Intensity made a cameo. Defense popped in for a minute or two. Conditioning? It reared itself in spurts.
But brotherhood and benevolence arrived early and seized the waterlogged afternoon.
More than a dozen former Bulls men's basketball players and staffers -- including former coach Seth Greenberg -- came from as far as Australia for Saturday's alumni game to benefit Bulls all-time leading rebounder B.B. Waldon.
With wife Kelly at his side, Waldon, still recovering from a horric late-April car accident, struggled to maintain his composure afterward as he thanked his Bulls family -- and the 100 or so Sun Dome observers -- who braved the weekend downpour to attend. Admission was free but donations were accepted.
"I'm just blessed, very blessed, and thankful for everything y'all have done," Waldon said.
Former Waldon teammate Anddrikk Frazier, who starred at Tampa Prep in the early '90s, handled a majority of the legwork for the event, which was to include an auction Saturday night in downtown Tampa.
Former Waldon teammate Raheim Brown came from Australia. Another peer, Haven Jackson, traveled from Texas. Cedric Smith, still ranked fourth in program history with 183 3-pointers, cut short a vacation to South Carolina to play, Frazier said.
They were joined by Altron Jackson and Radenko Dobras, USF's No. 2 and 3 all-time scorers, respectively. Counting Waldon, Dominique Jones (who attended but didn't play) and Chucky Atkins (who made a late cameo), five of the program's top six career scorers attended Saturday's event.
Greenberg said he never "has been more proud" of a group of guys, singling out Frazier's legwork to pull off the event.
"For these guys to come back to try to help and make a difference for one of their teammates, to me that's what coaching's all about," Greenberg said.
And for posterity's sake, the Green team -- led by Smith and USF all-time assists leader Reggie Kohn and coached by former Greenberg assistant Mike Madagan -- topped Greenberg's Gold team (featuring Dobras and Jackson), 76-69.
The clock on the Muma Center scoreboard delivered a numerical jolt to USF's women's players entering the gym for Wednesday night's practice. Even as the buzzer remained silent, the numerals pierced their psyche.
In a sense, time stood shrill.
"I put 3:43 up on the board," Coach Jose Fernandez said. "L2 (sophomore Laura Ferreira) raised her hand and goes, 'That's when we were winning.'"
Before arguably the most raucous Sun Dome audience in program lore, Bulls low-post stalwart Alisia Jenkins had converted a layup to give USF a 47-46 lead against third-seeded Louisville with 5:06 to play in their March 23 second-round NCAA Tournament matchup.
Two missed shots, two fouls and two turnovers later, the Bulls' lead was gone, never to be re-claimed. Louisville prevailed, 60-52.
"We should've won that game," Jenkins said.
"That's all we've talked about," Fernandez added. "You're three minutes and 43 seconds away from the Sweet 16."
Typically, such a season-ending defeat would fester in a team's collective craw no fewer than six months, until the following preseason. In the Bulls' case, the process of expunging that excruciating memory already has received a two-month head start.
In preparation for their upcoming 10-day competitive tour of Spain, on which they'll be accompanied by the USF men's team, the Bulls have been granted 10 full-squad summer practices. To a degree, a season that can't get here fast enough already has arrived.
The 2015-16 squad, which will face pro-level competition overseas, will be the deepest of its veteran coach's 16-season tenure.
"Without a doubt," Fernandez said.
It also might -- barring injury -- turn out to be the most celebrated in school history, even more lauded than last winter's 27-8 group.
"I would have to say this is the most talented team we've ever had," Jenkins said.
Seven of the eight Bulls who played against Louisville -- including all five starters -- are back. Three players -- Ferreira, senior All-American Courtney Williams and sophomore Laia Flores -- spent part of the summer competing for their respective countries in either the World University Games or European Championships.
Now, all have re-convened, joined by newcomers Nancy Warioba (a 6-foot-3 junior college transfer) and Kitija Laksa (a 6-foot freshman sharpshooter from Latvia). For them, the 10 practices and ensuing European trip provide a chance to get assimilated into the team's culture. The veterans, meantime, get a chance to polish the principles and schemes they know.
