TAMPA — With nary a warning, a team besieged by mediocrity now also finds itself steeped in mystery.
Suddenly, the short- and long-term status of Chris Perry, the men's basketball team's only low-post veteran, is unknown. Nearly three full days after being stricken by chest pains during a Saturday night practice in Hartford, Conn., Perry was a no-show at Tuesday afternoon's practice.
Presumably, the results of tests performed in Tampa aren't yet known. His mother didn't respond to a phone message from the Tampa Bay Times.
His status for tonight's game against SMU? "We don't know," Bulls coach Orlando Antigua said. "Right now we're still unclear and unsure, but he's day to day."
Physically, Antigua said Perry showed no prior indicators of being ill. Statistically, a pattern of regression is noticeable in the past three weeks.
Perry hasn't scored more than six points in any of his past four contests, during which his scoring average has fallen nearly two full points (from 12.6 to 10.8 ppg). In that same span, his rebounding average has fallen from 7.5 to 7.1, and his minutes per game have dropped from 27.3 to 21.5.
Some of that diminished production can be attributed to early foul trouble (see Tulsa) and the gradual emergence of other low-post options (see Bo Zeigler, Ruben Guerrero). But in hindsight, one can't help but wonder how Perry has been feeling lately.
All that's known for now is that Perry was hospitalized in Hartford after pulling up during practice and arrived on the Bulls bench — out of uniform, and out of the blue — midway through the next day's game against Connecticut.
"I was really relieved because I didn't know what happened to him," G Corey Allen said, "so just to see him back on the bench was a big relief."
On Monday evening, Allen spoke with Perry and said he seemed in good spirits, hopeful of returning to the team sooner rather than later. Could be as soon as tonight or as late as March. Meantime, Antigua's words resonate.
We don't know.
LATE STAMPEDE: To the surprise of few, the Bulls football staff is staging a late recruiting surge that again has propelled USF to the top of the American Athletic Conference signing class rankings.
Just after lunchtime Monday, the Bulls got a non-binding oral pledge from Jacksonville Trinity Christian three-star WR Chris Barr, who withdrew a commitment to Utah the same day. Roughly 24 hours before, another three-star wideout — Port Charlotte's Malik Vaccaro-Dixon — announced he'll sign with USF after previously committing to UCF.
In the wake of those announcements, USF, with 18 commitments, supplanted Cincinnati atop the 247Sports team recruiting rankings for the AAC. The most prominent remaining gem on its board, Armwood ILB Jordan Griffin, has narrowed his list to the Bulls, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. Griffin orally pledged to the Badgers in late October.
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O'NEAL SHATTERS MARK: In only his second meet of the track season, junior Matthew O'Neal shattered USF's indoor triple-jump record Friday with a 53-foot, 11-inch effort at the UAB Vulcan Invite in Birmingham, Ala.
The jump was the nation's longest this year (by 3 1/2 inches) and easily cleared the previous school mark (52-4) established in 2014 by Shane Lewis. The top 16 jumps at season's end qualify for the NCAA Indoor Nationals in Fayetteville, Ark., in mid March.
ODDS AND ENDS: Jon Bills, who spent the past two seasons as a Bulls football graduate assistant, is now offensive line coach at Division II Adams State in Colorado. … Bulls baseball and softball coaches, and select players, meet with reporters today. The softball team opens Feb. 5 at home against Hampton, while new baseball coach Mark Kingston makes his formal debut Feb. 13 against Cal State Fullerton in Clearwater.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.