USF's Antigua upbeat entering pivotal third season
Turns out, Orlando Antigua's offseason was a virtual replicate of the 2015-16 regular season.
Which is to say, neither could end soon enough for the Bulls' third-year men's coach.
Antigua's two most heralded signees never made it to preseason camp. One of his assistants, who also happens to be his brother, was forced to resign amid an NCAA probe that could be near completion.
A veteran forward (Chris Perry) and point guard (Roddy Peters) were dismissed for multiple program violations. His team, with only five scholarship players who have appeared in a game for USF, likely will be picked last in next week's American Athletic Conference preseason poll.
So why should fans be excited about the 2016-17 Bulls?
"They should be excited...about the chemistry that we have, about the chip on the shoulder that this team has," said Antigua, who has totaled 17 wins in two seasons and likely must show significant improvement this winter to retain his job.
"It's something similar to my upbringing and my background (raised by a single mom in The Bronx), when maybe not a lot of people think you can do something, and all you do is you roll up your sleeves and you go to work. You put the time in and you prepare and then you see where the chips lie after that."
If nothing else, the Bulls should brandish more depth -- not that their bench could get much thinner.
At times last winter, USF was relegated to six scholarship players while 6-foot-7 F Tulio Da Silva (academics), G Troy Holston (torn ACL) and transfers Geno Thorpe (Penn State) and Isaiah Manderson (Texas Tech) observed in gray sweatsuits.
All are eligible this year, though Manderson -- a 6-10 midyear transfer -- likely won't see the court until some time in December. Antigua also may have snagged an 11th-hour recruiting steal by signing G Michael Bibby -- son of the 16-year NBA veteran of the same name -- in August.
"I'm excited because we've got some pieces that we can work with," Antigua said.
Had four-star PF Troy Baxter and heralded PG Andres Feliz (a member of the Dominican Republic national team) stuck, Antigua might have been staring at a 10- or 11-player rotation. But Baxter was released from his letter of intent and Feliz never made it to campus.
Nonetheless, Antigua says this team has a chance to be his most versatile and most skilled.
"Two players that never made it here, it sucks but some guys go down, some other guys have got to step up," junior C Ruben Guerrero said.
"We all came together, we had a few meetings in the locker room. We're really about to win some games. We really want to get better and show off and show the process for this last two or three years, it's gonna get some results."