And the coaches get a chance to experiment with lineups.
"I think you can play a lot of guys multiple positions," Fernandez said, "and that's what you really like."
On Thursday afternoon, the Fernandez intensity percolated as the Bulls ran full-court layup and shooting drills. More than once, he stopped things to sternly remind his players every basket counted, reinforcing the team's new one-word motto.
At the dawn of August, the team projected to be the best in program history already is on the clock.
"We've all been hungry," said Jenkins, a second-team All-American Athletic Conference pick (12.8 ppg, 11.3 rpg) last season.
"Especially the people that didn't play overseas and stuff, the people that worked here and have been working almost every single day in the weight room, conditioning and shooting on the court and stuff like that. We really want to get out on the court."
Notes: Six-foot-5 junior Katelyn Weber, sporting a protective boot Thursday, still is recovering from offseason foot surgery and won't compete in Spain. Her status for the start of preseason camp remains unclear. ... Laksa, a member of the Latvian national team, is the daughter of two basketball coaches. What does she bring to the table? "I can shoot," she said. ... During Wednesday night's pre-practice team meeting, Fernandez called senior walk-on Micah Kroll forward and informed the former Tampa Catholic all-state standout he was putting her on scholarship. Kroll broke down. "I thought I was in trouble," she said.
Though official statistics aren't kept on such things, it's a safe wager USF ranks among the national leaders in football practices open to the public.
Coach Willie Taggart again is accommodating his fan base for the 2015 preseason, opening his first seven days of camp (Aug. 6-12) at the Morsani Complex to the public.
The Bulls' first three public workouts, veterans-only practices, will be held Aug. 6-8 at 10 a.m. Freshmen will practice separately before the entire team comes together for the first full-squad workout (in shells) Sunday, Aug. 9 at 8:30 a.m.
The school also announced the Bulls' annual Fan Fest will be held Saturday, Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Sun Dome. The free event will include autograph sessions with every USF fall sports team, interactive games, face painting, mini-clinics, raffles and prizes. The Bulls cheerleaders and Sundolls also will be on hand.
USF Practice Schedule
(First seven days open to public)
Aug. 6, 10 a.m.-noon (Helmets, veterans only)
Aug. 7, 10 a.m.-noon (Helmets, veterans only)
Aug. 8, 10 a.m.-noon (Helmets, veterans only)
Aug. 9, 8:30-10:30 a.m. (Shells, first full-team practice)
Aug. 10, 3:00-6:00 p.m. (Full pads, full team)
Aug. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Full pads, full team, first two-a-day)
Aug. 12, 2:30–5:30 p.m. (Full pads, full team)...
At least 10 former USF men's basketball players are slated to play in Saturday afternoon's alumni game benefiting B.B. Waldon, organizer Anddrikk Frazier announced Wednesday.
Sun Dome doors open at 2 p.m., with the game starting at 3. Fans are asked to enter through Gate A. Admission is free but donations will be accepted.
Proceeds will help defray medical costs for Waldon, the Bulls' all-time leading rebounder who was seriously injured in a late-April car accident in Polk County....
Amid huge demand, USF released its preseason football depth chart Tuesday, leaving a fan base to ponder its long-term significance.
Grain of salt, anyone?
What the Bulls released Tuesday is a mere starting point. When practice commences next week, the two-deep chart could fluctuate more than Tom Brady's alibi. But for now, as we ride out the summer's final dog days, it's ideal conversation fodder. In that sense, we'll gladly play along.
Here are five things we take from the newest chart:
1. Don't read much into the starting o-line.
Frankly, this is where we foresee the most fluctuation. Case in point: Neither freshman transfer Reilly Gibbons nor juco transfer Glen Bethel are listed on the two-deep chart, but both could work their way into starting roles by the season opener (provided all of Bethel's academics are in order). Meantime, senior Thor Jozwiak is listed as a second-team left guard after being injured in the spring. Jozwiak's lost practice time hurt for sure, but we project him winning back a starting job in August.
