Freshman F Espinosa to transfer from USF

Freshman forward Eladio Espinosa, who started 12 games for USF but averaged just 1.8 points per game, said Sunday he is transferring from USF, becoming the second freshman to leave Stan Heath's program this offseason.

"Coach and I had two different visions about what kind of player I am," Espinosa said from his North Carolina home. "It's kind of hard for me to convert to a player that I'm not."

Espinosa's offensive role was often little more than setting screens for USF's top scorers, but the 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward said he understood he was overmatched as a freshman in the Big East. He said when he arrived at USF last summer, he felt he needed to redshirt his first year on campus to work on his game, but the Bulls' lack of depth made that logistically impossible.

Espinosa said Heath sees him in a Dennis Rodman role, focusing on rebounding and defense without being an active shooter. Espinosa would like to be more like the Spurs' Manu Ginobili, but he struggled in the two areas Heath seeks from a small forward -- ballhandling and perimeter shooting -- going 0-for-9 this season on 3-pointers with just nine assists against 26 turnovers. Espinosa said when he asked Heath why he wasn't allowed to shoot more, Heath pointed to his statistics. "I couldn't argue with that," he said.

Heath had high hopes for Espinosa entering the season, saying he would be a fan favorite, with excitement about his 42-inch vertical leap. Espinosa had at least five rebounds in each of USF's first three games, including a 9-point, 10-rebound game against High Point. But as the opponents got stronger and freshman Gus Gilchrist joined the team, Espinosa's role diminished, and he didn't get more than five points or five rebounds in any of the final 28 games. Down the stretch, he played even less, averaging just 10 minutes and 0.8 points in the final seven games.

Espinosa is the second freshman to transfer this offseason, joining reserve guard Gaby Belardo, who will play at Canisius. Espinosa said his grade-point average is higher than 2.6, which means the Bulls will face no penalty in the NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores as a result of his transferring.

"I gained a lot from the University of South Florida. My knowledge of the game increased so much in just one year," said Espinosa, who wouldn't identify any specific schools he might land at, other than a general desire to be closer to his family's home. "At another school, I can see myself developing into the player I'm more comfortable being on the court."

His departure does leave the Bulls thin in the frontcourt, with just four players -- centers Alex Rivas Sanchez and Jarrid Famous and power forwards Gus Gilchrist and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick -- for two spots. USF is expected to formally announce Espinosa's release from his scholarship Monday.

Heath will have former Kansas State power forward Ron Anderson Jr. in for a campus visit on Tuesday, but Anderson will have to sit out the upcoming season. With two scholarships available now, Heath could use one for another power forward, though the prospects are limited a month into the spring signing period.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:27pm]

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