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Analysis: No Band-Aid fix for USF basketball

USF center Ruben Guerrero is the only recruit from the Orlando Antigua era to have any sort of lasting impact on the program.

Orlando Sentinel photo

USF center Ruben Guerrero is the only recruit from the Orlando Antigua era to have any sort of lasting impact on the program.



College basketball never has held a monopoly on virtue. Like most other segments of society, it has long since succumbed to the undertow of instant gratification.

Hence the reason the quick fix has evolved into standard operating procedure in the sport. From Westwood to Krzyzewskiville, one-and-dones are prevalent. And there's a mercenary feel to the way some players with baggage (i.e. transfers, jucos) are summoned to help a foundering program suddenly flourish.

Can't blame coaches for maximizing how the system's set up. And to be sure, it works splendidly at some places.

But it has flopped recently at USF. And whomever is hired as the program's 10th permanent coach must avoid the allure of such a philosophy at all costs.

Time to rebuild the Bulls with patience and pragmatism. Adding a local player or two also would help.

This must be athletic director Mark Harlan's prerequisite to any and all candidates. We'll even offer a rough draft of the mission statement.

Listen, there's nowhere to go but up. I want you to bring in kids of character who will stick. Develop them. It will take time, but I'm willing to give you that time. Make the bay area a recruiting priority. Let's do this the right way.

The other way has been downright dreadful.

When Orlando Antigua's debut season dawned in the fall of 2014, USF had three kids who had played NCAA basketball the season before. Upon his dismissal Jan. 3, the roster remained one of the youngest (no seniors).

In between, a procession of transfers with baggage, juco signees and kids deemed a recruiting gamble found their way to the Muma Center, some exiting as briskly as they arrived. Meantime, some Stan Heath holdovers (i.e. Zach LeDay, Anthony Collins) bolted or were run off, only to find success at other major programs.

The result: 23 victories in 2 1/2 seasons, and one NCAA probe for possible academic violations. The only Antigua signee to have any kind of lasting impact has been 7-foot junior Ruben Guerrero, recently awarded the NCAA Division I Male Sportsmanship Award.

Guerrero's ambassadorship notwithstanding, time to can this quick-fix method.

Harlan's new hire must be committed to a three- or four-year process. He must home in on recruits committed to developing into good college players, not those with one eye one the NBA before they unpack. He must know how to get to Tampa Prep or Berkeley Prep or Tampa Catholic without a GPS. 

His aspiration must be to build a Butler South, not a Kentucky spinoff. If interim coach Murry Bartow is committed to such a philosophy, by all means give him a serious look.

Perhaps gratification won't arrive instantly, but it likely will come eventually. Along the way, the program can foster hope.

Sure beats the hopelessness to which Bulls fans have been exposed.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2017 12:07pm]


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