14 Dec 2021 | 02:00 | Basketball
In limited doses, sophomore forward Jalyn McCreary has proven to be an effective player for the USF Bulls. A mid-range jumper here. A rebound there. Some juice off the bench. That included a pair of made 3-pointers, the first two of his college career.
For sure, it’s a small sample size. But McCreary, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound transfer from South Carolina, hopes his role will continue to expand.
“I have learned to be patient,” McCreary said.
And that goes beyond what he can offer to the Bulls (3-3), who face South Carolina State (1-7) on Friday night at the Yuengling Center.
In four games (he missed the first two due to a non-COVID illness), McCreary is averaging 3.5 points, 2.3 rebounds with seven blocked shots (while playing 13 minutes per game).McCreary story feature 2021 BB Marketing
He averaged 4.1 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Gamecocks as a freshman, setting the stage for what he felt would be a coming-out party in 2020-21. But that was the COVID season. He played in just 17 games (4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds), due to a concussion and COVID quarantine, then finally provided some coming attractions. He scored in double digits during each of South Carolina’s final three games.
Just when McCreary seemed to take a step forward, there was uncertainty at South Carolina. McCreary said he heard rumors about whether the coaching staff would return. He got nervous and headed for the transfer portal.
“BG (USF coach Brian Gregory) called the next day,” McCreary said. “I was excited.”
McCreary, a native of Marietta, Ga., visited USF out of high school. But he finished his career at Legacy Early College in Greenville, S.C., where he averaged 18 points per game for a 34-5 team that was ranked 25th nationally. The offer from South Carolina — and the chance to play in the SEC — was irresistible.
After two seasons, though, McCreary said he felt he was destined for something different. USF hit all the right chords.
“We’ve known about him because he came on a visit here (out of high school),” Gregory said. “I think he’s a junkyard dog style of player. He’s strong and has a good knack of scoring around the basket. He’s getting better from the perimeter and we need him to rebound at a higher clip.
“His last three games at South Carolina, he came on strong. That was a nice flash of potential. We think he’s going to be a very effective, efficient player for us.”
McCreary said he’s eager to prove himself after what he described as a “lost season” at South Carolina.
“I knew I had COVID before I tested positive,” McCreary said. “My smell was going away. My taste buds were gone. I had a headache and a body ache. There was a week when I basically couldn’t do anything.”
“When I got out of the quarantine, I was trying to run up and down the court. It was like I couldn’t breathe. My mom convinced me to get the vaccine. You know how it is. Social media makes it seem 10 times worse than it is. You’re sitting in that chair, freaked out about getting a shot, thinking you’re going to turn into a zombie. But I’m glad it’s back to normal now and I can finally play ball.”
McCreary said he will bring a “high motor” to the Bulls.McCreary story feature 112421 MBB v HAM
“Scoring, rebounding, playing defense … I believe I can do all of those things well,” McCreary said. “At South Carolina, I didn’t really show what I could do until the very end. Here at USF, I’m just looking for my opportunity and I believe I will do well.”
McCreary has been effective in small doses. Who knows what the future could hold?
“Life has brought me some challenges, but I still believe in myself,” McCreary said. “Everybody is going to have their share of pain and adversity and I’m no different. It’s how you respond to it. I’m working hard and I know I can do what it takes to help this team.”
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About USF Men’s Basketball
The USF men’s basketball team is led by head coach Brian Gregory, who enters his fifth season in 2021-22. Gregory was introduced as the 10th head coach in program history in March of 2017 after previously leading programs at Georgia Tech (2011-16) and Dayton (2003-11). Gregory spent nearly a decade as an assistant coach under Michigan State’s Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo and helped the Spartans win the 2000 NCAA National Championship. Gregory owns over 300 career head coaching wins and six postseason appearances, including the 2010 NIT Championship with Dayton. In his second season at the helm of the Bulls, Gregory led the team to the best win turnaround in the NCAA, the most single-season wins in school history and the 2019 College Basketball Invitational championship.
USF has retired three numbers in its 48-year history: Chucky Atkins (12), Charlie Bradley (30) and Radenko Dobras (31). The Bulls have earned three NCAA tournament bids, appeared in the NIT eight times and won the 2019 College Basketball Invitational.
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