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USF women's hoops: 4 pressing questions

Jose Fernandez opens his 17th season as USF women's basketball coach Tuesday night at home against North Florida.

Times file photo

Jose Fernandez opens his 17th season as USF women's basketball coach Tuesday night at home against North Florida.



Four pressing questions facing the USF women's basketball team as it formally begins the post-Courtney Williams era in Tuesday night's season opener against UNF at the Sun Dome:

1. At this stage, is it easier to list the players who aren't injured?
Almost. Fernandez, no stranger to short-handed lineups, likely won't have veteran G/F Laura Ferreira (plantar fascia) or 5-foot-9 Denmark under-18 national teamer Enna Pehadzic (torn ACL) this season.

Ferreira started 27 games last season, and Pehadzic figured to be part of an eight- or nine-player rotation. Another newcomer, juco All-American PG Nachalie De Jesus, is recovering from recent knee surgery but could return later this month.

With the graduation of PG Shalethia Stringfield (9.6 ppg, 3.7 assists), De Jesus is badly needed to provide depth, and potentially challenge for the starting job.

2. With Williams now in the WNBA (and overseas), who gets the ball when the shot clock's winding down?
Maybe a committee of Bulls. Williams' ability to juke a defender, take a couple of dribbles and create in mid-air was nearly unmatched at the college level. So now?

"We've got to probably manufacture and run kids off different screens and cuts to get a shot at the end of the shot clock," Fernandez said.

At least the options are plenteous. We could envision 6-4 freshman Jazz Bond or 6-foot junior Maria Jespersen working a pick-and-roll with sophomore sharpshooter Kitija Laksa, or 6-2 Hungarian rookie Dorottya Nagy coming off a screen for a shot off the wing.

3. Now that Alisia Jenkins -- USF's all-time leading rebounder -- is gone, who will collect the boards for this team?
Actually, the top three rebounders from last season's NCAA Tournament team are gone. Jenkins (11.4 rpg) was the leader, followed by Williams (8.4) and Ferreira (4.8).

Jespersen is the top returning healthy rebounder (4.5), but Nagy could lead this team in boards when all is said and done. Bond's size and versatility (she was a McDonald's All-America nominee) will allow her to fluctuate between the wing and post.

Also watch for 6-3 senior Nancy Warioba, who averaged only 6.5 minutes last season but has turned heads in practice with her improved agility.

4. Can this team make the NCAA Tournament?
Yes, but it won't be easy by any stretch. ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Bulls among the "Last Four In" on his way-too-early 64-team bracket, meaning the margin for error is minimal.

The Bulls probably need a top-three conference finish and absolutely must pick off a prominent non-conference foe or two (i.e. North Carolina on Thanksgiving Day in the Bahamas, Louisville at home Jan. 22) somewhere along the way.

[Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2016 5:25pm]


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