Hilltop Hoops Fest to Kick Off Basketball Season for Rebuilding Dons

The men of USF’s most popular athletic program, NCAA Division I basketball, kicked off the 2012-2013 season with the opening of official workouts last Friday, Oct. 12. An inaugural celebration of the official start of basketball season will take place next Friday, Oct 19 at the Hilltop HoopSFest in War Memorial Gym at 7 p.m. All USF fans, students and community members alike, are invited are invited to the event, which will showcase the basketball program (both men’s and women’s) with a digital show, a 3-point contest and a dunk contest.

The Dons will face some new and difficult challenges this season, as they are faced with the task of replacing their top four scorers from last season, all of whom graduated or transferred away from the program. Forward Angelo Caloiaro, forward Perris Blackwell, guard Rashad Green and guard Michael Williams are the four starters who will not be returning to USF.

San Francisco finished 20-14 overall last season, and an even 8-8 in West Coast Conference play. Key returning players for the Dons are junior point guard Cody Doolin, who averaged 9.3 points in 34 starts last year, and junior forward Cole Dickerson, who averaged 7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds from off the bench last season. The Dons also return junior guard Dominique O’Connor (6.0 ppg) and Gavin Hoffman (1.1 ppg).

New faces for San Francisco include De’End Parker, a junior guard transfer from UCLA, and freshmen forward Matt Christiansen (6-9, 235; Oklahoma City/Bishop McGuinness HS), guard Joe Edmonds (6-5, 195; Bishop McGuinness HS), guard Tim Derksen (6-3, 185; Tucson, Ariz./Amphitheater HS), guard Coltin Gelb (6-3, 170; Boca Raton, Fla./Spanish River HS), guard Avry Holmes (6-2, 170; Salem, Ore./North Salem HS), center Tao Xu (6-11, 260;  Qingdao City, China/Haverford School).

Parker, a graduate of San Francisco’s Lincoln High School, played his first two years of collegiate basketball at City College of San Francisco. During his tenure with the Rams, CCSF had a 60-6 record and won a state championship in the 2010-11 season.

“De’End is a guy that obviously has played at a high level, won a state championship with City College of San Francisco,” head coach Rex Walters said, according to usfdons.com. “He gives us great size at the three position, but then also plays the two and can guard the ones. I think he can be a great one for us. I love his athleticism; love his unselfishness and passing ability.”

At 6-11, 260 lb., the 19-year-old Xu of Quingao City, China is the former center for the U-19 Chinese national team. He came to the U.S. last fall to play his senior season at the Haverford School, an all-boys college preparatory high school in Pennsylvania. He averaged 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds for the Fords.

“He’s a really talented basketball player. I haven’t coached a guy with his size and skill set, so this will be a unique thing for me,” Walters said. “He brings a lot to the table and once he gets used to playing Division I basketball, I think he has a chance to be a really good player.”

USF fans can see the changes in this year’s lineup for themselves at the Dons’ exhibition game against San Francisco State on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at War Memorial Gym. The regular season will begin on Nov. 5 against North Carolina-Pembroke at 7 p.m., also in War Memorial Gym. The following game for the Dons will take place at Oracle Arena in Oakland against Stanford University at 8 p.m.

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