USF big men showing progress

Junior Jaleel Cousins scored nine points in the Bulls’ loss to Tulsa. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Coach Orlando Antigua’s face lit up at Tuesday’s open practice when talking about the potential of centers Ruben Guerrero and Jaleel Cousins.

The two big men haven’t had the smoothest transitions into Division I basketball, with Guerrero injuring his hamstring in the preseason and Cousins struggling with foul trouble and shooting.

But despite the early-season obstacles, Antigua said he thinks the two newcomers have the potential to take on a much larger role. 

“I visualize it all the time,” Antigua said. “I think there may be some moments when we can try to utilize both of those guys in our version of a twin towers.”

But while Antigua is hopeful for the future, he’s also aware that the centers still have to further develop parts of their game. For example, Guerrero must learn to leave his ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ personality off the court. 

“I think for Ruben, it’s getting him to understand that it’s OK to be aggressive and assertive,” Antigua said. “He’s such a nice kid that he’s always looking to be a part of the team. No, impose your will. That’s what we have to teach him.”

Guerrero said he is doing his best to be meaner on the court and that transition is being made easier by the freshman’s growing confidence. 

“At the beginning, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know how the game was,” Guerrero said. “Just by playing and practicing with my teammates, playing more and more games, seeing that coach trusts me by giving me more minutes, I think that’s helped me a lot.”

Guerrero played only nine minutes in his season debut against Hofstra, but is now averaging 21.4 minutes per game. 

Cousins, on the other hand, has seen his playing time decrease over the season. The junior has the fourth-most fouls committed on the team, but has only averaged 10.4 minutes per game. 

But despite Cousins’ trouble with adjusting to a new level of basketball, Antigua said he saw what he’s been looking for in the match against Tulsa on Saturday. 

“It’s still a process for both him and us as we try to find ways to get him to continue to compete,” Antigua said. “What he did in that game against Tulsa was that he was active, engaged and physical. He got us some rebounds and made some plays and I was happy for him because he’s worked extremely hard.”

Cousins finished the game with nine points and three rebounds in 14 minutes for the Bulls in a 75-58 loss. 

Two more Bulls drafted

Nikola Paunic and Lucas Baldin are joining former teammate Wesley Charpie in the MLS for the upcoming season. 

Toronto FC selected Charpie in the second round with the 29th overall pick Thursday. 

Paunic and Baldin were both drafted in the fourth round Tuesday, with Paunic going to the Vancouver Whitecaps and Baldin going to Real Salt Lake. 

Baldin started in all 20 games for the Bulls this season and tied for the AAC lead with nine assists. 

Paunic played in all but one game for USF this season and was chosen for the AAC All-Tournament team.