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.