Not Don Yet

Under new basketball coach Jessie Evans, USF quickly exits the NIT. But it looks like there's more -- and better -- to come.

Evans was seen as the kind of recruiter who could attract talent to a small school and take the Dons to the next level in college basketball. In his first year at USF, his team played an exciting style of run-and-gun basketball that created a buzz among college basketball fans in the Bay Area.

"During the season, season ticket sales were up 20 percent from last year," USF Athletic Director Hogan says. "The up-and-down-style of play is fun to watch for fans, and it is a style that will attract top talent. We are already in a top league, and we want to get back on top."

But the glory days didn't return immediately. The Dons had a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs this year, going on a seven-game winning streak at one point, but also getting pounded by 44 points by Bobby Knight's Texas Tech. They lost several games they should have won and came in fifth place in league play.

"We had some peaks and valleys this year as a team," Evans said. "We beat some really good teams. But we had some injuries that hurt us. Had we not had those injuries, we could have been better."

Evans believes the Dons' NIT appearance has already bolstered USF basketball. "Getting to the NIT puts a stamp on our program," said Evans. "It lets people know that, hey, we are good. This win will help in recruiting better players to come and play for USF."

Evans joined the Dons late in the recruiting season and has not had time to bring in the a full complement of recruits who can play his system. Just the same, the Dons clearly are looking for more than the NIT next year.

Among the returning players are sophomores Alan Wiggins, a lanky 6-foot-9-inch forward who is an active rebounder, and Jerome Gumbs, an unselfish 6-foot-4-inch guard.

Armondo Surratt, an all world point guard from Oakland, transferred from the University of Miami at the start of the year. He had to sit out this year, but will be able to play in the fall. Evans also signed Danny Cavic, a 6-foot-6-inch forward from Santa Ana Junior College; Drew Shiller, a heady, 6-foot point guard from Burlingame High; and James Morgan, a 6-foot-9-inch power forward from Seattle, Wash.

"Evans has signed some solid players, which will give them some of the stuff they need to build USF's program," says Gerry Frietas of Hoop Review, a scouting service that rates college basketball prospects. "Shiller and Cavic will provide much-needed shooting, which will be a shot in the arm for the program, while Surratt has a chance to be a real impact player in that conference.

"I think they are on the right track."

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