Women's hoops ramblings and more ...
I'll start with football and USF commitment Kevin Williams, the former Gibbs cornerback and receiver that nobody else is reporting as a Bulls pledge. We reported two months ago that Williams would enroll at USF in January after a semester at William Penn University in Iowa, pending a qualifying test score.
Talked with Williams on Friday, and there's a new twist: West Virginia is trying to jump back into his recruiting. Last year, he would have signed with the Mountaineers if he had a qualifying test score, and USF successfully had jumped in and picked him up this fall. Williams told me Friday that West Virginia has promised him a scholarship in January if one of its seniors can graduate in December. He said he still considers himself a USF commitment, and he knows details like USF starting classes Jan. 9, so sounds like he's still in the Bulls' camp, with pressure from a league rival.
Center Kevin McCaskill, another one of last year's nonqualifiers, has earned the necessary test score and will enroll at USF in January, his high school coach told me Friday. Godby High sent his academic information to the NCAA Clearinghouse early last week, so it looks like McCaskill will join David Fonua as late arrvals from February's signing class. McCaskill's brother, Keith, is also awaiting a test score and interested in following his brother to Tampa.
Now, onto women's basketball and Friday's season opener against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Fun game, and relatively speaking -- the crowd of 785 fans was more than triple what last year's opener drew, and that figure would have put it as the fifth-largest home crowd last season. Some notes and observations:
-- Jessica Dickson had 29 points in 26 minutes, impressive because it's only the second time in her USF career that she's had more points than minutes. She had 34 points in 32 minutes against UAB as a sophomore, and had 25 points in 25 minutes in one other game. Bodes well for USF's depth, spreading minutes out as 12 different players saw action. I'll break down the bench and who came in when in a sec. Dickson could have had more than 29, for sure, fouling out with 4:18 to play. It's only the third time she's fouled out at USF, and Jose Fernandez joked that she hasn't played much defense in four years so he's happy to see her being aggressive.
-- Dickson scored USF's first 13 points, and it was more than 10 minutes into the game, with USF down 21-13, that another player scored. From there though, the balance won out, with the Bulls going on a 22-3 run that had just five points from Dickson and scoring from five other players. Shantia Grace finished with 21 points, the second-highest total of her young USF career, bested only by a 24-point showing against Notre Dame last year. The Bulls only had two games last season where two players both scored 20 or more, and they've already done it once. Expect many more of those.
-- Terrific story in sixth-year senior Tristen Webb, who made a strong return after 34 months away from basketball because of two ACL tears. It's a remarkably long time to go without playing, and hers is a story I want to write in the next month here for sure.
-- Good and not-so-good for two key freshmen for the Bulls, Porche Grant and Stephanie Sarosi. Grant had a promising debut, with eight points and six rebounds (tying for team high) in just 11 minutes. Two blocks and two steals, with aggressive play on both ends. Expect her to get more playing time as the nonconference schedule progresses. Sarosi struggled in her debut, missing all three of her shots and battling foul trouble that limited her to 17 minutes. She picked things up in the second half, getting four rebounds and two steals. She was facing a tough 6-2 center in UWM's Traci Edwards, who had 20 points. Fernandez said Sarosi was nervous, and reiterated that the Bulls will be counting on her to be a factor in the Big East this season.
-- The bench and new players. Here's how the subbing went, in chronological order:
15:09 left, first half: FIrst subs, with Webb and ChiChi Okpaleke coming off the bench. Aside from a team-high four turnovers, Okpaleke played well with four points and six boards in 17 minutes.
13:38 left: Junior guard Daiane "Dai" Packer in. She's a perimeter gunner, perhaps the team's best 3-point threat. She went 1-for-2 on 3s, the rest of the team went 1-for-9. Five points and an assist in 12 minutes, but as a situational sub, like to bomb 3s over zone defenses, could be strong.
11:37 left: Sophomore guard Jessica Jackson in. She's a bundle of energy, probably had the quietest game of the 10 players likely to be in the regular rotation. Hit one of three shots, with a turnover and two fouls. She's shown promise as someone who can go on a tear and be a supplemental scorer, getting the occasional double-figure game off the bench. She scored in double figures seven times last year, including 21 against Georgetown, but also went scoreless in eight games.
5:28 left: Grant comes in and is a big part of USF's run to pull away. They're down 23-21 when she comes in, and then moments later, up 28-24, she has a basket, then a block and two free throws after a rebound. Of all the newcomers, she had the best debut Friday.
1:06 left ,first half: Versatile freshman Caitlyn Mitryk is in. Played two minutes, nothing else in the linescore.
2:15 left, second half: Melissa Dalembert, the 6-foot-3 freshman, makes her debut. She hadn't played in the exhibition either, so I was wondering if she was a potential redshirt. But she got in, got a quick foul, then got a nice rebound, got fouled, hit one of two free throws.
Who's left? Thought Rachael Sheats quietly had a great game, going 4-for-5 from the field with a game-high three steals. Fernandez calls her USF's best defender, and the Bulls looked good in a fullcourt press they used effectively after they'd taken control of the game. Nalini Miller had moments, but went 2-for-6, had five boards, two blocks. She'll be solid inside as a senior. Stat of the game? Fast-break points: USF 14, UMW 0. Runner-up? Second-half rebounding. The team both had 15 boards in the first half, then USF outrebounded the Panthers 23-13 in the second half.
I'm not going to do this for every women's basketball game. Just figured there were enough new faces to warrant a thorough introduction. Oh, and Lonnie Terrell, the recruit from Michigan we reported as a commitment this week, was in attendance. I expect her to sign Monday, and not sure if USF will announce her, Gianna Messina and Seqouyah Griffin as their fall class, or if they'll wait, trying to land a fourth prospect. Sky Lindsay, a talented guard from New York City the Bulls had sought, signed with St. John's.
OK. I'll check in later from Raymond James ...