The USF men’s basketball team has two traits that sets it apart from last year’s squad: they’re a lot younger and a lot more athletic.
The Dons have no seniors this year and just five juniors, but the new influx of size and talent has coach Rex Walters more optimistic about this team than he has been in some time.
“Even with all the departures,” he said “We did a good job of staffing, a good job of bringing in guys that didn’t have game experience, but they have talent. If you have a choice between experience and talent, I’ll take talent.”
Two major acquisitions have come in the form of transfers, as junior guards De’End Parker and Matt Glover have come over from UCLA and Penn State, respectively. Throw in talented big man Tao Xu, a 6-foot-11 center from China by way of Haverford School in Pennsylvania, and it’s easy to see why starting point guard Cody Doolin said this is the most talented team he’s been on.
Doolin, now in his third year at USF, becomes the on-court leader after helping four of his teammates to double-digit scoring averages last season, a plan he doesn’t expect to change too much this year.
“My teammates last year were very good players,” he said. “My job was to set them up and keep the ball moving, make sure we don’t get to stagnant. This year I think we’re real similar. I think I’m going to have to try to shoot a few more shots per game, yes, but I’m not going to try to do too much. I don’t think anyone on our team is.”
Walters said some of the specifics of how they go about moving the ball will change, however. With four players listed at 6-9 or taller, he said he plans to initiate more pick-and-pop plays after the big men have shown they can execute.
“Tao can really shoot the basketball,” Walters said. “We have to script some things for him because he’s proven to me he can make those shots. We have to script some pop situations for Frank Rogers. Last year I didn’t feel like we should do that because I didn’t think we had the guy that could pick and pop and really make shots out there.”
Height, however, does not necessarily equal bulk, and both Walters and Doolin said rebounding will be key to the Dons’ success this season.
“We’ve got shooters,” Doolin said. “We’ve got guys that can post up, we’ve got guys that can take you off the dribble, but we are not very wide in the backside ... and we’re just going to have to learn how physical it is on this level.”
The Dons will find out just how physical it can be Friday, when they face a tough Stanford squad at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Their first home game will be Tuesday against Cal State East Bay.