Just when you thought it couldn’t get any tougher to be a USF Bulls men’s basketball fan … the off-season arrived.
The school announced on Tuesday that American Conference All-Rookie team selection, freshman John Egbunu, was transferring. Egbunu was the prize piece in the 2013 recruiting class – considered by some as the best freshman class in USF history. A Top 10 center, and a Top 60 player overall, he showed flashes of brilliance throughout his only season with the Bulls. Egbunu was far from a polished product offensively, but he got better as the year wore on. Defensively, he was a shot-blocker and shot-changer. He was exactly what the Bulls needed – and would need in the future. Plus, he made up half of a dynamic freshman duo when coupled with another All-Rookie pick, Bartow’s Chris Perry.
If John Egbunu was the only personnel casualty for new head coach Orlando Antigua, the Bulls would likely still be alright. But he’s not. In fact, he becomes the fifth underclassman to announce he won’t return for the 2014-15 season. Freshman backup point guard Josh Heath (the son of fired head coach Stan Heath), sophomores JaVonte Hawkins and Zach LeDay and junior shooting guard Musa Abdul-Aleem are now all looking for a new home. Abdul-Aleem probably wasn’t going to be back next season, but the others were going to be counted on as experienced bench players.
Stan Heath followed up the greatest season in USF history (’11-12) with back-to-back losing seasons. In a year or two he would have had the Bulls back in the NCAA Tournament. But the fans and school administration couldn’t wait that long – and there was a strong argument that they shouldn’t have had to. But, by dumping Heath, it’s no surprise that his players are leaving in droves too. It was the ultimate “be careful what you wish for.”
This job was going to be tough enough for Orlando Antigua. To do with now with only seven returning players (plus two incoming freshmen) is even tougher. I’m preaching patience, yet again, for USF basketball fans.