Jose gets another recruit; is Stan next?
Lots to catch up on today after three days in New York -- caught Sunday's snowy Yankees game in the leftfield bleachers and got back late Sunday night.
First, Jose Fernandez has picked up a fifth and final member of what is already a top-25 recruiting class. The newest addition is Ashley Sanders, a 6-foot sophomore wing from Miami-Dade College who visited USF this weekend and committed. She'll sign this week, likely Wednesday, and will likely step in as the Bulls' starting small forward next season in a starting five that could boast four first-year Bulls, all transfers. Sanders also looked at Michigan State, Providence and Hofstra and gets high praise from MDC coach Susan Summons, who said she can play the 1, 2 or 3 and can create her own offense, a huge plus for next year's Bulls.
What does next year's starting five look like? Most likely, it's juco transfer Jazmine Sepulveda, a national D-II juco player of the year, at point guard, allowing junior-to-be Shantia Grace to move to shooting guard and take over as the team's primary scoring threat. Sanders can start at small forward, with USF's two Division I transfers, Jessica Lawson (Cal) and Brittany Denson (Miami) starting in the frontcourt. That leaves Daiane Packer, ChiChi Okpaleke and Stephanie Sarosi as the top returning players on a crazy-deep bench that includes three freshman guards and the rest of last year's recruiting class, which saw spare minutes in their first season with the Bulls.
Could the Bulls be better despite losing four seniors, most notably all-time leading scorer Jessica Dickson? Fernandez is borrowing a page from Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer and has locked his players out of the locker room for the rest of the spring and summer. They're doing their own laundry, etc., as Fernandez sets notice that 21 wins and the NIT is "failure," in his words. It's setting the bar high for next season, and he still has a nonconference schedule that includes North Carolina and Duke in Tampa.
One curious development: if Cal's Joanne Boyle doesn't take the Duke women's job, they may turn to another Blue Devils alum, Miami coach Katie Meier, who hasn't had much success with the Hurricanes but is the next option within the Duke basketball family. Should Meier leave, you'd think Fernandez' name would come up as a possibility at Miami, since he was born there and cut his teeth as a coach in Miami. The disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament might make him less of a commodity, but it would make things interesting if Meier wound up at Duke.
Am I really just now getting to men's basketball? We told you earlier that Patrick Beverley was staying at Arkansas, but there's more encouraging news on another Stan Heath recruit. Reports that had Mississippi guard/forward Jenirro Bush "reclassifying" -- that's a fun euphemism for taking another year to get academically qualified through a prep school -- seem to be premature.
I talked with Bush (who was committed to Arkansas before Heath was fired) on Monday night, and his focus is on qualifying this spring, raising his GPA and getting the necessary entrance exam scores to play college basketball this upcoming season. He named six schools for me, saying he has no favorite right now, but the first one he mentioned was USF.
His other five are Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor, Mississippi State and Oregon. He said he spoke with Heath late last week, and Heath was trying to get him to set up a visit to Tampa. He said he plans on making that visit, though he hasn't set a date yet, and said that while the spring signing period starts Wednesday, he doesn't plan on making a decision in the next week and said he'll likely visit USF before he makes any decision. For Heath, it's an encouraging development as he scrambles to make best use of two or three scholarships this spring.
Heath has yet to sign any assistant coaches to contracts, though he's been in daily talks with his Arkansas assistants, who are strongly considering following him to Tampa. That includes Oronde Taliaferro, his recruiting coordinator at Arkansas and a former player under him in his early coaching days, as well as two assistants with Florida ties -- former Stetson coach Dan Hipsher and former Jacksonville associate coach Glynn Cyprien. Expect some news on this front in the next day or two ...
USF has missed out on Tallahassee Community College's Dustin Scott, who strongly considered the Bulls before the fall signing period. He's committed to Bobby Cremins and College of Charleston, but a USF coach called TCC last week to inquire about another frontcourt prospect, 6-9 forward Andy Buechert. Buechert had committed to UMass and is considering several schools, but TCC coach Eddie Barnes said he thought USF was getting in too late to be a factor for him, if they are truly interested.
I promise I'll get to spring football in the next day or so -- I'll be back out at practice Tuesday, and can pass along from a brief peek at practice last week that walk-on linebacker Houston Hess, a special-teams standout last season, was working exclusively at receiver. He's wearing No. 83, and he'll have his work cut out for him learning routes. After dropping a short pass, coach Jim Leavitt came over, stood maybe 5 yards away and threw a couple of bullet passes, trying to get him to work on his hands. Hess will be a factor on special teams, and his progress with a deep group of receivers will be something to watch this summer.
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