Don of a New Era
Every off-season, the USF contingency is discussed among Dons fans. For the past three years, fans have slowly come to learn that the Walters era is moving in the right direction. Three years ago, fans were hoping for a great season but were reluctant to go “all in” after the loss of big man Moustapha Diarra. That particular team, lead by seniors Angelo Caloiaro and Rashad Green, played well enough to participate in a postseason tournament, the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). However with the end of contention in 2012, came the uncertainty of 2012-2013.
In addition to the loss of both seniors last year, there were six other transfers that Rex Walters had to replace. How can Dons fans forget the same overdrawn story line – “USF lost eight members of their team! USF needs to replace six transfers! What is going on at the Hilltop?” Those were the same questions posed prior to each game and mentioned in every preseason preview. But true Dons fans realized that, even with the losses of key players, the team actually improved with off season changes. An athletic, well balanced team could be built and the program could still be salvaged. As the rest of the WCC was prematurely counting their wins over the 2012-2013 Dons, USF was prepping for potential upsets. The eventual outcome was a finish in the middle of the WCC standings and an early loss in the WCC Tournament to the upstart LMU Lions.
Now things have changed.
It used to be only avid Dons fans that believed that USF was on the “up and up”. But with the early pre-season rankings, some members of the media are offering some well deserved respect towards the Dons. I’ve seen USF ranked as high as third in some rankings.
Last #WCC tweet 2 teams that can sneak up this year USD & USF keep an eye on them
— Sean Farnham (@SeanFarnham) November 6, 2013
The times are changing on the Hilltop. There is an opportunity to crack the top three in the WCC and make a stand. With the type of team Rex Walters has built, taking the number one spot is not unreasonable. It’s the Don of a New Era.
Previewing Opening Night
I’m not going to dance around it. The Dons open up the 2013-2014 season against a D-2 squad, the Notre Dame de Namur Argonauts from Belmont, CA. This may not necessarily the game that Dons fans want for opening night, but I believe it’s a game that the team needs. Thanks to a developing athletic department, Dons fans have become accustomed to exciting opening nights. Two years ago, the Dons opened the season with their very own multi-team event, the Hilltop Challenge. Last year, the Green & Gold opened up at a neutral site, Oracle Arena, versus the Stanford Cardinal. Even though the Dons lost both contests, opening night has always brought a sense of optimism and anticipation.
This year is no different.
Most schools line their schedule with a couple exhibitions before the regular season kicks off. Then, opening night is presented with the typical pomp and circumstance. In addition to exhibition games, there may be some secret scrimmages with other schools to help determine areas of improvement. This year, the Dons opted out of a typical home exhibition games and played two secret scrimmages. There were no public exhibition games, but the Dons are not opening their season with a big flashy game. Even though the fans may not have witnessed the action, there are some reports that the Dons did well in exhibition play:
Little birdie told me that Arizona State got handled in secret scrimmage this weekend by San Francisco.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) November 3, 2013
With most of last years squad intact, Friday’s game will primarily prepare the Green & Gold for this years upcoming challenges and story lines. I believe that Tollefsen, Glover, Dickerson, Doolin and Adams get the nod as starters for game one. The game will not be the typical opening night but will work well as an introduction for newcomers Matt Glover, Kruize Pinkins and Corey Hilliard. Matt Glover will finally make his Dons debut after transferring from Penn State. On multiple accounts, I have heard people mentions how gritty and tough Glover plays the game. His addition to the Dons defense will be key to a berth to the NCAA Tournament.
I will especially keep my eye on Tao Xu during this game simply because I want to see how he matches up against the Notre Dame de Namur’s big men. I believe Tao had a difficult time adjusting to the game last year and seemed to be physically unprepared. NDNU’s big men, Johnny Hutton and Korey Serna, should remind fans of how Tao looked last year. During the Hilltop HoopSFest, Tao visibly grew bigger and showed more confidence on the floor. I am hoping that Tao is aggressive and takes advantage of this game and gives himself some momentum going into the pair of games next week.
Corey Hilliard and Avry Holmes are two guards that I expect to also find plenty of minutes on Friday. Avry is a legitimate deep shooting threat for the Dons and will only improve as he completely heals from a knee injury sustained in high school. Hilliard is a transfer from junior college that can immediately make an impact in USF’s rotation.
Look for the Dons to hold back a bit and slowly ease into the game. I still expect to see Cody Doolin take charge of the offense with Cole Dickerson taking lead with the scoring. Once the game is reasonably determined, I expect to see a lot of minutes from Avry Holmes, Corey Hilliard and Tao Xu. Notre Dame de Namur’s last game was against D-3 school UC Merced. They played a flat first half and out endured Merced in the second half. This game should not be a nail biter.
Lastly, don’t let me take away the glitz and glamour of Opening Night. Dons fans truly have a significant milestone to celebrate. On November 7th, Cody Doolin will suit up for the 100th time as a San Francisco Don. Cody is a rare player who has started games at the collegiate level since his freshman year, I tip my hat to the guy – good job!
One for the Road
A new video from the USF Athletic Department.