Spring signing period begins

Though some of its top talent is departing, the time for the men’s basketball program to look toward the future is now.

Today marks the beginning of the early signing period – the first of two when players eligible for the 2010-11 season can sign on the dotted line.

The Bulls, with verbal commitments from five players in the 2010 recruiting class, expect three signings during the period.

USF’s most recent verbal, 6-foot-4 Jawanza Poland, who’s ranked as one of the top junior college players in the nation, is expected to sign a letter of intent today after giving his verbal commitment Monday.

All three players expected to sign are from the junior college ranks, with shooting guard Hugh Robertson, who’s ranked among the top five junior college guards, and point guard Shedrick Haynes joining Poland.

Center Waverly Austin, ranked a two-star recruit by rivals.com, and point guard LaVonte Dority, ranked three stars by Rivals, are also USF commits. Davante Gardner, a 6-foot-9 center from Virginia, is expected to choose between Marquette and USF.

USF loses all three starters from its backcourt, with seniors Mike Mercer and Chris Howard – who played significant roles last season – graduating and junior Dominique Jones saying he plans to enter the NBA draft.

USF, which made its first NIT appearance in nearly 10 years last season, returns just seven scholarship players, only three of which played meaningful minutes.

However, the Bulls return strong talent in the frontcourt, as center Jarrid Famous will be a senior, forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick will be a sophomore and forward Augustus Gilchrist will be a junior. Gilchrist and Famous combined to average 23.8 points per game last season.

Depth chart to be released today

USF coach Skip Holtz is expected to release USF’s second depth chart of spring football today after evaluating Saturday’s scrimmage.

Some of the players Holtz said he was impressed with were sophomore running back Demetris Murray and sophomore receiver Lindsey Lamar. Another position with some potential movement is linebacker, which Holtz said last week has some backups pushing the first teamers.

Today is USF’s last practice of the spring before Saturday’s spring game at Raymond James Stadium.

Baseball: Lockwood may miss more time

After missing the last four games, junior center fielder Ryan Lockwood may miss this weekend’s series at Rutgers, as he’s still recover from a knee injury, said coach Lelo Prado on his weekly U-stream update.

Redshirt freshman centerfielder Alex Mendez has filled in for Lockwood, hitting .294 in Big East games this season.

“I don’t know if he’ll play this upcoming weekend,” Prado said. “Mendez filled it and did a great job out there.”

Tennis falls to LSU in final regular-season match

USF dropped its last regular-season match of 2010 4-3 at LSU on Tuesday night.

Sophomores Wael Kilani and Yannick Yoshizawa won the No. 2 doubles spot, while sophomore Mark Oljaca won the No. 5 singles spot. Kilani and Yoshizawa also won singles matches.

Thoughts on Jones

Jones has received mixed reviews from scouting services after declaring for the NBA draft.

Probasketballtalk.com said this of Jones, who is expected to be taken anywhere from the late first to early second round:

“Slashing two guard who can get to the rim and finish. But, he has a questionable outside shot (31 percent from three this season) and there are doubts he is athletic enough for the Association. But he has an NBA body and will get a look from somebody. Everybody will take a chance on a scorer.”

Jones and USF received praise from ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who said that the Bulls had a “great stretch” in late January and early February, when they won four straight, including a road win against then-No. 8 Georgetown and a home win against then-No.18 Pittsburgh.

Vitale also said that Jones, who averaged 35 points per game during that stretch, was “brilliant” and “got great basketball publicity at the national level.”