While few sure things exist these days in the highly volatile world of college basketball, USF fans can bank on one cinder-block certainty.
The next few Bulls senior nights are gonna ooze emotion, starting with tonight’s.
Brian Gregory will recognize point guard Laquincy Rideau and backup big man Antun Maricevic prior to USF’s 7 p.m. tipoff against SMU. On deck for 2021 are David Collins and Justin Brown. As many as five could be honored in ’22.
Those who make it to that poignant ceremony will share a common denominator: All signed on with Gregory and Co. when the program still bore the lingering stench of the Orlando Antigua era. Instead of turning up their noses on Tampa, they bought in to the new staff’s philosophy and vision.
The results so far: A program single-season record for victories (24) in 2018-19, a CBI title that same season, and a new degree of league-wide respect for a program that previously had none.
If and when USF becomes a consistent postseason contender, guys such as Maricevic and Rideau, and those who immediately follow them in the senior night procession, will be deemed the pioneers of USF’s resuscitation.
“Sometimes their imprint won’t be felt until down the road,” Gregory said. “I know there’s no doubt about it that it will be felt. And if we can get everybody out here to thank them, it would be fantastic.”
USF had four consecutive seasons of 20 or more losses when Rideau arrived in 2017 from Gardner-Webb, and five when Maricevic came on board a year later from a Wyoming junior college.
Rideau, among nine players signed by Gregory during his 11th-hour recruiting flurry upon his hiring three years ago, now shapes up as one of the program’s all-time recruiting steals. Literally.
The reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Rideau (12.7 ppg) ranks second in the league in steals (72) after leading the AAC last season.
“I would say coming here was a great decision,” he said. “Changed the program, changed the culture of things here in Tampa. Hopefully the culture will continue to change as the years go on.”
Maricevic, meantime, has evolved into a solid member of the low-post rotation, developing a serviceable jump hook and providing quality minutes in relief of 7-foot sophomore Michael Durr. He tied his season-high with 10 points (along with four rebounds) in last weekend’s win at Temple, his fifth contest of eight or more points.
Like Rideau, he’s scheduled to get his degree this spring.
But tonight’s ceremony will be about how both helped the Bulls graduate from ridicule to respectability.
“Senior Day’s always tough on everybody ― coaches, players, families,” Gregory said. “But it really should be for us, a celebration of these two young men and what they’ve done in the two years that they’ve both played here.”