By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – USF men’s basketball coach Stan Heath had an interesting situation to figure out at point guard heading into the reloaded Bulls’ regular season.
Star Anthony Collins was still healing from a knee injury that wound up keeping the junior out for the first two games of the season and behind him in the lineup were a talented collection of guards that hadn’t had the chance to prove anything yet in their USF careers.
Heath got a pleasant surprise in Corey Allen Jr., who has been a key contributor for the 3-0 Bulls heading into Friday’s 7 p.m. battle with Stetson at the Sun Dome. Allen ranks second on the team with 15.7 points per game and has averaged 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds while the Bulls’ roster got back to full strength.
“You never know with junior college guys,” Heath said. “That experience they get is obviously a nice advantage, but sometimes them still getting adjusted to big-time college basketball, you never know. Sometimes it takes guys a whole year, sometimes it takes a semester. He’s hit the ground running and hopefully he can sustain that.”
Allen, a St. Louis native, has really stepped up his game the past two times out, averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and six rebounds on the way to making the American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll on Monday. Allen posted a game-high 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a 91-65 win over Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 12 and followed that up with a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists in USF’s 75-61 road win at Bowling Green on Nov. 15.
“I’m having a lot of fun with these guys,” Allen said.
Allen’s strong bond with his teammates was a big contributing factor in his decision to become a Bull after he received a ton of interest out of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. Allen won a JUCO state championship in his first season with the program and he was named Southern California JUCO player of the year after averaging 21.1 points and 4.2 assists per game in 2012-13.
Allen’s on-court connection with his new teammates really became apparent to Heath when Allen worked out with the Bulls during a campus visit in the spring.
“He was able to get into the mix with our guys and it was right then when I saw his speed is incredible,” Heath said. “I knew right then when I saw him with my own eyes against my players how good he really was.”
Allen had his pick between West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Oregon State and USF before signing with the Bulls.
“I picked South Florida because I felt comfortable with the coaches and the players on my visit. I knew my role and felt we could be a special team this year,” Allen said.
Allen, a natural shooting guard, is extra excited about the future at USF since Collins returned to the lineup against Bowling Green. Collins, a Preseason All-American Athletic Conference selection said Wednesday that he’s no longer limited in any way from the knee setback and noted he looks forward to working with Allen in more of a two-guard system when coaches see fit.
“Corey is a terrific athlete. His speed is off the charts and he just stays on the attack mode. He’s a smart player,” Collins said.
Heath also looks forward to the possibilities with Allen and Collins on the court together as USF approaches a difficult stretch in its season. After Stetson, the Bulls host No. 7/9 Oklahoma State 7 p.m. Monday at the Sun Dome and on the horizon are key home matchups with Alabama (Dec. 7) and FGCU (Dec. 17).
“The last two days in practice having AC and Corey out there really gave us a good dynamic,” Heath said Wednesday. “I’m excited to see those two guys out there together Friday.”
Attend the ‘Gold Rush’ Game
Since the Bulls will be going up against green-wearing Stetson, Friday night’s game is being declared a “Gold Rush” at the Sun Dome and fans are being asked to wear their gold apparel.