Poland adds another key piece to 2010-11 Bulls
USF made the signing of junior college guard Jawanza Poland official on Wednesday, which allows coach Stan Heath to talk about the fifth member of his incoming recruiting class, expected to challenge for a starting job next season.
"He's one of those guys that fell under the radar because he didn't play this year," Heath said. "That's good for us, because he has three years to play for us. He's a terrific athlete who could be a great defensive player. His upside and his ability to come in and help us right away are things we need."
Poland, 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, sat out this past season at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas -- he was one of five players who transferred from Cowley College to follow coach Steve Eck before the season, but only three of the five were granted waivers from Cowley.
Poland had committed to USF two days before signing day, then backed off, saying he wanted to open things back up. Heath made a visit to the family home in Wichita, Kan., last week and helped convince Poland that USF was the right place for him.
"He never said he didn't want to come. He never said we weren't his No. 1 choice," Heath said. "He just wanted to open the window up. He wasn't sure how he fit in, and he wanted his mom and his coaches to feel as comfortable about coming here as he did. When I met with him, it helped put his worries at ease."
Looking at next year's lineup, the Bulls have junior Anthony Crater and freshman LaVonte Dority at point guard, where junior Shedrick Haynes could also get some minutes. Poland and junior Hugh Robertson (along with Haynes) are newcomers competing with returning sophomores Mike Burwell and Shaun Noriega for playing time at shooting guard and small forward -- the two positions are very interchangeable in Heath's system. The Bulls also have four solid returning post players in Gus Gilchrist, Jarrid Famous, Ron Anderson and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, with freshman Waverly Austin in a position to add depth.
"On paper, that team has a chance to be a better defensive team, and has a chance to be a better shooting team," Heath said. "We have to find a way to make up for losing (guards Jones, Chris Howard and Mike Mercer), but I think this team has a lot of upside."
Three of Heath's five newcomers are junior college transfers, but Heath said that wasn't by design. He points out that the Bulls signed two freshmen in the fall (Austin and Dority) and expected to have just one scholarship open in the spring, but the midyear transfers of guards Jordan Dumars and Justin Leemow and Dominique Jones' decision to enter the NBA draft opened up big holes in his backcourt.