innings later, she had fanned four, walked none and allowed an earned run on two hits. USF prevailed, 3-2.
Again, Claudio was clutch. No translation necessary.
"I'm not thinking about anything," she said. "My teammates trust me and that's really the important thing."
OCTAVIO JONES | Times
USF combo guard Dinero Mercurius becomes the third Bull with remaining eligibility to announce he's transferring since the end of the season.
USF freshman combo guard Dinero Mercurius, initially recruited by former coach Stan Heath but signed by Orlando Antigua, has become the latest Bull to announce he's transferring.Full Story
Recruited in part to provide another long-range dimension, Mercurius hit only eight of 39 3-pointers (20.5 percent) in his lone season, averaging fewer than 14 minutes. He becomes the third Bulls player with remaining eligibility to depart since the end of the season, joining point guard Anthony Collins and power forward Dre Clayton.
The current USF roster features seven players who logged game action last season. The number doesn't include former Maryland point guard Roddy Peters, who practiced but sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules. It increases to eight if former Louisville/Gonzaga F Angel Nunez's transfer to USF is approved by the NCAA.
Makeover at the Muma Center
A look at USF's 2014-15 men's basketball roster, and the projected one for '15-16
F Dre Clayton R-Fr. F Chris Perry Jr.
F Chris Perry So. PG Roddy Peters So.
PG Roddy Peters So.* PF Tulio Da Silva Fr.
G Corey Allen Jr. Sr. G/F Nehemias Morillo Sr.
G/F Nehemias Morillo Jr. G Jake Bodway R-So.
PG Anthony Collins Jr. G Jahmal McMurray Fr.
G Jake Bodway R-Fr. F Luis Santos Fr.
G Justin David So.* G Justin David So.
C Jaleel Cousins Jr. C Jaleel Cousins Sr.
G Troy Holston Jr. Fr. G Troy Holston Jr. So.
C Ruben Guerrero Fr. C Ruben Guerrero So.
G Dinero Mercurius Fr. F Bo Zeigler R-So.
F Bo Zeigler R-Fr. G Shawn Smith Jr.
F Angel Nunez Sr.^
*-Ineligible due to NCAA transfer rules
^-Transfer is pending NCAA approval
Former USF athletic director Doug Woolard, who received more than $1 million from the school upon his departure last summer, could earn up to $50,000 more this year in his temporary gig at his alma mater.Full Story
The professional services contract Woolard signed in January with SIU Carbondale was provided to the Tampa Bay Times upon a public-records request. Under terms of the contract, which ends June 30, Woolard earns $100 an hour (excluding travel time) and can make up to $49,999.99.
Among his duties: exploring revenue enhancements and cost controls; representing the school in Missouri Valley Conference negotiations on a pending digital content and production contract; and providing insight and advice to the school's interim AD and other administrators on "strategic and emerging issues related to intercollegiate athletics" as a new AD is sought.
Upon Woolard's retirement announcement from USF in January 2014, USF officials indicated he'd remain on board in behind-the-scenes capacities until his contract expired in June 2015. …
Gonzaga transfer Angel Nunez, a 6-foot-8 senior forward who visited USF over the weekend, reportedly has given his commitment to the Bulls.Full Story
ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported Monday afternoon that Nunez, a 23-year-old New York City native who began his college career at Louisville, has chosen USF. The Tampa Bay Times reported his weekend visit Sunday.
If he graduates this spring as expected, Nunez would be eligible for his final season immediately, pending a review by the NCAA. Prompting the review is the fact this would be Nunez's second transfer. …