Far too many USF notes for a day off ...
Even when I try to take some vacation, try to disengage, as my wife Nicole tactfully puts it, the blog beckons, with entirely too many things to check in about. Wednesday was really supposed to be a finish line of sorts, closing out what has been a real busy season of women's basketball coverage with the Final Four here, but I'm still going. Onto the notes ...
-- Freshman forward Orane Chin is gone, making it six scholarship players granted a release since Stan Heath took over, though none a truly significant loss. We told you a few weeks ago that Chin had made it through the initial postseason interview, but had to prove himself in individual workouts. He clearly didn't. And if this was a third strike against him, Chin fouled off a lot of pitches with an 0-2 count. I wouldn't think of this as Heath running someone off, so much as Chin running himself off. Lots of potential, lots of athleticism, but he never had the commitment or focus off the court, and Heath sent a clear message with Chin's role in Big East play. His last five games at USF? Fifteen total minutes, zero points. After scoring a combined 16 points in his first two conference games, he totaled 20 in the next 16. Heath now has four scholarships left for the spring, but I'd be shocked if he doesn't roll at least one over to next season now. Haven't gotten confirmation yet, but I keep hearing that Krys Faber, the big prep center from Los Angeles who averaged 17.5 rebounds per game, will make a campus visit to USF this weekend.
-- I'm still getting e-mails and comments asking for updates on USF softball pitcher Cristi Ecks, who had a terrible scare last week when she collapsed during practice and needed to be shocked with a defibrillator to restore her heartbeat. Ecks and her family haven't spoken to the media, with the only update being that she was released from the hospital last weekend. But her hometown paper in northern Virginia has some news, as InsideNoVa.com reports that she had a defibrillator surgically implanted to regulate her heartbeat. They report that she's already back in classes, but hasn't been cleared to return to softball. Again, we'll have updates on this end when her family is comfortable speaking publicly.
-- Former USF center Kentrell Gransberry has a big weekend ahead as he competes at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia, a great showcase for guys trying to solidify themselves as draft picks. I drove to the PIT when I was in high school in North Carolina -- it's a great night when you can land autographs from Billy Cunningham, Red Auerbach, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in the same gym.
Anyway, we'll try to get as many updates on K.G. as possible -- he's one of five Big East players there, along with Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace and Patrick Ewing Jr., Notre Dame's Rob Kurz and Seton Hall's Brian Laing, according to their rosters online. Gransberry's playing for the "K&D Rounds Landscaping" team and had his first game Thursday night: started and got 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 7 rebounds and three steals in 24 minutes as his team won 90-78. Kurz is also on his team and got a double-double. Fun names on his team, from Longar Longar to Georgia's Sundiata Gaines. Gransberry has another game Friday and one more -- potentially for the tournament championship -- on Saturday. You can find boxscores here.
-- Even with players like Syracuse's Donte' Greene declaring themselves for the draft, the Big East isn't going to be any easier in 2008-09. This week's SI has an early preseason top 25: UConn 2 (if Hasheem Thabeet comes back), West Virginia 7th, Georgetown 8th, with Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Marquette and Villanova in their top 25. That's half the league ranked, and that doesn't even include Louisville.
-- Some major developments in the sad story of UCF receiver Ereck Plancher, with the Orlando Sentinel breaking news of discrepancies in what actually happened in the practice where Plancher collapsed and died.
-- I'll wait until the morning to break down the spring game football rosters. I can report that tight end Ben Busbee broke a bone in his right hand, but he was practicing Wednesday -- Ben Moffitt style, with a gigantic cast on his hand, ready to bludgeon you with it. You know a walk-on has a chance to stick when he's got a nickname, and receiver Jeffrey Wilson has teammates shouting "Pookie!" every time he makes a catch. And receiver Carlton Mitchell -- who unbeknownst to me and the rest of the media had surgery in February to fix a sports hernia in his groin area -- told me he's not only back healthy after a ton of rehab, but he's going to make it from the spring game Saturday night in time to see Antonio Tarver's fight at the St. Pete Times Forum (ching!). His mother, Angela, works Tarver's corner as his "cutwoman."