TAMPA — Once he guides his team through this stretch of societal anxiety and fluid scheduling, fourth-year USF men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory insists two hard-bound certainties await on the other side.
The 2020-21 Bulls will be the deepest and biggest team of his four-season tenure.
“No question about it,” said Gregory, whose roster includes eight players at least 6-feet-6. “And not just 6-6 or taller, we’ve got some guys that are big.”
Brandishing a mask and optimism, Gregory spoke with reporters Thursday outside the Selmon Center, addressing his team’s promise and schedule, among other topics. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
On the collective size of his team, which includes Mississippi State transfer Prince Oduro (6-8, 250 pounds) and Texas Tech transfer Russel Tchewa (7-0, 270):
“There’s a remarkable difference in the weight room. Four guys take up a lot more space than you would think, because we are big. We’re big and we’re strong, and we are deep. We’ve got a lot of guys who have logged significant minutes or played at this level. ... Russel and Prince have played at high-level programs, so their transition here, they’ve played for two of the best coaches in the country. So their immediate transition was very, very smooth. I’m excited about our depth, I’m excited about our size, and ... our biggest thing is, in our program, one of our keys to our culture is you can and will get better every day. And the guys have to embrace that, and they’ve done a good job of that.”
On the progress of 6-8 power forward Alexis Yetna, who missed the 2019-20 season with a knee injury:
“He is full-go in every activity, in terms of workouts, strength and conditioning, and he is making really good progress. We have not done anything live, just due to the circumstances. So our hope is that, as of right now, he is on track that when we start practice (the first practice date tentatively is set for Sept. 29) that he will be full-go. ... We’re careful with him. There’s some days we give him the day off in the running and different things like that, but he’s shooting the ball well, his body looks great, so I’m pleased with where he’s at.”
On his optimism of playing a non-conference schedule:
"I'm very optimistic on that. Might there be some alterations in it? Might it be starting Dec. 1? Might it be that you're gonna play six to nine non-conference games, and you're gonna go quarantine for two days, three days, and then you've got four teams there and you play everybody once? There's a lot of different things out there, but I'm very confident that we are gonna play a non-conference schedule.
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“I think the next couple of weeks (classes at USF begin Monday) are gonna be transparent with what will happen, what the next step is gonna be. It may be pushed back or it may be full steam ahead and we’re ready to go.”
On the promotion of veteran assistant Tom Herrion to associate head coach:
“It was a long time coming. It was something that I wanted to get done, and now was the right time. He’s earned it. Obviously had great success; a lot of coaches wish they had his record as a head coach (147-105 in stops at College of Charleston and Marshall). And he’s been so instrumental in building our program and the culture of our program, in recruiting, in relationships with the players. It’s good to have a guy like that alongside you. ... It’s good to have a guy who’s sat in that same chair that I’m sitting in, and being able to give advice and give information.”