TAMPA, Fla. — When one thinks of basketball power programs, one name that doesn’t jump out is the South Florida Bulls.
Over the past few years, the Bulls have finished in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference standings, and have been riddled by transfers. During the 2016-17 season, leading scorer Jahmal McMurray transferred despite playing in just three games.
He was averaging over 20 points per contest over those three games.
Then, this off-season, Mike Bibby Jr. announced he was transferring from the program. Add that to the list of things going against the Bulls next season.
However, there have been plenty of things to be excited about as next season slowly approaches. The addition of three transfers, all of whom are immediately eligible in 2017-18 as graduate transfers, have the Bulls trending in the right direction.
All three players will play significant roles next season with the Bulls, and provide significant depth at all three spots.
The additions of Stephan Jiggetts, Terrence Samuel, and Payton Banks have South Florida fans looking forward to next season. While the roster will look vastly different than it did a year ago, the talent level has arguably increased.
Jiggetts, a 6’1” guard from Forestville, Maryland, transferred to the Bulls after three seasons with the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, He helped lead the program to the NCAA Tournament back in 2016, and a tie for fifth place in the Northeast Conference this past year.
As a junior, Jiggetts averaged 13.5 points and 4.2 assists per game. He adds a nice scoring punch from the point guard spot, while also facilitating the offense and controlling things on the back end. In each of his three seasons in the NCAA, he has improved his point per game and assist per game averages, while also improving his field goal and free throw percentages.
In Jiggetts, the Bulls get a point guard who can lead the offense, while also chipping in offensively in his own right.
Along with Jiggetts, the Bulls welcome the 6’3” Samuel to the back court. Predominately a scoring guard, Samuel was used sparingly during his one year with the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Bulls will mark his third team in college, as he played two seasons with the Connecticut Huskies prior to transferring to Penn State.
Last season, Samuel averaged 16.7 minutes per contest, and a mere 3.9 points per game. Against the Colgate Raiders on November 23rd, Samuel went for 16 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 23 minutes of action, providing fans with a glimpse of what he can offer on the hardwood.
At 6’3” and 208 pounds, he brings size to the back court for South Florida. The potential is there for him to be an impact player for the Bulls in 2017-18, but he needs to work at his game and prove to the coaches that he is deserving of more playing time.
Rounding out their trio of graduate transfers is 6’6” forward Payton Banks. A teammate of Samuel last season at Penn State, Banks played a more significant role with the Nittany Lions.
He finished fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.4 points per contest in just under 27 minutes of action per night.
The biggest area of concern surrounding Banks is his ability to rebound. Despite standing at 6’6” and weighing 223 pounds, he only averaged 2.2 rebounds per contest, down more than two rebounds per game from the year before. Look for Banks to become more of a factor on the boards in his final year of collegiate basketball.
While they may not be the biggest names on the transfer market, South Florida definitely improved their roster, and addressed three areas of need for next season. The fact that all three are eligible immediately is a big boost for the program as they look to move up in the standings and contend in the American Athletic Conference next season.
– T. Bennett