Monday, May 21, 2018
Sports

Collins' injury creates questions as USF Bulls' season nears

TAMPA

During the breaks between the 78 free throws hoisted Monday night, a sparse Sun Dome audience caught a snapshot of the depth Stan Heath has been lauding this preseason.

Though only an exhibition against a Division II foe (Barry), the USF men's 88-53 romp revealed Heath's roster clearly possesses more brawn and ball-handling than it did a season ago. For a change, Heath has numbers. At this stage, he may need every last digit.

The reason sat near the end of the Bulls' bench Monday, in warmups.

Junior PG Anthony Collins, postseason catalyst of the Bulls' NCAA Tournament team two seasons ago, still has swelling in his surgically mended left knee. The removal of the inflamed bursa sac was expected to limit him for only a week of the preseason. The timetable has been stretched more than a month now.

His status for Saturday night's season opener against Tennessee Tech remains anyone's guess, though Heath said on his radio show Tuesday night that Collins was moving much better earlier in the day.

"He can jog, he can run, he can play half-court basketball, but the minute it starts going (full court) he's probably 60 percent of his normal speed," Heath said Monday night, reiterating that Collins has no structural damage to the knee. "So he really can't play up and down that way."

For a team aspiring to open the offensive throttle, Collins' condition is as disconcerting as it is baffling. How long it lingers could determine the trajectory of USF's season, though Heath remained optimistic that Collins could return sooner than later.

Juco transfer Corey Allen Jr. (six points, three assists, two steals, two turnovers) and freshman Josh Heath (five points, three assists, no turnovers) had solid debuts at the point Monday, but the next Division I game either plays will be his first.

And while veterans Vic Rudd and Martino Brock were effective in engineering the break against Barry, the Bulls can ill afford to have them atop the perimeter for long stretches.

If the Bulls hope to make a dent in the American Athletic Conference, they need their reigning two-time assists leader. They need Collins' savvy, sleekness and selflessness. The team that made only 3 of 16 3-point tries Monday needs a shot creator.

"We've got to shoot the ball a lot better. I believe we will," Heath said. "I think getting Collins back will obviously give us a nice big boost — when that time comes.

"I wish I could give you an answer."

POLL POSITION? A victory against eighth-ranked Maryland in Friday's 7 p.m. home opener would represent more than a quality win for the Bulls women's basketball team. It likely would be a historic one.

The Bulls, riding the momentum of a second-round NCAA Tournament berth and a sparkling signing class, received one vote in the Associated Press preseason poll. A win Friday might — just might — propel them into the top 25 for the first time ever.

BULL BITS: The women's soccer team, fresh off last weekend's 4-1 romp of UConn, plays at top-seeded UCF (10-4-5) in Friday's American tourney semifinals. UCF prevailed, 2-1, in the regular-season meeting Sept. 27. … The fifth-seeded men's soccer team (6-3-8) plays at No. 4 Temple in Saturday's American quarterfinals.

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