Heath era opens with 99-70 win vs. Saint Leo
First, a caveat: I wasn't at Wednesday night's men's basketball exhibition against Saint Leo. Correspondent Brendan Galella covered for the Times, so what I'm writing here is based on the story he filed and reading a box score. Again, it's an exhibition against a Division II team, so everything should be taken with a certain grain of salt. A few observations, then ...
-- Very promising debut for freshman guard Dominique Jones, who had a game-high 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting, with five steals, four assists and one turnover in a team-high 32 minutes. My big question entering the season has been who the complementary scorers would be alongside Kentrell Gransberry: somebody besides Chris Howard will be scoring in double digits. This makes Jones a strong contender for that, though we've already heard Stan Heath talk about wanting more consistency on defense.
-- Amazing amount of turnover in players over the past year. Looking at the box score from last year's 66-50 exhibition against Saint Leo, there are only three players that played in that game and Wednesday's: Amu Saaka, Solomon Bozeman and walk-on Eddie Lovett. Chris Howard brought up a good point, saying how last season, he was "thrown to the wolves" by making his debut in Big East play. Same with Gransberry, who missed the first seven games after transferring midyear.
-- Certainly looks like Heath had a lot of four-guard looks, as his primary post players (Gransberry, Orane Chin, B.J. Ajayi) totaled just 57 minutes. Heath has talked about having options between slashers and shooters -- only three of Jones' 15 shots were 3-pointers, while all four of Solomon Bozeman's were from outside the arc. It's encouraging to see only two players (Gransberry and Bozeman) with more turnovers than assists -- last year, against the same team, USF had only two players (Bozeman and Chris Capko) with more assists than turnovers. Again, this is all against Saint Leo.
-- Next most impressive, beyond Jones, has to be redshirt freshman Dante Curry, playing his first game after missing last season with a torn Achilles' tendon. Curry went 4-of-6 from the field, 5-of-6 at the line for 15 points, matched the team high with seven boards and added three assists against zero turnovers in 23 minutes. Only Bulls player to make more than one 3-pointer, so he's another name that should be included in the mix on the perimeter.
-- I'll follow up on this Thursday, but 6-foot-11 walk-on Mohamed Esseghir did not play, which would suggest to me that his NCAA waiver seeking eligibility now instead of waiting until after the fall semester has not gone through. This is important because Gransberry has been suspended from next week's opener against Cleveland State; his likely replacement is junior B.J. Ajayi, who fouled out in 15 minutes against Saint Leo. Chin was at the other extreme, with zero fouls in 23 minutes. Esseghir, who gives Heath another big body in the paint, was confident of USF being able to get that waiver in time for the opener, so we'll check on that over the next week.
-- Thoughts and comments from you readers who were there? We've already gotten some comments on the crowd, and I'll try to get a number on that Thursday -- no attendance was given in the box score or in USF's release from sports information. Keep those questions coming, and remind me to post something Thursday about my conversation with the executive director of the Gator Bowl ...