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USF hoops journal: Women’s rookies shining, Yetna on mend for men

The Bulls men's and women's teams open their respective seasons on Nov. 6
USF women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez could start a pair of freshmen this season. (CLOE POISSON|
USF women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez could start a pair of freshmen this season. (CLOE POISSON|
Published Oct. 19, 2018

Heralded Bulls 6-foot-8 sophomore Alexis Yetna, whose collegiate debut already has been delayed one year by the NCAA, potentially faces another brief postponement.

Second-year men's coach Brian Gregory said Yetna, who played on France's under-20 national team two summers ago, is nursing a hyper-extended elbow suffered two weeks before preseason practice began. Thursday afternoon's practice was the first in which he was cleared to engage in contact.

Additionally, 6-7 freshman Madut Akec of Bradenton's Victory Rock Prep is nursing a broken foot, Gregory added.

"(Yetna) has been able to go through everything, just whenever we go live or any contact stuff, he has stayed out," Gregory said. "We're gonna take that slow with roughly three weeks before we open up. Should be plenty of time."

Yetna, expected to bolster the Bulls frontcourt, was stripped of a year's eligibility by the NCAA in 2017 because he competed at a Connecticut prep school during the second year following his high school graduation in France. He needed only three years to graduate from high school.

The Bulls face the University of Tampa in an Oct. 30 exhibition at the Yuengling Center, and open the regular season Nov. 6 at home against Alabama A&M.

A PAIR OF POINTS: Look for women's coach Jose Fernandez to use two freshman point guards — Elisa Pinzan and Sydni Harvey — to replace three-year starter Laia Flores.

Pinzan, deemed a five-star recruit by Blue Star Europe, played for Italy in the under-18 European Championships and under-19 World Cup. Harvey twice was named a Division II Class AA Miss Basketball for Tennessee, leading Nashville's Brentwood Academy to four divisional state titles.

"I think they bring a different pace," said Fernandez, whose team opens the season Nov. 6 at Ohio State.

"Pinzan's had a lot of international experience as far as the half-court setting. She understands middle pick-and-roll, side pick-and-roll situations. … Harvey's a different type. She's more downhill, can get to the basket."

Whomever starts probably won't be the only freshman first-teamer. Six-foot-3 Portugual native Beatriz Jordao, who also arrived in Tampa with extensive international experience, has impressed coaches with her low-post agility and shooting range.

"I think she can step out and knock down the 15- and 17-footers," Fernandez said. "She can play with her back to the basket, she's a very, very good passer, and she's played in a lot of games."

FROM THE SUN DOME TO SMACKDOWN? If the latest news from WWE circles is any sign, former Bulls 7-footer Jordan Omogbehin is flourishing far more as a wrestler than he ever did as a rebounder.

Omogbehin, who had 34 rebounds in 33 career games for USF from 2012-14, is part of the WWE Performance Center's newest roster. The center — a 26,000-square-foot facility with seven rings, a strength-and-conditioning program and various other amenities — develops prospective talent for the global pro wrestling brand.

A WWE news release lists Omogbehin — a Nigeria native — at 7-foot-3, 370 pounds. He played at Morgan State University in Baltimore after leaving USF following the dismissal of Stan Heath.

PROJECTED WOMEN'S STARTERS: PG Sydni Harvey (5-10)/Elisa Pinzan (5-8), G Kitija Laksa (6-0), G Laura Ferreira (5-11), F Alyssa Rader (6-1), C Beatriz Jordao (6-3)

PROJECTED MEN'S STARTERS: PG Laquincy Rideau (6-1, 209), SG David Collins (6-3, 208), G T.J. Lang (6-7, 213), SF Alexis Yetna (6-8, 231), C Michael Durr (7-0, 245)

Related: USF women 2nd in AAC preseason hoops coaches poll, men 12th

AUDIBLE: "I'm excited about the new kids we have here, I'm excited about how the returners look. … I really believe we have the pieces. Right now we just have to learn how to put them together for our team to work and be great." — Laksa, a first-team preseason All-American Athletic Conference pick

AUDIBLE II: "It's definitely possible. I'm 100 percent. I'm so, so confident in this team this year." — sophomore G Justin Brown, when asked about the possibility of the Bulls men posting their first winning season since 2012


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