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Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

Joey Knight

A fourth-generation Floridian, Joey Knight was born in Tampa and raised in Zephyrhills, where he still resides. He moved to the Times in July 2006 after 15 years at the Tampa Tribune, which included a seven-year stint (1997-2004) as University of Florida beat writer. He began covering the University of South Florida athletic department for the Times in 2013. A married father of three, he enjoys running, classic television and classic heavy-metal music.

Phone: (813) 310-6328

E-mail: jknight@tampabay.com

  1. USF-Tulane basketball preview



    USF vs. Tulane

    When/where: 4; Sun Dome

    TV/radio: ESPNews; 1040-AM

    Records: USF 9-21, 3-14 AAC; Tulane 14-15, 5-12

    Notable: Despite his ongoing suspension, leading scorer Corey Allen Jr. will be recognized as USF's lone senior prior to this home finale. … USF, a 56-51 overtime loser at Tulane on Jan. 11, is coming off its most inspired effort of the season. With Allen and top rebounder Chris Perry (health issue) sidelined, the Bulls held UCF to 26.4 percent shooting in Wednesday's 74-45 romp. … Freshman Troy Holston Jr., who has replaced Allen, notched his first career double double (19 points, 10 rebounds) Wednesday and is 13-for-23 from 3-point range in his last four games. … Tulane, on a five-game skid, still has a crack at the No. 7 seed in the league tournament if it wins and East Carolina loses Sunday at Houston. If Houston loses and USF wins, the Bulls snag the No. 10 seed....

  2. Antigua imparts lessons in trying season


    Thirty games into a season of transition and travail, the Bulls finally cracked.

    That is, if you're counting cracked smiles.

    They were there for all to see in Wednesday night's aftermath, which for a change seemed more jovial than funereal. Anthony Collins grinned. Bo Zeigler gleamed. In an adjacent hallway, teammates guffawed.

    "I think this was a lot of fun," Collins said minutes after the Bulls' 74-45 embarrassment of in-state nemesis UCF. "Like Coach (Orlando Antigua) has been telling us, if we play defense, we can get out on our break and have...fun, get quick shots up if they're good shots.

    "Play hard, play defense and have fun -- that's the last thing he always tells us."

    The fact the Bulls responded, in a winter when games and personnel have been lost in profusion, serves as a sturdy testament to the guy imparting the message.

    Antigua, whose club enters Saturday's regular season finale with a 9-21 record (3-14 in league play), isn't likely to get a whiff of American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year consideration. But arguably no one in America could've been more ideally suited to guide a club whose inexperience entering the season was aggravated by the loss of its top scorer (Corey Allen Jr.) and rebounder (Chris Perry).

    The team that has faced adversity in bulk is being counseled by a coach who has stared it down virtually his entire 42 years.

    "Coach is just talking to us about (the season's pitfalls) just being life," Collins said. "You're gonna be knocked down in life, will you continue to get up?"

    The fact Antigua himself has risen from a series of well-chronicled haymakers fortifies the impact of his admonitions.

    "That's the biggest thing when you face adversity, how you choose to deal with it, because life is that way," Antigua said earlier this week.

    "There are ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and when you're having adversity you have the power to choose on how you approach it. Do you look at it and feel sorry for yourself? No, you can't, because other people are going through hardships and going through their own adversities.

    "You look at it, you attack it as an opportunity to grow and learn about yourself and try to get better."

    On Wednesday, that philosophy was embodied for 40 surreal minutes. The Bulls consistently beat UCF to the glass (a 43-37 rebounding advantage), permeated passing lanes and generally outhustled the surprisingly listless Knights. Barely 12 minutes in, the Bulls led 33-9.

    Now, they play host to Tulane, which enters on a five-game skid. Another successful staredown of misfortune would buoy confidence, and perhaps league tournament seeding. Momentum will peak at the optimal juncture.

    But those are just the short-term benefits. Antigua can attest.

    "I think we all have pride, and Coach talked to us about this being a hard year basketball-wise, but he also told us...in life you're also going to get hit with adversity," Collins said.

    "This is not the only time this is gonna happen to us, so just keep fighting and good things are gonna happen."...

    USF's players, including junior Anthony Collins (No. 11) and redshirt freshman Dre Clayton (0), celebrate during Wednesday's 74-45 romp of UCF.
  3. Q&A: Dick Tomey


    Veteran Division I coach Dick Tomey, USF football's new administrative overseer (at the bargain-basement price of less than $7,000 a month), sat down Thursday afternoon with Tampa Bay Times staff writer Joey Knight. A swath of subjects, from Tomey's role in his new gig to his legendary "Desert Swarm" defense at the University of Arizona, was covered. Here are some excerpts from the 30-minute chat.

