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Heath brings in new faces

The 2007 men’s basketball season began as one of change. In April, Stan Heath was introduced as the new coach of a team that had won only four conference games in two seasons with the Big East.

The Bulls started the season well, going 9-4. USF, however, struggled with a lack of size and reserves and went 3-15 in Big East play.

After a 12-19 season, Heath began to work. He has been recruiting new players, and so far nine new recruits will be joining the five Bulls returning from last year’s team.

While on a trip in Cincinnati, Heath took time away from recruiting to talk to the Oracle about his hopes for his sophomore season at USF.

Oracle: There are a lot of new faces joining the team this year. How well would you say your recruiting efforts have gone this summer?Stan Heath: I think we’ve gotten off to a good start. I think we’re trying to lock in two more players in this class. If we can get the right guys, then I think we can feel really good about where we are.

O: There aren’t a lot of players remaining from last season’s team. How much of an impact do you expect these incoming freshmen to have on the team this year?SH: I’m expecting them to have a huge impact. We need that. We struggled with our depth last year. We struggled with our size last year. We wanted to improve some areas in our defense, as well as our guard play. I feel like we’ve addressed some of those things, but I feel like we may be one more missing piece away, but hopefully somebody will develop and emerge into that role.

O: This year’s team is pretty young. Last season, Dominique Jones really stepped up as a freshman. What type of role do you expect him to have not only on the court, but also as a team leader?SH: I would like to see Dominique step up into more of a leadership role and be a guy who is counted on every game to produce at a high level. He is maturing in a lot of ways and so far he is having an outstanding summer. He and his teammates are working the weight room and conditioning and are doing a lot of impressive work on their own.

O: The Big East schedule came out recently, and USF looks like it has what is arguably the most difficult schedule in the conference. What did you think about it when you saw it?SH: You know, probably everybody is going to think their schedule is difficult, but I think I have a very, very strong argument when I look at ours. But, it is what it is, and we are definitely going to use that as a fuel to prepare ourselves well for the Big East. We feel like we have the chance to be a better basketball team and we feel like we can improve some areas that, down the stretch, we weren’t able to do. We’re optimistic, and we understand the challenge that’s in front of us.

O: You also have a non-conference schedule that features two teams that made a postseason tournament last year. Do you feel that tough schedule will help prepare the young guys for the Big East?SH: I definitely think so. We are young in the level of our grades, but we have freshmen that are 19 or 20 years old, so young has to go in quotation marks. I do think that the schedule will help us in a lot of ways. Guys like (incoming freshman) Eladio Espinosa have played some of the most difficult schedules during prep school. He played at Hargrave (Military Academy), which was the No. 1 prep school in the country. Alex Rivas was a junior college player, so he comes in with some age. I’m hoping that these guys, even though they haven’t had a lot of experience college-wise, will be able to use their experiences in life to prepare them and help them get ready for when they step out onto the court.