Bulls Feature Towering Talents Down Low in 2011-12
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - A big, bad front line is a very good thing for head coach Jose Fernandez and the Bulls this season.
The USF women's basketball team has a pair for 6-foot-4 towers hitting the floor at the same time when the team starts its season off Friday at the WBI Tip-Off Tournament in Daytona Beach.
Sophomore center Akila McDonald returns and will have transfer Caitlin Rowe playing alongside her in the starting lineup at power forward when action gets going against Florida State.
Rowe, an Australia native, not only is strong down low, but also can help the Bulls from the perimeter.
"She can step out and shoot the three. She can play with her back to the basket," Fernandez said. "It gives us some versatility with a big front line."
McDonald now has a wealth of experience as a Bull, playing in 30 games and starting 11 last season while averaging 3.4 rebounds per contest.
"We threw her right into the fire. Her basketball is still ahead of her," said Fernandez, who noted McDonald's conditioning has vastly improved.
USF has had some talented big women in the past, but Fernandez is especially excited about this duo.
"We've had two together, but not as talented as both of them," he said.
On top of that, the Bulls will have 6-foot-2 guard Inga Orekhova come January. The guard has to sit out USF's first 15 games due to transfer rules.
"I think the inside presence will help our perimeters with some easier baskets," Fernandez said.
USF looks pretty good on the perimeter as well and will have senior guard Andrea Smith eventually return to the floor as the Bulls' top scorer. The Lakeland native ranked third in the Big East in scoring (16.5 ppg) and recently was named a Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention.
"That's pretty impressive," Fernandez said. "With her, I think it gives you a go-to type of kid at the end of the shot clock."
Until Smith returns, and even after, the Bulls will be relying on a number of other returners to step up in scoring. Andrea's twin sister, Andrell, is back as a junior, along with guards Kaneisha Saunders and Jasmine Wynne for their senior campaigns.
"We return a bulk of our lineup this year," Fernandez said.
A veteran team means high hopes for a USF squad that missed out of on the postseason for the first time in eight years last season.
"My expectations are high, and I think everybody else's are and they should be," Fernandez said.
USF fans will get to see the Bulls in their first home game of the season Nov. 15 against North Florida at the USF Recreation Center. Season and single-game tickets can be purchased online at GoUSFBulls.com.