Walk-on update: New Bulls guard
Loyal blog readers know we love walk-on news, and we're digging a little deeper than normal to unearth something only the most diehard of Bulls fans can appreciate: potential-walk-on news.
We've told you that lingering injuries have kept key contributors sidelined in the first week of basketball practice, meaning more court time for a half-dozen walk-ons, most of which have yet to be rostered and may never. Guard Eddie Lovett is back from last season, and freshman forward Jared Rubens is already on roster, but at Friday's practice I got some names for the rest of the walk-on hopefuls.
The most intriguing has a great name -- 5-foot-10 guard Montana Heirman -- and he comes to USF from Kishwaukee College in Malta, Illinois. We'll forgive Kishwaukee for a horrible mascot -- the Kougars -- but give them credit for a website that surpasses most Division II junior colleges. Heirman was a walk-on at Bradley before transferring to Kishwaukee, and as a Kougar in January he pulled off a triple-double, scoring 19 points with 10 assists and 10 boards against Illinois Valley Community College. He was good enough to rank 17th nationally in Division II junior college basketball in assists at 6.3 per game, and 15th in steals with 3.0 per game.
And yes, Heirman does have Division I basketball experience, having played eight minutes in seven games as a freshman at Bradley. No points, but two rebounds, an assist and a foul. Here's a link to his bio page at Bradley, though I should point out that he's let his hair grow out a bit. Here's a great nugget from his Bradley bio: he's actually named after Joe Montana, who roomed with his father's best friend in college at Notre Dame. Hey, if it gets USF a millimeter closer to having Joe Montana at its basketball games, there's something Bulls fans can root for, right?
A caveat, again: This guy hasn't made the roster yet. But it's still a fun story, independent of the fact that real football news is hard to come by lately. I know the names of two other walk-ons-in-training, Elmer Sims and Bobby Torres, but can't find much of anything on their background. Loyal readers, consider yourselves deputized and hook me up with what you know.
-- Two more basketball notes: forward Melvyn Richardson, sidelined with a foot injury, has been cleared for limited work in practice and was out there Friday. Still sidelined when I watched Friday: guard Jesus Verdejo and forwards Zaronn Cann, Amu Saaka and Aris Williams. Melvin Buckley was on the sidelines when I was there, slowed by a sore back.
-- I've gotten some complaints about USF raising ticket prices for men's basketball from last year, but what the Bulls have done is added a $1-per-game "Sun Dome renovations" surcharge. A 14-game second-level season ticket last season cost $225, and a 15-game season ticket now costs $256, which is the same $16 per game, plus the $15 surcharge. I can understand why fans are upset with any increase given (a) the 17-game losing streak last year and (b) the total lack of any nonconference team you'd pay to see play at the Sun Dome. (Remember, the Wake Forest game at the St. Pete Times Forum isn't included in season-ticket packages).
If you're really trying to be frugal and support USF basketball, the ticket to get is a women's season pass that puts you courtside -- that's closer to the game than I get on press row -- for $100. Jose Fernandez is a scheduling maniac, so that package includes Connecticut, LSU and Notre Dame.
-- I've been remiss in not writing more about Claire Lessinger's volleyball team, which got another huge win at home Friday night against Villanova to improve to 5-2 in Big East play. Remember, USF went 1-13 last season, so the turnaround is already a big one. The Bulls are only halfway through the Big East schedule, but even a 3-4 mark in the second half would likely be enough to put them in the top eight, which would mean a trip to the Big East tournament, a remarkable step if the Bulls can pull it off.
As it stands, USF is 2.5 games up on ninth-place Seton Hall. The remaining seven games aren't easy, with Notre Dame (7-0), St. John's (6-0) and Louisville (6-1) in there, but if the Bulls can get wins in their next two, against Rutgers (2-5) and Connecticut (2-5), they still have DePaul (0-6) and finish the season at Cincinnati (4-3). Three wins against that schedule isn't asking too much.