Oracle insight: Jones highlighted 2009-10

Last week, The Oracle launched a two-part series, counting down USF’s top 10 athletes for the 2009-10 season. Today, the list concludes with Nos. 1-5.

5) Marcela Gurgel, volleyball outside hitter

The Big East Preseason Player of the Year, Gurgel lived up to expectations in her senior season, leading the Bulls to an 18-10 record while compiling all-Big East first team honors for the fourth consecutive season. Gurgel, an outside hitter from Brazil, ranked second in conference play with 4.16 kills per set and third in points with 4.70. She also climbed to near the top of USF record books in kills, aces and digs. Gurgel’s 1,801 career kills rank second all-time, her 219 aces fourth and her 1,079 digs ninth.

4) Nate Allen, football safety

Allen was Mr. Consistency as a Bull, and he capped off his USF career with a senior season that was his best. Allen, who started every game from his sophomore to senior seasons, earned himself first team all-Big East honors in 2009, as voted by ESPN, after amassing a team-high four interceptions while ranking second on USF with 85 tackles. His two-interception performance against Syracuse earned him Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors. He also had four pass breakups and returned a blocked field goal 75 yards for a touchdown against Charleston Southern last season. Allen’s improvement was rewarded when he was selected in the second round (37th overall) of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in April.

3) Andrew Barbosa, baseball starting pitcher

Barbosa wasn’t even in USF’s plans until the 6-foot-8 left-hander walked into USF pitching coach Lazer Collazo’s office before the season and asked to try out. The rest was history, as Barbosa not only proved to be the Bulls’ top pitcher last season, but also the conference’s best, leading the Big East in ERA (2.40), strikeouts per nine innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Barbosa, who went 8-2, held opposing hitters to a .228 average (ranked second in the conference) and was a bright spot for the Bulls in a disappointing season. Barbosa was already drafted twice (2006 – 15th round, 466 overall by San Francisco Giants; 2007 – 48th round, 1,399 overall by Giants) and expects to be selected for a third time as the MLB draft begins today.

2) Jason Pierre-Paul, football defensive end

Pierre-Paul made the most of his time at USF, going from a junior college standout to an NFL-caliber player in a season’s worth of work at the Division I level. Pierre-Paul, who hadn’t started playing football until his junior year in high school, was one of the nation’s most formidable pass rushers last season, accumulating 45 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks, which earned him all-Big East first team honors by most media outlets. He may have had the best game for a USF defender last season in the Bulls’ 17-7 win at FSU, when he racked up three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and two quarterback hurries in arguably the biggest win in program history. Recently, Pierre-Paul became USF’s highest draft pick ever when he was selected 15th overall by the New York Giants in the first round of April’s NFL draft.

1) Dominique Jones, basketball guard

Jones took USF to unprecedented territory last season, leading the Bulls to their first postseason appearance since 2001-02. One of the top players in all of college basketball, Jones led USF to wins at then-No. 7 Georgetown and against then-No. 17 Pittsburgh while the Bulls nearly made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1992. Jones was the main reason why, ranking as the only player in the nation to average at least 21 points, six rebounds and three assists per game. Jones, who started all 33 games, had point totals of 46, 37, 30, 29, 28 (twice), 27 and 26 (twice), becoming just the second player in USF history to score more than 700 points and average more than 20 points per game in a single season. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is expected be picked in the late first to early second round in this month’s NBA draft.