Women's hoops: Bulls turn to newcomers
We've written about the slew of new talent for USF women's basketball next season -- five signees and two transfers will begin play with the Bulls in 2010-11 -- and coach Jose Fernandez took a minute Tuesday to run through his lineup and where the newcomers will fit in along with seven returning players.
"From top to bottom, this is the most talent I've ever had," said Fernandez, who could have an entire starting lineup of players who didn't play for him in 2009-10, with solid depth at all five positions.
Point guard: The Bulls return sophomore KaNeisha Saunders, who will battle junior Andrell Smith for opening-day starting honors, but by the time Big East play begins, the starter might be 5-foot-6 guard Sasha Bernard, a high school teammate of Saunders in Delray Beach who transferred midyear from Indiana and will be eligible in mid-December. Saunders is actually the team's top returning scorer at 9.6 points per game, and those three should get most of the point-guard minutes this season.
Shooting guard: "No question whatsover," Fernandez said, that junior Andrea Smith, the national junior college player of the year, will be the starter here. Smith and her twin sister signed with USF two years ago but wound up at Gulf Coast Community College in the Panhandle. Smith will compete with junior Jasmine Wynne, who is returning from knee surgery, and sophomore Tiffany Conner.
Small forward: Good battle here between senior Leondra Doomes-Stephens, the team's top returning rebounder, and junior Josette Campbell, the London-born junior college transfer who signed last week. Daleisha Carn, who sat out last season after transferring from Alabama, is a possibility here, though she's more likely to play at power forward.
Power forward: The versatile Carn is likely the starter here, with sophomores Tahira Johnson and Aleshia Flowers also in the mix after playing sparingly this past season. With seniors Jessica Lawson and Melissa Dalembert gone, there's a major change in the post, with new faces stepping into key roles in the frontcourt.
Center: Senior Porche Grant is expected back after taking a redshirt last season -- she led the team in rebounds as a sophomore and junior -- but Fernandez has high expectations for two big freshmen, 6-foot-4 Akila McDonald of Georgia and 6-2 Salla Ekstrom of Finland.
-- USF's 2010-11 nonconference schedule includes six games against teams with an RPI of 104 or better, including Texas (RPI:17) in Las Vegas and a trip to Middle Tennessee State (19). They'll also face Southern Methodist (75) in Vegas, Auburn (79) and Wake Forest (104) at home and get VCU (101) on the road. Rest of the schedule includes UNLV in Vegas, road games at UAB, Samford and home games against Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, North Florida, Jacksonville and Stetson.