USF forward Mayan Kiir entered the game with 11:49 left in the first half. Shortly after he took the court, Kiir lost his right shoe and played for almost a minute with just one shoe on.
That was the second unexpected thing that happened to Kiir in USF’s 80-52 win against the University of Tampa in Tuesday’s exhibition game at the Yuengling Center.
Just three hours before tipoff, it was announced that Kiir was cleared by the NCAA to play immediately — before the announcement, Kiir was prepared to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules. Kiir was a freshman who played in eight games for LSU last season.
“You try to do right by the student athletes,” coach Brian Gregory said. “You keep fighting the good fight and sometimes you win it.”
Gregory made the announcement at the end of the team’s pregame meal where Kiir’s teammates immediately crowded around him and took him out of the room. Gregory said both LSU and the NCAA were helpful in the process of getting Kiir back on the court.
Kiir had already missed a week of practice leading up to the game on concussion protocol and was cleared in the morning to start practicing with the team again. His NCAA waiver was the cherry on top Tuesday.
“When you talk about student welfare and what’s best for the student athlete, this was what was best for [Kiir],” Gregory said. “I think it’s very good for us. Also, it puts him in a position where now there’s more of a laser-focus on this year and I think he’s going to help us.”
Kiir ended up playing just seven minutes, but racked up four points, four rebounds and a block. Leading the charge for USF, however, were Justin Brown and T.J. Lang, who scored 15 points each.
Brown had six rebounds and one assist and Lang had four rebounds and three assists.
Even though the game was just an exhibition, Gregory and the Bulls were excited to be playing against a different team in Tampa.
“One of the biggest challenges we have in this program is the daily discipline we need to live by,” Gregory said. “You’re trying to build our culture and that doesn’t happen overnight, that takes time and that’s the hardest thing to try to build. If it was easy, everybody would have an elite program.”