    You've been living in Hawaii. Why come here and take on this job at this stage of your life? (Tomey is a 76-year-old grandfather of eight)
    "Well, we're not through with Hawaii. ... But I think the reason I'm here is because of Mark Harlan and Coach (Willie) Taggart. I'm driven by people, not places. But obviously if you look at my background it looks like I'm driven by sunshine, and I'll clearly admit that (Tomey has coached at Arizona, San Jose State and Hawaii, among other places). But I've known Mark for a long, long time and I just think he's gonna be a sensational leader for South Florida. ... Mark asked me to come down (last fall) for two or three days and speak to all the coaches -- male and female -- and all the administrators about a variety of subjects. And in the meantime I got to know Coach Taggart and really started to develop a relationship with him because we just kept in touch over the phone. In fact, I believe we talked every week the last six months except two. Sometimes we talked for two minutes and sometimes we talked for a half-hour about what's going on. And I developed a really good feeling about him and who he was and all of that."

    Describe your role here. What has Mark assigned you with doing?
    "I think my role is gonna evolve, but right now I'm just trying to make sure when I walk by an office I know who that is. I'm trying to meet people and I'm trying to engage people, and I'm trying to attend as many USF events -- basketball, softball, baseball -- and engage with all the coaches. And then I think my role in football is to have a certain amount of oversight on all the things that football's involved with: compliance, the training room, the equipment room; all the people that run all those departments, as well as the football staff. I don't go to football coaches' meetings. That's rare. I've ducked in at a few and I'm going to duck in one this weekend. I go to practice when I can, but I'm gonna miss some practices, I'm sure. ... I think my role is evolving but my role basically is to help, and if I've got something to insert that I think will be helpful, I try to do that, but I try to do it in the right way. But like I told Coach Taggart, there may be some times when he or one of his coaches just wants to tell me to shut up. And I've said that to everybody because I've got opinions. You can't be a head coach for 29 years and not have opinions about a number of things. But I'm just gonna try to choose the right time to make a comment."

    It has been said USF is close to turning the corner. Based on your initial observations and the homework you've done, do you agree?
    "I would agree this is the kind of place that, if you're looking for places in the country that have a lot of the basic ingredients to have a great program -- football program, basketball program, athletic program -- I think this is one of those places. Now obviously, there are places for years that have had the ingredients and they really haven't made it happen. USF in football, when Coach (Jim) Leavitt was here, has a history of ringing the bell and really doing some great things. But I don't think it's a stretch to say this place has many, many of the ingredients that you need. That's very encouraging, and I think that's where I believe somebody like Mark can provide great leadership and be able to cut through some of the minutiae that some people get bogged down in, and yet do a great job in all the areas necessary to do it. He does a great job of picking people, and I'm not talking about me. I mean, picking people, picking coaches. I've gotten to know (basketball coach) Orlando (Antigua) and I've gotten to know (baseball coach) Mark (Kingston) and some of the coaches he's chosen lately, and I think they're all tremendous people. You can have all the stuff, but if you don't pick the right people, you're screwed."

    I'm sure you've heard the dialogue about the value of on-campus stadiums. Does a place like this need one?
    "Absolutely, I agree. ... I think South Florida, with the potential of the program, (an on-campus stadium) would be wonderful. And I think if you talked to Mark (Harlan), I think he'll say that he's on it and he's working at it. We've had some conversations about that, and so I think he very definitely agrees."

    Your Desert Swarm defense at Arizona (which produced 10- and 12-win seasons in the 1990s) rarely blitzed and lined up the same way all the time. What made it so effective?
    "Same alignment all the time...with very few exceptions. It was that the people fit the system. The system was unique. The system was developed by some of our coaches in concert with a system that had been developed in Canadian football. It was based on simplicity, it was based on the ability to play fast and play hard. We had a bunch of guys that were not three-star, four-star or five-star guys necessarily. We had some guys that were overlooked in cases, but they had a
    burning desire to succeed and they were trying to prove themselves every day of their lives because of it, and that makes a huge difference."

