Although basketball season is a few months away, there is one lingering issue — whether junior center Russel Tchewa will be able to make his way back to USF.
After the season ended, the team was encouraged to visit their families during the offseason, especially after the complications that came with COVID-19.
With coach Brian Gregory’s support, Tchewa made his way back to Cameroon to care for his father and see his family.
Despite going home for a similar reason just the year before, Tchewa’s student visa hasn’t been approved yet, so he cannot return to the U.S.
USF is trying to get the process expedited, according to Gregory, but he said he hasn’t received any updates yet.
On Tuesday, Gregory spoke of the adversity the center has been facing since May while he has been stuck in Cameroon.
“The biggest thing is just it’s put him in a difficult situation academically, basketball-wise,” Gregory said. “My biggest concern is what’s happening for the young man right now.”
While the situation comes as frustrating for both the team and Tchewa himself, the 7-foot athlete has remained even-keel.
“I had a zoom meeting with him this morning,” Gregory said. “[Tchewa is] in good spirits surrounded by the 13 or 14 people that are living in the house he’s in right now.”
As the team awaits Tchewa’s return, they have taken an alternative approach to ensure they have a center prepared for the 2022-23 season. Freshman forward Dok Muordar has been training as a center in case Tchewa is unable to return in time.
Tchewa’s absence leaves worry for Gregory, as he is the expected starter come November, but Gregory said it is out of their control.
“There’s no issue regarding [Tchewa], that is pertaining to the flag or anything to our knowledge and the information we’ve received … we’re hopeful that as this process continues that it’s expedited,” he said.
State representatives, senators and governmental agencies are closely monitoring the situation.