The men at USF wearing white shirts during basketball practice receive many things, but enough credit is not one of them.
When the Bulls run drills, scrimmage or work on sets in practice, they break up into two squads, one team in green jerseys and one in white. The green team is easily recognizable; statistical staples such as Bradley Mosley and Jimmy Baxter fill its ranks. The white team, while displaying some everyday Bulls, mainly consists of unknown players relegated to the bench because of youth, such as freshman Konimba Diarra.
The ensemble of sixth men, bench players and walk-ons practice every day with the Bulls, watch films of opposing teams and have the same assistance, such as study halls and tutors. However, some will never step on the court decked out in green and gold.
Walk-ons provide the Bulls and other teams around the country with extra manpower to keep the first squad on their toes or fresh for the next game.
“All of them play an extremely valuable role in terms of helping us in practice, and helping us prepare for our opponent,” USF coach Robert McCullum said. “They do a lot of work to help keep some of the guys who are going to log the most minutes, to help keep some of those guys fresher.”
How do you become a walk-on you might ask? Well, there are several types. One is a player that didn’t receive a scholarship out of high school and went through a tryout to work on the practice squad with the hopes of one day impressing the coaching staff enough to dress.
“I just want to dress,” freshman walk-on Brandyn Flowers said. “But I’m all right so far. I’m just going to keep working hard.”
Another type of walk-on that the Bulls are working with is a player that is waiting to receive his eligibility.
USF’s newest player, Chris Capko, is decked in a white practice jersey while he awaits his eligibility next year because of his transfer from Florida.
Capko, a freshman point guard, practiced with the Bulls for the first time Wednesday.
“He understands the game,” Mc
Cullum said after the two mutually agreed he would come to USF. “He came out of a very good high school program, Lakeland Kathleen, and he will be a fine addition to our program.”
Capko left the Gators in search of more playing time after seeing action in 13 games this season.
“At Florida, it just wasn’t going to happen,” said Capko. “(UF coach Billy Donovan) brings in so many people.”
The amount of people Donovan and McCullum bring in to walk-on over their allotted 13 scholarships help to get the job done.
“The maximum number of scholarships you can have is 13,” McCullum said. “So most people will have two, three, four or five walk-ons.”
The practice squad pays close attention to the films because what they see they mimic during scrimmages, so the Bulls have a sense of what they will be up against during the game.
This past week, the Bulls practice team worked on pushing the ball up the floor and a press defense to simulate No. 14 Louisville, who the Bulls host Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We know it’s a big game; we’re just trying to pressure them,” Flowers said. “Coach will give us Louisville’s offensive sets, and we’ll run through them, have (the team) play defensive on us. We’ll run Louisville’s full court press, and have them try to break that press.”
While USF’s practice opposition may mimic the Cardinals this week, they do not give a true representation of what the Bulls will face.
“You can’t,” McCullum said. “It’s hard to simulate. We just get them to run the plays. We can’t simulate in terms of talent and athleticism.
“So, you’re not really getting a true picture of how well Louisville is going to execute it. Basically we just try and get them familiar with what they might do on both ends of the floor.”
The Bulls have had the practice and seen the other team. Now it’s time to face one of the nation’s top teams.
Not only will the Bulls be facing the best team they have seen this season, but also McCullum will be competing in Conference USA for the first time in his career; however, there are no signs of nervousness.
“The basketball is the same size, the floor is 84 feet, and the basket is ten feet high,” McCullum said. “There is no difference.”