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Forward Aris Williams returns home to evaluate knee, season return unknown

Forward Aris Williams left the Bulls and returned to his home in Maryland late last week to get a second opinion on his injured knee.

Williams averaged 3.5 points and 17.6 minutes per game, while playing in 10 games and making two starts.

Williams hasn’t played since USF’s 82-49 win against Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 31, and coach Robert McCullum said he won’t know if Williams will play again this season until the results of his diagnostic test comes in.

“He’s having a diagnosis on his knee, and they asked that medical information not be released, so we can’t talk about it,” McCullum said after practice Monday.

Howard makes first start: Four days after making his USF debut in the loss to Louisville, point guard Chris Howard made his first collegiate start Sunday in the Bulls’ 74-59 win against Cincinnati at the Sun Dome.

McCullum said last week he’d be happy if Howard was able to play 20 minutes per game the rest of the season, but with no restrictions from his doctor, Howard played 32 minutes as USF moved out of last place in the Big East.

“We actually played him more minutes today that we really wanted to, but as I say that, we don’t sit over there with a counter,” McCullum said after the game. “We just try and gauge it, but his presence was obvious, and I think he’ll build on each experience.”

Howard scored eight points and added 10 assists while the Bulls won their second Big East game in 20 tries.

“I was cramping out there, and I told (McCullum) I was feeling it a little bit, but it was a heart check,” Howard said. “He played me as much as he needs to play me. I’m not going to cry about time. As long as I’m out on the floor, I have to do what I have to do.”

Injury update: USF’s bench has been depleted all season due to injuries, and on Sunday, forward Melvyn Richardson (foot) became the seventh Bull this season to be held out of a game. Richardson will be out for USF’s game at West Virginia on Wednesday.

Senior guard Chris Capko (ankle), who has missed the past eight games, is questionable for Wednesday.

Verdejo to return: After starting nine straight games, guard Jesus Verdejo was benched Sunday for what McCullum called a “coach’s decision.”

McCullum said Monday that he expects Verdejo to play Wednesday, but he wouldn’t say if he’ll start.