Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Early signing period to bring new talent to USF Bulls

TAMPA

For the next few days inside the Selmon Athletics Center, the fax machine again asserts itself as an essential mode of communication.

The NCAA's early signing period for several sports, including basketball, begins today and lasts a week. If those who have made verbal commitments to the Bulls honor their pledges, the letters of intent will arrive from all points, Pinellas County to Portugal.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from commenting on the recruits until receiving their letters of intent. Based on the number of publicized commitments, however, some programs are poised to replenish their rosters nicely.

Others, such as the Bulls basketball teams, are aiming for one or two quality signees.

The women, whose eight-member class of the previous signing cycle is considered the best in program history, are expected to sign two rangy European guards: Maria Steen Jespersen (Denmark) and Laura Ferreira (Portugal).

The men, fresh off a similar recruiting bonanza (six signees), are expected to sign only 6-foot-4 Oldsmar Christian two-guard Troy Holston.

A potential antidote to USF's shooting woes, Holston had 23 points in the season opener against Bradenton's Impact Academy, hitting 7 of 11 3-pointers. He also had offers from Miami, Marquette, Alabama and Memphis, Oldsmar coach Jordan Fair said.

"He's developed into a very good 3-point shooter," Fair said.

"Very explosive athlete, too, much better athlete than people give him credit for. He has developed a high motor with good intensity on both sides of the ball. He's turned into not only a scorer, but also a playmaker."

Elsewhere, the baseball program, coming off 38- and 36-win seasons, is expected to sign seven, including three pitchers. The bay area signees: Jesuit OF/1B Ricky Caldevilla (.400, 33 RBIs last spring) and Steinbrenner SS/OF Kevin Merrell (.460, team-best 16 steals).

The softball team could add as many as a half-dozen players, including Strawberry Crest C Mia Fung, the Times reigning Hillsborough County player of the year (.533, six homers, one error as junior), and Academy at the Lakes all-state slugger Lauren Evans (.610).

Among the volleyball team's three signees will be 6-0 Winter Park MB Brittany Kelly, an honorable mention Under Armour All-American whose team is competing for a Class 8A state title this week.

GOMEZ HONORED: A day after her double double (10 kills, 11 blocks) in a four-set win at Rutgers, senior volleyball standout Andrea Rodriguez Gomez was named American Athletic Conference player of the week.

The Bulls (15-11, 9-3 AAC) have won seven of their past eight to assume sole possession of second place in the American.

With six regular-season matches remaining, USF has a legitimate shot at the program's first 20-win season since 2001. An NCAA bid? Doubtful, if only due to the Bulls' RPI (118th).

BULL BITS: With a victory Friday night at Bowling Green, men's basketball coach Stan Heath earns career triumph No. 200. In 13-plus seasons overall, Heath is 199-187. … Despite a solid RPI (59th), the women's soccer team (10-4-5) failed to receive an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. … Three soccer players — GK Christiane Endler, F Demi Stokes and M Cristin Granados — earned second-team all-conference honors. Freshman D Leticia Skeete made the all-rookie team.

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