    So (former Wildcat) Teddy Bruschi wasn't a five-star player?
    "Teddy Bruschi was probably a two-star guy, but he was a five-star player. ... He had 52 1/2 sacks for a career. If somebody has a career where they have 30 now, they think he did a great job. When you watched (high school) tape of him, great student, but he was short. He was like his coach -- I was short. And he grew an inch maybe in school, but he was such a great person and great player because he was so quick. And he was the kind of guy that made everybody better."

    What are your impressions of Willie Taggart?
    "My regard for him has grown since I've been here. ... I watch Coach Taggart after practice talking to the team, and they are locked on to him. They're riveted on him. And he has a little bit of Coach (Bo) Schembechler in him because he's not always just barking at them. He injects some humor into it. That kind of approach, I think, just has a staying power with people of all kinds. So I've just been impressed. I'm more excited about Coach Taggart and what he brings to the table than I was when I got here."...

    New USF football administrator Dick Tomey said his regard for Bulls coach Willie Taggart "has grown" since he began his job last month.
  4. USF's Courtney Williams makes first-team All-AAC


    USF junior G Courtney Williams, the American Athletic Conference's top scorer, has been selected unanimously to the coaches' All-AAC team.

    The teams were released Thursday afternoon, with seven total players from top-ranked Connecticut sprinkled among the first, second and third teams and All-Freshman squad. Williams joined three Huskies players as unanimous first-team picks.

    Major individual awards will be announced Friday. USF was shut out of the five categories (including Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year) announced Thursday.

    A first-team pick as a sophomore, Williams becomes only the third player in program history to earn multiple first-team all-conference honors. The second player in team history to eclipse 600 points in a season, she enters this weekend's league tournament as the Bulls leader in scoring (20.8 ppg), steals (54), assists (3.3 per game) and minutes (32.6). She needs only 57 points to reach Jessica Dickson's USF single-season record (682).

    Classmate Alisia Jenkins, a 6-foot-1 forward, made the All-AAC second team for a second consecutive year. The program's No. 2 alltime rebounder, Jenkins (12.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg) enters the AAC tourney ranked fourth nationally in double-doubles (21).

    Portugal native Laura Ferreira (8.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), who reached double figures in eight league games, made the All-Freshman team....

    USF junior Courtney Williams was among four players chosen unanimously for the All-AAC first team by league coaches.
  5. USF routs UCF in Bulls' best game of season


    TAMPA — On the same night his former team faced the Washington Generals across town, USF coach — and former Harlem Globetrotter — Orlando Antigua was the one presiding over a laugher.

    With their top scorer and rebounder sidelined, the shorthanded Bulls (9-21, 3-14 AAC) led wire to wire in a 74-45 embarrassment of UCF before a Sun Dome crowd of 3,417.

    The point total was the Bulls' highest in more than two months, and their field-goal percentage defense (UCF shot 26.4 percent) was their best of the season....

    South Florida Bulls guard Troy Holston Jr. (25) drives to the basket on a fast break in the second half at the Sun Dome in Tampa on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. USF beat UCF 74 to 45.
  6. AAC women's basketball tournament


    .Fast facts

    AAC women's tournament

    When/where: Today-Monday; Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.

    Today: UCF vs. Cincinnati, 4; Memphis vs. SMU, about 6; Tulane vs. Houston, about 8

    Saturday: Temple vs. East Carolina, noon; UCF-Cincinnati winner vs. Connecticut, about 2; Memphis-SMU winner vs. USF, 6; Tulane-Houston winner vs. Tulsa, about 8...

    South Florida Bulls guard Courtney Williams (10) gets back on defense after scoring a basket in the second half at the Sun Dome in Tampa on Monday, March 2, 2015.  The University of Connecticut defeated the University of South Florida 88 to 65.
  7. USF-UCF basketball preview



    USF vs. UCF

    When/where: 7; Sun Dome

    TV/radio: ESPNU; 1010-AM

    Records: USF 8-21, 2-14 AAC; UCF 12-16, 5-12

    Notable: UCF won 73-62 in Orlando three weeks ago. … The Bulls will play their second straight game without top rebounder Chris Perry (unspecified health issue) and top scorer Corey Allen (suspension). As a result, PG Anthony Collins will be called on to transition from distributor (5.1 assists per game) to rim attacker. The Bulls also could use another sparkling night from freshman Troy Holston, who had a career-best 22 points (including five 3-pointers) in Sunday's 72-55 loss at Houston. … UCF, loser of three in a row, will try to attack the basket with its guard-heavy lineup. The Knights' top three scorers are guards....

