TAMPA – The University of South Florida men’s basketball team announced its team award winners for the 2007-08 campaign at the program’s annual banquet, hosted by the Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club Monday evening.
Senior center Kentrell Gransberry and freshman guard Dominique Jones shared the John & Cynthia Ruzic USF Most Valuable Player award as a total of seven Bulls were recognized with awards during the banquet.
“This year and this team laid a foundation for our future,” said USF head coach Stan Heath. “The work ethic, the ability to continue to fight and persevere during the season was very evident. They continued to push. I think our seniors, Kentrell (Gransberry), Eddie (Lovett) and Mohamed (Esseghir) all contributed in different ways. We really appreciate their efforts and are supportive of their future endeavors. USF is grateful for their effort.”
Gransberry was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team while Jones earned All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention accolades and was also a unanimous selection on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team.
Gransberry is the first USF player to earn first team honors in the three years the Bulls have been in the BIG EAST. The Baton Rouge, La., native averaged a double-double for the season at 16.0 points per game and 10.8 rebounds and led the BIG EAST in rebounding for the second straight season.
He will go down in history as arguably the greatest rebounder in USF history and one of the top in BIG EAST conference play. Despite playing just one and a half seasons at USF, the 6-9, 270-pound post man ended his career with 588 rebounds in 53 games. He averaged 11.1 rebounds per game for his career, crushing the all-time USF per game average of 9.9, held by Gary Alexander (1989, 1991-92).
Gransberry also earned the Chairman of the Boards Award and the Richard K. and Roslyn K. Wittcoff Endowed Scholarship.
Jones earned All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention accolades and was also a unanimous selection on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team. Jones is USF’s third All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection and the first Bull named to the All-Rookie team.
Jones had one of the best freshman seasons in USF history. He led the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game and his scoring average jumped to 18.2 in conference play, the best of any freshman and third best in the league. Jones shattered the USF freshman scoring mark by tallying 531 points on the year. The previous freshman record was 455 set by B.B. Waldon during the 1998-99 season. He also became the first freshman in USF history, and only the third USF player ever, to score 30 or more points in back-to-back games. He was the first BIG EAST freshman in 13 years to score 30 or more points in consecutive games. The last BIG EAST freshman to accomplish it was Georgetown’s Allen Iverson in December of 1994.
Jones also earned the Wittcoff Family Endowed Scholarship. The endowments the Wittcoff’s have provided will permanently represent the University’s competitive spirit and commitment to excellence in NCAA Division I basketball.
Chris Howard was tabbed USF’s Defensive Player of the Year. The third year sophomore played his first complete season after multiple injuries and in addition to running the team, was often relied upon to guard the other team’s best offensive guard. Nearly all of his statistical numbers improved from his freshman campaign and he led the team with 4.8 assists per game, 6th in the BIG EAST.
Junior forward Mobolaji Ajayi won the Most Improved Player award. In his first year at the Division I level, Ajayi really came on at the end of the season averaging 5.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last 10 games, all starts.
Solomon Bozeman claimed the Free Throw Award for the second straight season as the squad’s top performer from the charity stripe. He converted on 86.0 percent of his free throw opportunities.
Junior Jesus Verdejo captured the Academic Award and the Bill Jones Scholarship Award, given to the player that best exemplifies the qualities of Bill Jones. Jones was a donor and a season ticket holder for men’s basketball who lost a courageous battle with cancer. His qualities included leadership, determination, a fighting spirit, courage and passion. Verdejo finished the season as the 3rd leading scorer on the team at 10.7 per game, appearing in 30 games on the year with 29 starts.
Senior Eddie Lovett received the Bull Pride Award, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies the responsibilities associated with being a student-athlete at USF, both on and off the court. Lovett, a three year member of the team, graduated in December with a Communications degree.
2007-08 USF Men’s Basketball Award Winners
John & Cynthia Ruzic Most Valuable Player – Kentrell Gransberry and Dominique Jones
Defensive Player of the Year – Chris Howard
Chairman of the Boards – Kentrell Gransberry
Most Improved Player – Mobolaji Ajayi
Free Throw Award – Solomon Bozeman
Academic Award – Jesus Verdejo
Bull Pride Award – Eddie Lovett
Bill Jones Scholarship Award – Jesus Verdejo
Wittcoff Endowed Scholarship – Kentrell Gransberry
Wittcoff Family Endowed Scholarship – Dominique Jones