NEW YORK — As great as Dominique Jones has been this year, leading the Bulls to 20 wins and leading the Big East in scoring, ESPN's Dick Vitale has some direct advice for the USF junior: Give yourself another year before you take your game to the next level in the NBA.
"I think he should definitely come back. I would strongly recommend that to him," Vitale said Monday night. "His stock is going up, but he needs another year to build on what he's done this season."
Jones earned first-team All-Big East honors after leading USF to a 9-9 conference record by averaging 23.2 points. He chipped in another 20 in Tuesday's conference tournament opening-round win against DePaul.
Jones has said his decision about returning for his senior year will have more to do with how much USF can accomplish as a team this season. He wants to leave knowing he took the Bulls to a new level of success.
Vitale thinks highly of Jones but said he shouldn't leave unless he knows he'll be a first-round draft pick. Second-round picks don't get guaranteed contracts and face long NBA odds, often playing on Developmental League affiliates instead.
BULLS JOIN IN: Vitale is excited that both Stan Heath and USF football coach Skip Holtz will be among the guests at his fifth annual Dick Vitale Gala at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota on May 21, which aims to raise $1 million to support cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Vitale said last year's event raised $1.2 million, and this year's will honor former Bucs coach Tony Dungy and Heath's mentor at Michigan State, Tom Izzo. Magic Johnson will introduce Izzo at the event, while current Colts coach Jim Caldwell will introduce Dungy.
OWN THE NINTH: USF's bullpen has struggled in baseball's 3-9 start, such that coach Lelo Prado is turning the closer role over to freshman Ray Delphey, a right-hander from Alonso who had worked as a weekend starter. Prado is open to using ace Randy Fontanez as a midweek closer between starts. … Prado got his 700th career victory, 14-7 over visiting Jacksonville on Tuesday.
THIS AND THAT: RB Jamar Taylor, who made a cameo at linebacker in December, is staying at his old position, new offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. The only position change of note is WR Daniel Bryant, who will open the spring at cornerback when practice starts Tuesday. As a general rule, Holtz won't make position changes until after USF's first spring scrimmage. … You'd be hard-pressed to find a more improved player at USF than softball senior Alison Savarese, a Seminole graduate who has five home runs, 22 RBIs and a .404 average in the first 15 games. She was 3-for-4 in a 5-4 win over visiting Saint Joseph's on Tuesday. Last year she totaled one homer and 17 RBIs in 50 games. Freshman Lindsey Richardson has shown exceptional control in her first month at USF, with 42 strikeouts and three walks.