Bulls getting a clearer picture of themselves

The identity of the USF men’s basketball team still remains a mystery. The Bulls learned little about themselves Friday in a 99-60 victory against Division II newcomer Nova Southeastern.

“We built team chemistry,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “We were unselfish, and we had the opportunity to gain some college experience for some young guys.”

The Bulls should get a much clearer picture in the mirror when they play Providence tonight. The Friars were a middling team a year ago, going 15-16, but were NCAA-bound at 21-10 in 2001.

The Nova game reaffirmed that Reggie Kohn will direct the offense, and Will McDonald will continue to be a presence in the post, offensively and defensively. Kohn put up 11 points and 11 assists Friday, while McDonald supplied 14 points and nine rebounds.

What the Bulls will be looking for is more production from forward Terrence Leather and guard Jimmy Baxter.

The lithe Leather muscled his way to 11 rebounds Friday, easily a career high. The 6-foot-9, 221-pounder out of Robinson High School also contributed nine points in 16 minutes.

As the most experienced forward off the bench, Leather is being counted on to anchor the USF reserves.

“I think Leather is huge,” Greenberg said. “He’s quick, long and active. Plus, he can guard a number of positions.”

Baxter has yet to clear the bar in his basketball career at USF, as his All-American status as a high jumper has completely overshadowed his performance on the court. The junior out of St. Petersburg’s Boca Ciega High School never found his role as Altron Jackson’s backup, but in his third career start vs. Nova, he fired off a career-high 18 points.

“I’m really pleased with Jimmy’s progress,” Greenberg said. “He’s letting it come to him and shooting the ball with confidence. He needs to help us rebound, but he’s playing with poise. It’s opportunity, maturity … there are a lot of factors why he’s where he’s at right now.”

Providence, too, is searching for its identity after losing starting point guard John Linehan. The diminutive Linehan controlled the Friars’ offense for four years and was the itch that couldn’t be scratched on defense, recording 4 1/2 steals per game.

Without last year’s leading scorer Abdul Mills, who is out with injury, the Friars took out Brown 83-64 Saturday.

Bullish sophomore Ryan Gomes led the way for Providence against Brown. The 6-foot-7, 238 pounder had 17 points in his 2002-03 debut after averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a freshman. The Friars also got 17 out of starters Maris Laksa and Tuuka Kotti.

“They have four returning starters, so they’re going to be pretty good,” Greenberg said. “Some people think they’ll be in the NCAAs.

“We’ll find out about our toughness. I think we’ll find out a lot about our team. And that’s why we play such a tough non-conference schedule.”