Heath: Biggest challenge 'changing a culture'
It's been a rough start to Stan Heath's second season at USF, with three road games that could have easily been wins all slipping away in the final minutes.
The Bulls (3-3) begin what is almost a second chapter to their season on Sunday against Niagara, because transfers Mike Mercer and Gus Gilchrist are now eligible, and quarterback B.J. Daniels has now joined the team as well. Heath said the new depth will help his team, especially late in games, where his players haven't been able to finish off wins the way he wants, as in a 71-63 loss Saturday at Central Florida.
"The biggest challenge for myself and my coaching staff is changing a culture that's existed a long time, of not having success," Heath said. "A lot of games are going to be this way for us, because we don't have a lot of firepower on our team, so defensively we have to do a good job of keeping games tight."
Heath said he has stressed late-game situational work in practices, closing drills with specific scores and time left on the clock: You're down three with two minutes to play. You're up two with a minute left. The hope is when those situations arise in games, his players feel like it's just practice and aren't as affected by the heightened emotion and intensity. Adding Gilchrist and Mercer, two potential starters, as well as Daniels, will mean more rest for players leading up to those situations.
"What's going to help us more than anything is having depth," said Heath, who was not at Monday's practice because he is on the road recruiting.
Gilchrist will help what was an ineffective frontcourt at Central Florida -- current starters Aris Williams and Alex Rivas Sanchez have played well in other games, and now won't have as much pressure on them. Mercer is another playmaker, and Heath has already seen promising things from Daniels. He put his three newcomers in a non-contact workout Sunday and was impressed by his first look at Daniels.
"There is an opportunity for him," Heath said. "I want to see how much he can do this week, because he has a lot to pick up, but I expect him to pick it up quickly. I have a pleasant feeling about B.J. -- he has point guard skills, and as a quarterback, he has a good mind, a good court sense. There have been a lot of positive feelings there."