Over the past few years, Gonzaga fans have grown incredibly wary over the number and frequency of transfers from the program. Well, all things are relative as conference foe San Francisco clearly displayed this offseason. A couple weeks after completing a 20-win season and losing in the first round of the CBI Tournament, it was announced that six players would be transferring away from USF. The story quickly became national headlines and everyone started the countdown clock on the day head coach Rex Walters would be shown his walking papers. As we gear up for the start of the 2012-13 season, it goes without saying that Walters will need to put forth his best coaching effort to make the Dons respectable this coming season.
Prior to delving into the background of the numerous newcomers for USF, let's take a quick look at how the Dons performed last season. As I wrote in the intro, USF had a pretty darn good year in 2011-12. Finishing with a 20-13 regular season record, San Francisco was one of the surprises out west. While the twenty win was impressive on the surface, the only true quality win we can point to was against...you guessed it, Gonzaga. The Dons took down the Zags for the third straight season in War Memorial on a last second Rashad Green leaner. While it was arguably their only quality win, it was enough to give the Dons a chance at the postseason in the CBI. They would eventually lose to Washington State in the opening round.
Now comes the time to discuss the current status of the program. Let me preface this by saying that previewing San Francisco is potentially one of the most difficult tasks I've ever had while running this site. There is no way to anticipate how this team is going to gel over the season and replace such an extensive amount of lost talent. The Dons lost their four leading scorers from a season ago - two to graduation and two to transfer. Each of the four averaged double digit points per game. Perris Blackwell (13 PPG, 6 RPG) and Michael Williams (11 PPG) were the two major transfers from the Dons. Blackwell was expected to be an All-WCC performer this season but, instead, he will finish his collegiate career at (freaking) Washington.
To make up for the departed players, Walters will be welcoming six true freshmen, a junior college transfer, and a D1 transfer. Unfortunately for the Dons, Matt Glover, a Penn State transfer was denied his request to play immediately after transferring closer to home. Glover, a 6'5'' guard, would have been an immediate contributor for the Dons but is now forced to sit out this season. While Glover received bad news, fellow D-1 transfer De'End Parker was granted immediate eligibility at USF this season. Parker, who came home to take care of his ailing mother, was formerly at UCLA and is expected to start right away for Rex Walters. De'End was one of the most promising junior college players in the 2011 class but injured his knee after two games with UCLA. After returning home during a break, Parker decided he needed to be close to his mother in San Francisco. Parker has the potential to be a top guard in the WCC next season if he can play up to the level he was at prior to his injury. While Parker will see some time at point for Walters, expect him to play off the ball alongside Cody Doolin.
Along with Parker, Walters will be relying on junior college transfer Frank Rogers and several true freshmen to come in and make an impact. Rogers will be leaned on heavily as the departure of Perris Blackwell and the graduation of other USF post players has left that position truly decimated. Rogers is a guy that Walters likes and, if nothing else, his experience in junior college will provide at least some leadership to such a young core of players. Rex will also likely be relying on true freshman forward Matt Christiansen to step up this season. Christiansen received plenty of interest from schools across the country but the Dons were the only ones to come through with an offer for the Oklahoma City forward. Look for Christiansen's high school teammate Joe Edmonds and small forward Tim Derksen to also to play a role for USF this season.
It is hard to look at USF's prospects in 2012-13 without apprehension. There hasn't been a team in the WCC with this many unknowns in quite some time. Their nonconference slate features Stanford, St. John's, Nevada, and San Diego State. With the rest of the bottom half of the West Coast Conference improving, it is hard to project a win total for the Dons but if they can avoid a Santa Clara-like performance (0-for in conference), I think it will be a positive. As Walters has pointed out in a number of interviews, the talent is there for the Dons and they actually will have a very solid backcourt once the team gels but it all depends on how long that takes. Without a doubt, USF will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the season in the conference and, hopefully for Gonzaga fans, we can finally go into War Memorial and get a win.