2. Derrick Calloway's departure stings.
USF's switch back to a four-man front put a premium on experienced tackles, and Calloway's withdrawal from school (for academic reasons) leaves the Bulls with little seasoning at that spot. Sophomore Deadrin Senat may possess the strongest upper body on the team, but he has started only two games; and senior James Hamilton has started only three. The Bulls really need: (A) Senat to build on the momentum of his solid spring camp, (B) redshirt freshman Kevin Bronson to emerge, (C) sophomore Bruce Hector to fulfill the potential he brandished at Robinson High, and (D) everyone to stay healthy.
3. Tice is rewarded.
Coach Willie Taggart indicated late in March that RB Darius Tice, at that point, was the MVP of spring drills. Now, lo and behold, the sturdy (5-foot-10, 211 pounds) junior is No. 2 -- behind Marlon Mack and ahead of D'Ernest Johnson -- on the depth chart. Will Tice's sparkling spring effort carry over? And how will Johnson react to entering August as the No. 3 guy?
4. For Whitehead, the work starts now.
The Division I landscape is littered with unheralded guys who sparkled for a spring, only to never be heard from again. (Remember fleet Gators wideout Ian Skinner? Didn't think so.) Five-foot-9 walk-on WR Chase Whitehead earned the respect of his peers and adoration of fans by seemingly making a big play every spring practice, then catching six passes in the Green and White game. The effort earned Whitehead the No. 2 spot on the slot-receiver depth chart, but with the Bulls amassing depth at its skill positions, maintaining a spot in the rotation will be a challenge.
5. The Bulls are deeper.
Say what you will about the results (and they warrant criticism), but there's no question the Bulls are a more talented team than they were at the dawn of the Willie Taggart era. The upgrade is especially noticeable along the offensive line and in the secondary, and the receiving corps has the potential to be special (if someone can consistently get those guys the ball). ...
TAMPA — Nine days before preseason camp, USF on Tuesday released its updated roster, depth chart and staff assignments, which collectively feature some notable additions and subtractions.
Among the additions: Former Bulls All-Big East linebacker Stephen Nicholas, a seven-year NFL veteran, joins Willie Taggart's staff as an analyst for the defense; while iconic former Manatee High coach Joe Kinnan's role as senior offensive consultant becomes a full-time staff position....
Nine days before the start of preseason camp, USF has released its updated roster, depth chart and staff assignments, which collectively feature some notable additions and subtractions.
Among the additions: Former Bulls All-Big East LB Stephen Nicholas joins Willie Taggart's staff as an analyst for the defense; while iconic former Manatee High coach Joe Kinnan's role as senior offensive consultant becomes a full-time staff position....
A week from today, 33 of the American Athletic Conference's most prominent players join their coaches and league administrators in the formal kickoff to the 2015 season.
All will convene at the Hyatt Regency in Newport, R.I., for the AAC media days, the culmination to what some refer to as college football's "talking season." As for the talking points, well, they span the conversational gamut. From the benign (How long are Jamie Byrd's dreads?) to the burning (What is the league's long-term football viability?), a plethora of topics will be raised.
The most significant ones? Well, that's subject to opinion. Here are what we deem the biggest story lines:
How will George O'Leary's dual roles (UCF coach and interim athletic director) affect his his team?
While juggling the AD/coach jobs worked fine in a previous era (see Joe Paterno, Vince Dooley), many rightfully question whether anyone can handle both roles effectively in 2015. Complicating matters is the fact O'Leary lost a handful of assistants (including both coordinators) in the offseason, and must replace some key administrators. There's also the small matter of essentially rebuilding the Knights defense. Seems an awful lot for even the most organized self-starters, much less one two weeks shy of his 69th birthday.
Will the AAC have a New Year's Day bowl representative?
