USF hoops: Hank Beard wins promotion from 'General'
This time last winter, Henry "Hank" Beard was a manager for the Bulls women's team and one of the regular male scrimmage players Coach Jose Fernandez collectively refers to as the "Generals."
"Hank's job was to guard (eventual WNBA first-round draftee) Courtney Williams every day in practice," Fernandez said. "He challenged her every day."
A year later, Beard's newest team also has found itself in need of bodies on the floor, and the Seminole High alumnus again has obliged.
The former "General" has been promoted, to cameo player for the foundering Bulls men.
With USF limited to six scholarship players, Beard, the sixth man on Seminole's 2014 district title team, made his third appearance of the season in Sunday's 94-53 loss at Cincinnati, logging three second-half minutes.
"It's definitely awesome to see and it gives you a sense of pride," Seminole coach Josh Walker said.
"Honestly, it's a credit to him and everything he did. People along the way have told him no or he's not gonna make it. He just defies the odds and keeps on going out and working as hard as he can every day."
Depending on one's perspective, Beard's ascension represents either a resilient rise from obscurity, or an indictment of the brittle Bulls roster compiled by former coach Orlando Antigua.
A member of three playoff teams at Seminole, Beard tried out for a men's walk-on spot as a diminutive USF freshman in October 2015 but didn't make it. He then accepted an opportunity to practice with the Bulls women, who won 24 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"All through high school he was always the smallest kid," Walker said. "He was probably 5-foot-7, 5-8. You couldn't keep the kid off the floor because of how hard he worked."
When a men's walk-on spot again opened up this past fall, Beard -- now listed at 6-foot -- approached Bulls coaches and asked what he could do to earn that spot. After filling out paperwork and practicing a couple of weeks, he was retained.
He made his formal college debut at home Dec. 22 against Delaware, logging an assist in two minutes in an 81-53 triumph. It was USF's last victory.
"Our Generals are guys that...went to (men's) walk-on tryouts, didn't make it with the men, but love to play," Fernandez said.
"They figure if they hang around and help us out, it's almost like the minor leagues. They stick around and you never know. If (the men) need somebody, hey, they're gonna look over around the hall."
Former scrimmage players for the USF women's team who ultimately have played for the Bulls men: