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Winning record should help Bulls' recruiting

During his first two recruiting years, University of South Florida basketball coach Bobby Paschal has found it easy to accentuate the positives of his program: the school, the area, the facility, the conference. USF had everything to impress a prospect except a winning team.

But Paschal can now add that selling point to his list. The Bulls are currently 17-8 overall and 9-4 in the Sun Belt following a win over Western Kentucky on Monday night.

"Any young man that has looked at the history of our program can now look at it not only as a program that can be, but is a winning program," Paschal said. "Every year we've gradually upgraded the talent level. Now, (winning) should only help us more."

USF will have three available scholarships next season _ one (the 15th) not filled this year and two from graduating players, Hakim Shahid and Andre Crenshaw.

The Bulls, the lone Sun Belt team not to receive a commitment from anyone during the early-signing period in mid-November, are desperately seeking a big man, a perimeter player and a point guard to be an apprentice under Marvin Taylor.

If Paschal is to fill those needs, the key may be a possible post-season appearance. USF is in position to earn a bid to the 32-team National Invitational Tournament or could qualify automatically for the 64-team NCAA Tournament by winning the conference.

During its 19-year history, USF has never participated in the NCAAs and has played in the NIT just three times (1981, 1983 and 1985).

"I would hope no one would look at a given program and say he would or would not go based on whether it went to post-season," Paschal said. "But it does add exposure and is one of the positives a program has to offer.

"Even if we don't go to the post-season this year, any young man has to know that we are winning and he has the opportunity to play for a winner. There's no question about that."

Within reach: Hakim Shahid, who played his last regular-season home game Monday night, is closing in on two prominent records: USF's all-time rebound mark and the Sun Belt Conference's season field-goal percentage.

With 809 rebounds, Shahid trails Curtis Kitchen, the only Bull to ever play in the NBA, by seven. Shahid is averaging nearly 12 rebounds a game this season.

Shahid also is shooting 65 percent from the floor. Former North Carolina-Charlotte star Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell set the conference record with 64 percent during the 1976-77 season.

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