If it wants to be recognized as the sixth "power" conference, it should. While no one's questioning the conference's viability in basketball, its failure to have a New Year's Day representative last season (or even have a team finish in the College Football Playoff committee's final top 25) hurt its street cred. Cincinnati, Houston and perhaps Memphis all appear capable of finishing as the top-ranked team among the Group of 5 conferences, which comes with a New Year's Day bowl berth. For the league's sake, someone -- anyone -- from the AAC must snag that bid.
Who will be the media's preseason pick to win it all?
That answer should arrive bright 'n' early Tuesday morning. Our guess: Cincinnati. The '14 AAC co-champions return eight offensive starters, including Player of the Year candidate Gunner Kiel behind center, and their top seven receivers. Now, about that defense...
Has Memphis really arrived, or was the 2014 season an aberration?
A lot will hinge on how effectively the defense -- which lost eight starters and three senior backups -- is replenished. Offensively, most of the components -- including rangy 3,000-yard passer Paxton Lynch -- return, and Coach Justin Fuente's stock is surging. Thanks to a favorable early-season slate, we see the Tigers defense congealing quickly, the offense flourishing yet again, and Fuente coaching a Power-Five program this time next year.
What about those question marks (i.e. juco transfers, Division I transfers) on USF's roster?
Nearly all should be answered in Newport, where the Bulls -- who begin practice two days later -- likely will issue their formal preseason roster. While we probably won't have an answer on transfer QB Asiantii Woulard's request for a hardship waiver, the '15 status of all juco guys and incoming freshmen should be known by then.
Who's the league darkhorse?
Name one school in the conference that wants to play Navy. ... Anyone? ... Bueller? ... The Midshipmen's trademark triple-option, engineered by veteran QB Keenan Reynolds, is sure to provide headaches to the league's defensive coordinators, many of whom will have only a week to prepare for it. The schedule -- Navy doesn't play consecutive games against teams that finished with winning marks in the AAC last year -- also plays in its favor....
Seems Bulls softball coach Ken Eriksen has struggled to catch a break, or even a breath, lately.
Eriksen, whose U.S. national team fell in extra innings to Canada in Sunday afternoon's Pan American Games final, has juggled his national duties with finding two new assistants for his USF staff.
In the last 11 days, Eriksen has announced the hiring of onetime FSU assistant Tommy Santiago and current Team USA pitcher Jessica Moore to his staff. Santiago replaces veteran Bulls assistant and two-time USF All-American Mo Triner, who opted to coach privately and spend more time with her family.
Moore replaces four-time Bulls all-conference performer Carmela Liwag, who also left on her own accord.
Santiago has coached seven years at the Division I level, with stops at Maryland, St. John's and FSU. Moore, an All-American at Oregon, worked 10.2 innings at the Pan Am Games, where the USA's quest for an eighth consecutive gold medal in the event ended with an eight-inning, 4-2 loss to Canada.
Former Bulls ace Sara Nevins earned three victories in the tournament, starting the gold-medal game and throwing 4.2 shutout innings.
Eriksen's club concludes its international summer circuit with the Japan Cup early next month....
Days before the dawn of August, USF already has set itself in a position to be a stern league competitor this school year in each of its full-scholarship sports.
At least in terms of cost of attendance.
School officials, including athletic director Mark Harlan, have confirmed student-athletes in the Bulls' full-scholarship sports (football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, women's golf) will receive between $4,100 and $4,500 to cover cost of attendance (COA) in the 2015-16 academic year....
The right leg he broke in three places last winter is almost fully healed. Bowman Archibald feels like he could play for USF this fall, though he'll likely only practice.
Fine with him. The former nationally ranked Pasco High tight end will maximize his de facto redshirt year in preparation for 2016. And while much can transpire between now and then (i.e. coaching change, another injury, etc.), Archibald insists one thing certain not to be fractured is his allegiance to the Bulls.
"USF was the only school I wanted to transfer to," said Archibald, who graduated from Pasco early and enrolled at Wake Forest in January. "If it wasn't gonna work, I wouldn't have transferred."
