Speed making most of minutes

Before the Bulls’ 54-50 loss Wednesday at No. 12 Georgetown, senior Allyson Speed was unsure of what career path to take after graduation.

But when the 5-foot-9 guard broke out for a career-high 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting against one of the nation’s elite teams, she realized a future in basketball could be a possibility.

“(The 20 point game) was huge for me, personally, because it showed that I can play well against some of the best competition in the country,” she said. “It’s a big confidence boost for me trying to play at the next level.”

Speed’s journey toward her career’s most memorable performance was full of uncertainty, as she rarely got playing time in her first season and a half with the Bulls and missed nine games this year with a knee injury.

After graduating from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Speed attended Central Florida Community College to boost her grades and gain experience at the junior college level.

Speed was first-team all-Mid-Florida Conference after her sophomore season, scoring 17.1 points, three assists and 2.3 steals per game.

She saw limited action in 27 games last season for a Bulls team that won the WNIT championship.

“(Speed) didn’t play a lot last year because we were so deep at the guard position,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez. “We had two experienced seniors who led the team to 27 victories, but Speed was a solid player off the bench who really helped us.”

Speed averaged just 1.8 points in 8.3 minutes per game last season, playing behind senior guards Shantia Grace and Jazmine Sepulveda, who averaged 14.9 and 11.9 points, respetively. Then-junior guard Janae Stokes’ strong perimeter play also kept Speed from seeing action, as she averaged 12.6 points and led the team with 116 3-pointers.

Speed got off to a slow start this season – averaging 1.8 points in nine minutes per game – before missing USF’s first nine Big East contests with a knee injury.

Speed, who goes by the nickname ‘Cat,’ got her opportunity when Stokes, Sequoyah Griffin and Dominique English were suspended indefinitely Feb. 13 for violating team rules.

The Bulls have also been without starting point guard Jasmine Wynne, who tore her ACL against Pittsburgh on Jan. 20.

Speed seized her opportunity as she started and scored eight points in the Bulls’ 53-38 victory at Seton Hall on Feb. 13 before her career night at Georgetown just four days later. The 20 points broke her previous career high of nine against Jackson State on Dec. 28, 2008.

“(Speed) scoring 20 points against Georgetown is a testament to her and the effort she puts in day in and day out,” Fernandez said.

Speed scored five points in Saturday’s loss to No. 8 West Virginia. The senior said even though the Bulls are shorthanded, they are still gaining valuable experience.

“We’ve battled through a lot of adversity this season and are stronger and better people for it,” she said. “I think we’re closer, more focused and more motivated. We’re going to have a strong finish to this season.”

The Bulls (14-12, 5-8) have three regular-season games remaining, and Speed will try to help USF get back into the win column when it faces Providence (15-11, 6-7) tonight at 7 in the Sun Dome.

No matter how this season ends, though, Speed said she’s learned a lot in her two years at USF and has perhaps found a new career path.

“Ideally, I’d like to play overseas,” she said. “If that doesn’t work out, I want to come back to USF and get a degree in physical therapy. From there, I could pursue sports management or take my criminology degree and become a probation officer for juveniles because I love working with kids.”