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Hoops team eyes boost from depth
By GREG AUMAN
Published October 11, 2006
TAMPA - Crazy as it seems, a little less Jessica Dickson might actually mean more for USF this season.
With practice starting Friday for her senior season, Dickson leads a women's basketball team that will boast considerably more depth than in her previous three seasons.
After tying for the Big East lead by playing 39.19 minutes per game last season, she's looking forward to catching her breath more often, which isn't good news for Bulls opponents.
"Maybe I'll be able to get a little rest," said Dickson, who led the nation in scoring for much of last season, eventually finishing third at 22 points per game. "That rest will definitely help me in the end."
The end, and where that might be, is an exciting thought for Dickson. When she came to USF three years ago, the Bulls had never played a postseason game. She has led them step by step, making the Women's NIT as a freshman, winning a game there as a sophomore, then making their NCAA Tournament debut last season. This year could bring a much bigger step forward.
"Coach Jose Fernandez said there's no reason we shouldn't be a Sweet 16 team with the talent and the depth we have," Dickson said. "Our expectations are very high: winning the Big East, going back to the NCAA Tournament and making it out of the first round."
Dickson, a contender for Big East Player of the Year honors, headlines a returning cast that includes sophomore guard Shantia Grace and senior center Nalini Miller. The Bulls will unveil a prized freshman class led by 6-foot-5 center Stephanie Sarosi, joined by forwards Porche Grant and Melissa Dalembert, who add size at 6-2 and 6-3, respectively.
"We have post play now, which is what we were lacking," Dickson said. "If Nalini gets in foul trouble, you have Sarosi, and vice versa. You have Porche, who's a very aggressive rebounder, and Melissa and Caitlyn (Mitryck) for a lot of depth."
Dickson and the Bulls open their season Nov. 10 at home against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
STILL OUT: Robert McCullum's men's basketball squad will open practice this weekend without redshirt freshman Zaronn Cann, who has yet to be cleared as he recovers from the knee surgery in December that limited him to 28 minutes last season.
RIVALRY: Saturday's football game at North Carolina should bring back memories for USF running backs coach Carl Franks, who was head coach at rival Duke from 1999-2003.
Franks, a native of nearby Garner, N.C., went 0-4 against Carolina as head coach, but as a senior at Duke in 1982, he caught the winning touchdown in a 23-17 victory. He also went 3-0 against UNC as a Duke assistant under Steve Spurrier, including a 41-0 win that clinched a share of the 1989 ACC title for the Blue Devils.
BIG CROWD: George Kiefer's men's soccer team is hoping for a strong turnout for Thursday's 8 p.m. home game against Stetson, which will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.
With three matches left in conference play, USF is tied for second in the Big East's Red Division after a scoreless tie Saturday with first-place Cincinnati.
Bulls star Rodrigo Hidalgo will return to the Bulls after four days at camp with the U.S. under-20 national team, joining Freddy Adu for a closed match with the Haiti under-23 team today.
THIS AND THAT: A group of USF boosters making the trip to North Carolina this weekend will golf at the No. 2 course at Pinehurst, most recently the home of the 2005 U.S. Open. ... The men's basketball team's trip to Winston-Salem State isn't the only odd road game in the Big East. Georgetown has a game at Fairfield, St. John's plays at Niagara and Villanova plays at Division II Northwood University in West Palm Beach, where Wildcats legend Rollie Massimino is now coach. ... A poll on USF's official site, gousfbulls.com, asks fans which remaining road game will be toughest for USF. Saturday's game at UNC got just 5 percent of the vote and next week's game at Cincinnati got 1 percent. No disrespect against those two squads, but it's hard to consider either as challenging as November trips to No. 7 Louisville (30 percent) and No. 5 West Virginia (63 percent).
Greg Auman covers USF for the Times. He can be reached at (813) 226-3346 and at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.