  8. Bulls to recognize Corey Allen Jr. on senior night


    Suspended USF SG Corey Allen Jr. will be on the Sun Dome floor in his final home contest, if only in a pre-game cameo.

    The school confirmed Tuesday that Allen, handed a six-game suspension over the weekend for receiving impermissible benefits at his previous school, will be recognized as the Bulls' lone senior during their home finale Saturday afternoon against Tulane.

    "We certainly would look to honor what he's been able to do for us and this program," Coach Orlando Antigua said.

    Allen, the American Athletic Conference's second-leading scorer (15.4 ppg), still can practice and attend classes. He was seen in the Muma Center in practice attire prior to the Bulls' workout Tuesday....

  9. UConn loss might be a gain for USF women's NCAA hopes



    Momentarily set aside the 24 victories, 15 conference triumphs, lofty RPI and seven wins against top-100 RPI foes.

    The Bulls women's basketball team (24-6) might — just might — have added more polish to its NCAA Tournament resume in a recent defeat than it did in earlier dominance.

    Today, the Bulls' NCAA fate isn't a matter of if, but where; specifically, where on the 64-team bracket the Bulls will land. After Monday's 88-65 loss to top-ranked Connecticut, coach Jose Fernandez's club could find itself with the most favorable perch in program history....

    USF guard Shalethia Stringfield, left, pressures Connecticut guard Moriah Jefferson during the first half of Monday's game in Tampa. [AP photo]
  10. USF women end best regular season ever with loss to No. 1 UConn


    TAMPA — If all the seeds hold true in the upcoming American Athletic Conference women's tournament, USF will get another crack at its daunting New England nemesis in less than a week.

    In the wake of Monday night's humbling proceedings, some fans may deem that cruel bracketology. For the Bulls, it's consolation.

    "Hopefully we play them two more times," junior guard Courtney Williams said....

    Bulls guard Tamara Taylor, a Boca Ciega alumnus, raises her hand after hitting a 3-pointer in the second half, when USF outscored UConn 35-34 to finish closer to the Huskies than any AAC team this season.
  11. 2015 Blue Jays, Phillies and Yankees spring training previews

    The Heater

    Toronto Blue Jays

    Key additions: 3B Josh Donaldson, C Russell Martin, LF Michael Saunders

    Key losses: OF Melky Cabrera, LHP J.A. Happ, INF Brett Lawrie, OF Colby Rasmus

    Spring storylines

    Homecoming: The Jays' biggest offseason splash occurred in November, when Toronto-born veteran catcher Russell Martin signed the second-largest contract (five years, $82 million) in club history. Though not in dire need of an upgrade behind the plate, the Jays got one. Martin shined — both defensively and as a clubhouse cornerstone — the past two seasons in Pittsburgh. Signing a hometown guy never hurts at the turnstiles, either....

  12. Tomey hire will cost USF less than $85,000


    Veteran Division I coach Dick Tomey's 10-month hitch as administrative overseer of USF football will cost the school less than $85,000.

    Tomey's contract was released Monday following a public-records by the Tampa Bay Times. Tomey, 76-year-old former coach at Hawaii, Arizona and San Jose State, began work Feb. 20 and is set to depart "approximately" Dec. 31, according to the contract.

    He'll earn a salary of $3,192.85 on a bi-weekly basis, which equates to $83,333.33 annually. Tomey waived the right to all regular employment benefits (i.e. life, health, dental, retirement, etc.) but is being provided a courtesy vehicle by the university.

    Tomey, a longtime mentor of Bulls athletic director Mark Harlan, has appeared at all four USF spring practices so far. In a recent news release, Harlan said Tomey would work with him, Coach Willie Taggart and the entire football staff "to help us move forward" in the wake of 2-10 and 4-8 seasons.

  13. USF goes international for women's basketball talent


    TAMPA — The disparity between Connecticut and its league counterparts remains profound. Closing the gap requires broadening horizons. It doesn't suffice to merely think outside the box; one must think outside the borders.

    Hence, USF women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez has gone to great lengths — upward of 5,000 miles — to try to narrow that chasm.

    "We're going to try to get the players here in our program. It doesn't matter where they're from," said Fernandez, whose NCAA Tournament-bound team hosts the top-ranked Huskies tonight. "If they're right down the road or you've got to go across the country or across the world to get them, that's what we'll do."...

