USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath has completed his staff with the hiring of assistants Eric Skeeters and Jeremy Cox. Times staff writer Greg Auman talked to both Monday. First is Skeeters, who comes to USF after five years at Towson, where he built a reputation as a top recruiter.
GA: For starters, just wanted to ask how this came about, how you got connected with Coach Heath?
ES: I've known Coach Heath since his days at Michigan State. His year at Kent State (one of six losses was to a Youngstown State team on which Skeeters was an assistant) … though he went on to win 22 more after that. That's when we really made a closer connection. After that game, every time I see him on the road, in recruiting, during the year, it was one of those things in the fraternity of coaches.
GA: When you were at Towson, you beat USF on a couple of kids — first a power forward named Denard Abraham in 2004, then in the last two years, guard Vernon Carr and forward Isaiah Philmore. How'd you pull that off?
ES: (Three) kids that visited USF actually signed with us. The thing about all three of those guys is they would have been great at either place. Two of the three for us were home — Philmore and Abraham (both from Maryland).
GA: What is the difference recruiting to a big conference like the Big East as opposed to how you sold kids on playing at Towson?
ES: To be honest with you: Tampa, USF, Big East. They're great things. And obviously Coach Heath has won a national championship (as an assistant). To play for a guy who's won it all, who's been to the pinnacle … he's been to three Final Fours, won a national championship, and made it to the final eight as a head coach, has been very successful in the SEC. It's just a matter of time for us to get it done here.
GA: You're a Baltimore guy, and there's a lot of basketball talent in the Baltimore area. This team has Gus Gilchrist and Chris Howard from that area …
ES: It's funny. ESPN The Magazine did an article and the most NBA players per capita were from PG (Prince George's) County, Maryland. It wasn't Chicago, wasn't Detroit, wasn't New York, wasn't L.A. That talent is so rich in that area, so fertile that you can get into those nooks and crannies, just like the state of Florida. Think about Tracy McGrady. In June 1996, he wasn't even in the top 50 in Florida. In June 1997 he was a lottery pick. There's nooks and crannies of players in this state, where if we can do a good job here in this state and be able to get into areas like Maryland, Baltimore, D.C. … This is a great place to play. We can go play at Connecticut, go into Chicago to play DePaul, to the (Madison Square) Garden in the (Big East) tournament, but we're coming back to Tampa, Florida.
GA: What are your first impressions of the players you'll have this coming season?
ES: No. 1, you've got to talk about Dominique (Jones). I've seen Gus (Gilchrist) a lot in AAU, at Maryland, and what he's done here. In talking to Coach Heath about guys sitting out, (Anthony) Crater coming from Ohio State, with all the guys on the roster, if you can keep them healthy, we have a chance to be a legitimate contender in the Big East this year. You put things together — Gus staying healthy, Chris (Howard) having a good year, Dominique having a good year, Crater coming in and being a good contributor. I haven't learned everybody here yet. And the big thing is staying healthy.
GA: Have you recruited much in the state of Florida at previous schools?
ES: When I was at Youngstown State, I signed (point guard) Jon Mends out of Carol City. He was first-team all-Miami-Dade.
GA: One guy you knew on this USF staff before you got here is video coordinator Terrelle Woody, who also went to Woodlawn High in Baltimore. Did that help, having someone else you could ask about the program?
ES: I really didn't talk to Terrelle. I totally forgot he was here in the process of talking to Coach Heath, interviewing, talking on the phone. Terrelle called me when I was coming down for my interview, and I was like "I should have called you.' We finally connected when I got down here for an interview. He came out in '89 and I came out in '86, so Terrelle is a young buck, was like a freshman (when he was a senior). We haven't really kept in contact, but I'd see him on the road when he was with (the AAU's) D.C. Assault.