Bulls set sights on Russian forward
Right after he took the USF job, Stan Heath mentioned the possibility that the Bulls could land high-level recruits who had signed with other schools but were granted releases following coaching changes. On Wednesday, I found one such player who could be a match for the Bulls.
On Monday, Heath was in the Panhandle, visiting Chipola College sophomore forward Victor Dubovitsky, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward from Moscow who had signed with Texas A&M during the early signing period. When Billy Gillispie left for the Kentucky job, Dubovitsky requested and was granted his release from Texas A&M, and the Bulls are one of six schools he's now considering.
The six, in the order given by Chipola coach Greg Heiar, are USF, Iowa, Kansas State, Oregon, Clemson and Florida State. Heath and assistant Darren Sorenson have both been by to visit Dubovitsky, who averaged 16 points and six assists for Chipola and is likely a power forward wherever he goes. Heiar calls him a combo forward, but said he's more of a 2-4 than a 3-4, having hit 43 percent of his 3-point attempts this season. When Dubovitsky signed with Texas A&M, one national analyst touted him as being one of the top 10 players in all of junior college basketball.
Along with huge Texas center prospect Kem Nweke, the Bulls now have two frontline prospects they're courting. USF won't bring either in for a visit this weekend, with Bulls coaches on the road at some key showcase tournaments where they can evaluate other options. But there's a good chance either or both could be in next weekend, potentially adding some depth to a frontcourt that sorely needs it.
Heath still has two openings on his staff, but he won't be carrying over any of Robert McCullum's staff. Frank Burnell had helped Heath during the transition, even making some recruiting trips to evaluate prospects, but Heath decided last week that he would not be keeping Burnell on his staff. One option is Heiar, who has been head coach at Chipola three years and consistently placed his kids in Division I programs -- 17 in four years, with two signings at Indiana and another at New Mexico this season in addition to Dubovitsky. He said Wednesday that he's expressed an interest in joining Heath's staff -- that would help with landing Dubovitsky, obviously, and Heiar has solid recruiting ties both in Florida and in Chicago. Chipola went 33-3, losing to Midland College in the national juco title game. Heath is still waiting for his last Arkansas assistant, Oronde Taliaferro, to decide where he'll coach. He's been linked to openings at Michigan and Oklahoma, and Heath said he knows he'd be welcome in Tampa.
-- Jason Bennett, the 7-foot-3 freshman center from Jacksonville who is considering transferring from Kansas State, has been mentioned as a possibility for USF, but the Bulls aren't interested. That's not to rule out any transfer, especially with another scholarship available now, but Bennett isn't in USF's plans.
-- We had a short note in Wednesday's paper that volleyball coach Claire Lessinger signed a one-year extension last week after her original three-year contract had expired in January. Her Bulls went from 1-13 in their first Big East season to 7-7 last fall, getting the last spot in the Big East tournament, but she'll have to continue that progress during a one-year "evaluation" period, as Doug Woolard called it in a letter detailing the amendment to her contract. Lessinger loses her starting setter and two of her top four hitters, but with a deep recruiting class, she'll have a chance to improve on last year's 12-17 mark. The team will take a foreign tour this summer to Brazil, where the Bulls have had success in finding top players like graduating senior Juliana Nogueira and freshman phenom Marcela Gurgel.
-- Tough news from Atlanta, where former USF safety J.R. Reed was cut by the Falcons, his third cut in the past year. Reed, who played some with the Rams last season, was hoping to catch on as a return specialist, and if he can show he's recovered from the career-threatening leg injury he suffered two years ago, he'll latch on somewhere else as a free agent, with an outside shot at making a fall roster. Reed's presence is still felt at USF -- coach Jim Leavitt has taken to calling walk-on corner Micah Morgan "J.R." because he has the same signature dreadlocks that Reed had with the Bulls. Speaking of former Bulls, I've got a trio of dumb arrests to bring up -- just on the blog, relax -- in the next day or two.