Fernandez sends message with suspensions
Part of the reason USF's women's basketball team fell behind by 13 points to lowly Jacksonville on Sunday was the fact that coach Jose Fernandez had five players sitting out the opening half for violating team rules.
On the day that senior guard Janae Stokes returned from a four-game suspension following an arrest last month, Fernandez handed down a one-game suspension to another starter, freshman guard KaNeisha Saunders, who was arrested last week for driving without a valid license.
Four other players -- senior Allyson Speed, junior Leondra Doomes-Stephens and freshmen Tiffany Conner and Tahira Johnson -- sat out the first half for a less severe violation of team rules.
"There's more than just basketball," Fernandez said, unsolicited, in his postgame comments. "They're going to act right off the floor and be representatives of our program in the classroom, in the community and on the basketball floor. That's the bottom line."
Saunders' arrest is similar to that of USF running back Mike Ford, whose traffic stop and misdemeanor charge came five days later. Saunders was stopped by University police near campus on the morning of Dec. 5 and cited for having an expired license tag and not wearing her seat belt. As was the case with Ford, the traffic stop showed she did not have a valid driver's license, and she was booked on that misdemeanor charge and later released from county jail on $250 bond. Fernandez said he required Saunders to get her license reinstated before she could rejoin the team.
"When you come to college and especially play in our program, you're going to get the total experience and be prepared, for when you leave here, to be very successful after you get your degree here at South Florida," Fernandez said.
Stokes, who scored seven points in her first game back with the Bulls, has an arraignment set for Monday on a misdemeanor charge of petit theft. She's accused of taking $31.20 worth of merchandise from a Wal-Mart near campus without paying for it, but should be eligible for a first-time pre-trial intervention program that would result in only community service and a short probationary period.
Despite the suspensions, USF finished the first half on a 14-1 run to tie Jacksonville at halftime and went on to a 76-64 victory, their sixth straight. Doomes-Stephens played 15 minutes in the second half, scoring three points, and Speed played three minutes; Johnson and Conner did not play. The Bulls next play against Tulane on Thursday in the Sun Dome.