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Men's hoops: 5 pressing preseason questions

Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

Thursday, October 2, 2014 12:18pm

Six months and change after being hired as USF men's basketball coach, Orlando Antigua stages his first full-squad preseason workout Friday afternoon in in the Muma Center.

The closed workout commences at 3 p.m. By 3:04, at least one Bull should be bent over, groping for oxygen.

This team is expected to push tempo, to utilize all 94 feet. In short, the Bulls are expected to run.

Beyond that, who knows? Only five scholarship players from the 2013-14 squad remain, and two of those -- 6-foot-6 classmates Bo Zeigler and Dre Clayton -- were redshirted last year. Another, veteran PG Anthony Collins, was limited to only eight games by recurring knee problems.

"If you pull up our roster, I'd have to say most USF fans almost never seen any of 'em play," Collins said.

Which leaves us with a plethora of questions about the '14-15 Bulls. For now, we'll hone the list to a quintet.

As the preseason dawns, here are five things we're wondering about Antigua's inaugural bunch.

Who will play the five?

With slimmed-down sophomore PF Chris Perry the only proven commodity down low, who steps up to complement him? Six-foot-10 classmate John Egbunu has taken his boundless physical upside to the University of Florida, leaving Antigua with a pair of 6-11 projects from which to choose. Juco transfer Jaleel Cousins has the ready-made frame (6-11, 245), but freshman Ruben Guerrero (6-11, 225) is believed to possess more mobility and shooting polish. The other option? USF goes small, leaving Perry in the paint and perhaps Clayton (6-6, 245) at the four.

How will Collins' knee hold up?

Word is, no one spent more time in the Muma Center this offseason than Collins, who declares himself 100-percent recovered from last summer's knee surgery and the ensuing bout with tendinitis. With such limited Division I game experience on the roster, the Bulls really, really could use a freshman-year encore from AC (9.0 ppg, 5.2 assists in 2011-12). "This is the first summer that I actually could work out the whole summer," Collins said earlier this week. "Last year the knee...I couldn't really work out. And I played okay throughout my freshman and sophomore season, but this is the first summer that I actually worked out the whole summer, so I feel good."

Will the outside shooting improve?

Can't get much worse. The Bulls were one of only two Division I teams in the country last season (Lamar was the other) to make fewer than 100 3-pointers (97), and finished 215th nationally in field-goal percentage (43.4). The arrival of freshman shooting guards Troy Holston -- an Oldsmar Christian alumnus -- and Dinero Mercurius should boost the Bulls' long-range fortunes. Collins also has been working intensely on a mid-range jumper to keep his 172-pound body from taking a pummeling in the lane. With limited experience down low, the Bulls must -- MUST -- shoot better to have any chance of competing in the American Athletic Conference.

Which version of Corey Allen Jr. will we see?

During Collins' eight-game stint last November and December, Allen Jr. played off the ball more frequently and often shined, totaling 38 points, 11 boards and five assists in consecutive wins against Bowling Green and Stetson. But during conference play, when Collins was absent and Allen was pressed into more ball-handling duty, his offense mostly vanished. In USF's last 10 games, Allen averaged 5.3 points with two scoreless contests. With Collins back, Allen should be more of a two-guard fixture, with potentially more open looks and space to create.

Are the pundits who have relegated the Bulls to the AAC basement correct?

Probably. While Antigua already has brandished his recruiting chops in only six months on the job (i.e. Guerrero, Maryland transfer Roddy Peters), building the Bulls into a bona fide AAC contender will take time. Let's be realistic: Only three Bulls who are eligible this season have ever appeared in a Division I game. The analogies to Billy Donovan's beginnings at Florida should not be discredited. In 1996, Donovan inherited a program devoid of tradition and depth, took his lumps the first two seasons, then had the Gators in the Sweet 16 by Year Three. Antigua, who boasts a Kentucky-blue coaching resume like Donovan, is in pretty much the same spot. Difference is, Antigua's facilities are far superior to what Billy D began with in Gainesville. With his broad band of recruiting connections (which span from New York to Latin America), there's no reason Antigua can't flourish here in time.

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