    USF starting point guard Laura Marcos Canedo, near right, driving on Connecticut guard Saniya Chong, is a native of Spain and one of six scholarship players on the Bulls from Europe.
  14. USF-UConn women's basketball, 7 p.m. Monday, Sun Dome



    Women: USF vs. No. 1 Connecticut

    When/where: 7; Sun Dome

    TV/radio: ESPN2; 1010-AM

    Records: USF 24-5, 15-2 AAC; UConn 28-1, 17-0

    Notable: The Huskies won the season's first meeting 92-50, improving their all-time record against the Bulls to 15-0. … Expect an audience of more than 6,000 for this senior night rematch, in which Sweden native Ivana Vuletic and Boca Ciega alumnus Tamara Taylor will be recognized. … USF junior G Courtney Williams, who scored 23 in the teams' first meeting, needs one point to become the second player in program history to score 600 in a season. … UConn and USF rank first and seventh in the nation, respectively, in field-goal-percentage defense, but the Huskies shot 51.4 percent from the floor in the first matchup....

  15. Spring football: No visible No. 1 QB so far


    Four practices into spring camp, the only apparent slow element of USF's high-tempo offense has been the installment of the edited playbook. Coach Willie Taggart's approach: Have his team master a handful of plays at a time.

    As a result of this spoon-fed philosophy, coupled with the fact three quarterbacks are splitting reps, no apparent front-runner has emerged behind center. On Saturday, amid a steady, cool afternoon drizzle, senior Steven Bench, freshman Quinton Flowers and junior Mike White all took snaps -- often in that order.

    "With four practices, and you've got three guys competing for a job, they don't get as many reps as one guy would like, but all of them are important...and they understand what it's gonna take to be the quarterback," Taggart said following the two-hour workout.

    "I told them before, they're gonna pick who the quarterback is by the way they play; by the way they come out here and practice daily and lead our team and lead our offense and command our offense. That's gonna be the guy we're gonna go with."

    Each had their respective moments Saturday.

    White seemed to elicit praise from the offensive staff for noticing a defensive alignment at the line of scrimmage, then tucking the ball and scrambling to his right for a nice gain. Bench found sophomore WR Ryeshene Bronson for a couple of deep completions. Flowers threw a high pass over the middle that former QB Evan Wilson pulled down and converted into a 60-plus-yard TD in seven-on-seven work.

    "Everyone's waiting on (the starter to emerge) and those guys know that," Taggart said. "And we're challenging them: 'Hey, you've got to come out and step up and be the guy we all know you can be.'"

    SPEAKING OF WILSON...: Count Taggart among those who have been impressed by Wilson, a redshirt sophomore walk-on from Sarasota's Out-of-Door Academy who didn't take a snap his first two seasons on campus.

    Taggart said Wilson expressed a desire to change positions, and teammates urged the staff to oblige him. "They just kept coming up to me like, 'Coach, I'm telling you, Evan's gonna be a player for us. He makes plays,'" Taggart said.

    "With our numbers being limited at the receiver position, that's something Evan wanted to do, to come out and help the football team. And I tell you what, every day that we've been out here he's made a play."

    DEFENSE BY A NOSE: The offense's installment of very few plays, combined with the defense's installment of very few checks, has resulted in the defense holding the upper hand in scrimmage situations after Week One.

    "But I wouldn't say it's far (apart)," said Taggart, clearly pleased by the fleetness and energy displayed in new defensive coordinator Tom Allen's 4-2-5 scheme.

    "It's easy to have a lot of energy when you're not thinking much. ... They can see things and now go play and don't have to think about a lot of checks and a lot of different things, and that's how it should be. ... And then the kids can play. They can play football."

    ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls adjourn for a week in observance of USF's spring break, and resume camp March 9 at 9 a.m. ... Another previously unheralded Bull shining so far in camp -- junior DL Clavion Nelson, whom Taggart singled out for his effort during the post-practice team huddle. ... Backup RB Darius Tice, listed at 206 pounds on the spring roster, said he's actually up to 215. ... Sophomore TB D'Ernest Johnson, addressing the media for the first time in his college career, indicated he's a first cousin of former NFL Pro Bowl RB Edgerrin James. The most significant piece of advice James imparted: "Pass-blocking is the first key to being a running back," Johnson said.

    AUDIBLE: "I think Reilly Gibbons is gonna be a great one when it's all said and done. There's just something about the kid. He's really smart and he just understands the position. ... He's fast but he's not in a hurry, and that helps, especially up front. He rarely gets himself in a bad position and that's going to help big-time." -- Taggart on the former St. Petersburg Catholic star (and Stanford transfer)...