Hitting The Hardwood Blog: And So It Has Begun

October 17, 2008

HTH Blog Entry #4 | Oct. 17 at 11:30 p.m. by Jeff Wuerth
The 2008-09 USF men’s basketball team officially kicked off the season with an open practice Friday night in the Sun Dome Corral. Head Coach Stan Heath and his coaching staff were in mid-season form teaching and working the guys hard in the high-intensity, fast-paced practice.

All 11 scholarship players practiced as well as walk-on prospect Ryan Kardok. The only player who didn’t practice was walk-on Mitch Emory. Emory worked out on the bike but won’t be available to full practice for another 3-4 weeks after having minor left ankle surgery on Sept. 25. Junior college transfer Alex Rivas Sanchez is also still limited and not 100 percent after having surgery to place bilateral rods in both tibias in May.

Sophomore All-BIG EAST performer Dominique Jones unveiled his new uniform number, No. 20, after wearing No. 0 last year. Twenty was his high school number but was unavailable last year.

The team worked out in new green and gold adidas practice gear and new adidas shoes. The practice included free throws, fast break drills (two-v-two, three-v-two and two-v-one), four-on-four half-court work, which included defending the ball screen and the post, and transition defense drills

Coach Heath talked about the first practice.

“The guys were excited. Everybody was eager to get out here,” said Heath. “We made some mistakes but we made a lot of hustle plays. We’ve added a lot of speed to our team. Sometimes we look good on offense, sometimes we throw the ball around the gym a little bit because the defense is good. But it was great to get out here. We are all excited, we have a lot of work to do and we are just going to keep plugging away.”

Coach Heath realizes the season is right around the corner.

“It is going to go fast,” said Heath. “We only have a few weeks before we start playing exhibition games and right into the season. We’ve got to find a way to speed the process up for our younger guys but our veterans look good.”

One of the keys to the season will be junior point guard Chris Howard.

“It’s kind of repetitive for me being my third year but for the younger guys it is a very exciting experience for them and gives them a chance to start learning what college is all about,” said Howard. “We just have to be focused and take it day by day. Get better day by day. The things that we go over on Monday carry it over to Tuesday and Wednesday and so forth. If we do that we will be a better team.”

The men open the regular season at home vs. SMU on Friday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. The exhibition schedule is highlighted by an intra-city matchup with the University of Tampa on Monday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. Prior to facing Tampa, the Bulls kick off the 2008-09 season with an exhibition game against the University of West Florida on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m.

The Bulls return four starters from last year’s squad including All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection and All-Rookie team pick Jones. Jones shattered the USF freshman scoring record last season with 531 points, good for 17.1 points per game. Other starters returning include senior guard Jesus Verdejo, senior forward Mobolaji Ajayi and junior guard Chris Howard. Also joining the Bulls at the conclusion of the first semester is Georgia transfer, guard Mike Mercer. Mercer will miss the first six games of the season. Eight newcomers join the squad.

Season and group tickets for USF home basketball games can be purchased by calling 1-800-GoBulls. Single-game tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com or via Ticketmaster phone at 813-287-8844. The complete men’s and women’s basketball schedules are available at GoUSFBulls.com.

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