Archibald, rated the country's No. 8 tight end by ESPN last year, had barely unpacked in Winston-Salem when he broke his right shin in two places and the upper part of his ankle while running a route on artificial turf during a workout. Surgery was performed Jan. 20.
But the injury had little to do with his decision to move back home.
"I just have a lot going on with family right now and some things at home that just needed me to be closer to them," Archibald told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday. "It just didn't make sense to be all the way in North Carolina when my family's struggling back home, so I wanted to be closer to home and still play legitimate football."
He immediately got in touch with Bulls co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Danny Hope, who had developed deep connections at Pasco High while coach at Purdue. Among them: former Pirates three-way star Josh Johnson, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten pick for the Boilermakers.
"(The Bulls) were one of my first offers out of high school, so they were definitely happy when I called and wanted to consider transferring," Archibald said. "Things are moving great and I'll be enrolled in the fall."
Though discussions ensued about Archibald seeking a hardship waiver that would've allowed him to play in '15, he seems resigned to sitting out this season. His goal is to practice with the Bulls as soon as possible.
Ten days before the start of preseason camp, he says he's back to running and sprinting after resuming weightlifing months ago. He arrives at 6-foot-5 1/2, 247 pounds.
"It's coming along," Archibald said. "I mean, I'm getting close to 100 percent. I'm a few months ahead of schedule, been working hard and rehabbing hard. I'm getting close."...
Something to ponder in the summer's final dog days: Did baseball coach Mark Kington make a more dazzling USF debut in the dugout or recruiting trenches?
Kingston, who guided his inaugural Bulls club (34-26-1) to the program's first NCAA Tournament berth in 13 years, has assembled -- and retained -- one of the nation's top recruiting classes according to perfectgame.org.
The site ranks USF's 16-player class as the sixth-best in the nation. Solidifying the ranking is Kingston's confirmation last week that all five Bulls signees taken in the recent Major League Baseball first-year player draft will attend USF.
All five teams ranked ahead of the Bulls had at least one drafted recruit sign a pro contract....
Heralded USF transfer QB Asiantii Woulard is seeking a waiver of the NCAA's transfer rule that would allow him to play for the Bulls in 2015, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.
Once deemed the nation's top-ranked dual-threat prep quarterback by ESPN.com, Woulard is enrolled at summer classes at USF after transferring from UCLA, where he spent the past two seasons but never appeared in a game....
He eschews both walker and cane, impediments to his goal of self-sufficiency. B.B. Waldon walks on his own power, albeit with a slouch and an occasional wince.
Somewhere beyond his personal horizon lies independence. With each surgery, each rehab session, one of the greatest players in USF basketball lore shuffles a bit closer to it, praying for no complication that would negate any steps forward....
A season projected to unfold as one of the greatest in USF women's basketball history will have a non-conference schedule to match.
A mid-February rematch with longtime nemesis Louisville, which ended the Bulls' 2014-15 season, highlights a sturdy non-American Athletic Conference slate formally released Wednesday.
Some of the games, including home contests against '15 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Oklahoma State and Chattanooga, have been known for some time. What remains unknown are the possible big-name opponents awaiting the Bulls in the Preseason WNIT.
USF will play at least three tournament games, starting with a Nov. 13 contest against Jacksonville at the Sun Dome, and potentially could meet '12 national champ Baylor in a semifinal. DePaul and Chattanooga also reside on the opposite bracket.
Other highlights include a Dec. 30 neutral-site game against Mississippi State in Jacksonville, and the Feb. 15 trip to Louisville, which rallied for a 60-52 victory against the Bulls (27-8) before a Sun Dome crowd of 5,104 in an NCAA Tournament second-rounder in March.
"We’re excited about the opportunities and the challenges this non-conference schedule presents,” said coach Jose Fernandez, whose team is likely to receive the program's first Associated Press preseason top-25 ranking this fall....