'Long shot,' but guard Mercer could rejoin Bulls
I'll preface this by making it clear that a few things have to happen before it's even a slight possibility, but USF coach Stan Heath said Monday that he would consider allowing senior guard Mike Mercer to rejoin the Bulls as a walk-on if he graduates as scheduled this summer and fulfills a pre-trial agreement that would have a misdemeanor charge against him dropped.
"His focus and my focus is totally on him graduating," Heath said. "I really want (that) badly for him, and I think he's doing a good job in that area. I've really been pleased with how he's gone through this process of doing what he's supposed to, but it's been totally on him finishing school."
Mercer, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury in December, was dismissed from the team in January after his second arrest in four months, which saw him and teammate Anthony Crater charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana after a traffic stop near campus. Mercer had been previously arrested in September on a charge of public consumption of alcohol. That charge has since been dropped in conjunction with Mercer entering a pre-trial agreement on the drug charge that calls for probation, community service and payment of court costs.
Even if Mercer were to fulfill his legal obligations and graduate in August, Heath said he isn't sure if he would -- or could -- allow him to return to the team. Heath already gave Mercer a second chance before the two arrests after he had been dismissed from the basketball team at Georgia. Heath said he has not spoken to athletic director Doug Woolard or others who would have to sign off on such a return.
"It's a discussion I'd need to have with my superiors," Heath said. "I don't want to say no, because at the time when everything happened, it was a no, but he's done enough right now where if he continues, I'm not going to totally say that's out of the realm of possibility, but it's a long shot right now."
USF has three freshmen -- Jordan Dumars, Shaun Noriega and Mike Burwell -- who are expected to compete for playing time at shooting guard/small forward alongside junior Dominique Jones and a rotations of point guards, and Mercer would give the Bulls experience and depth at the position.
Mercer, a two-year starter at Georgia, averaged 11.3 points in three games with the Bulls before he injured his knee against Wright State on Dec. 21. He could not be reached for comment, but his father Mike Mercer Sr. said from Georgia last week that his son has been concentrating on finishing his degree and will then make a decision about his basketball future.
Check back Tuesday for lots more on USF basketball -- we'll have Q&As with new assistants Eric Skeeters and Jeremy Cox along with Heath, and we'll tell you what veteran NBA guard was working with the Bulls guards in the Sun Dome on Monday ...