Bring on the new Dons

USF’s new players, from left to right: (top row) Freja Werth, Jonathan Mogbo, Malik Thomas, Sol Castro. (Bottom row) Mia Vuksic, Junjie “Barry’ Wang, and Seynabou Thiam. PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOSIAH DESTIN/DONS ATHLETICS, GRAPHIC BY DOMINIQUE CADENAS CALVO

Even in the offseason, USF men’s and women’s basketball have added an exciting group of new players to their teams. Collectively, the two teams have signed seven new players for the upcoming season. 

The men’s team has signed forward Junjie “Barry” Wang from NBA’s Global Academy, a training center for elite international prospects in Australia. Also joining is third-year guard Malik Thomas and fourth-year forward Jonathan Mogbo, who transferred from University of Southern California and Missouri State University, respectively.  

In an interview with the Foghorn, Wang explained that his signing decision came down to USF or Providence College. “Only USF and Providence college have been full of enthusiasm and desire for me from beginning to end,” said Wang. Eventually, USF’s style won Wang over. He is excited to make a positive impact right away for the Dons. “Through my passion for the game, maybe I can influence the team, help the team to be more energetic, and make other teams aware we are very dangerous,” Wang said. Wang, a versatile 6’9 forward, is able to dominate inside and on the perimeter. 

Thomas, standing at 6’5, provides the Dons with the size they need in the backcourt. Although he was unable to play consistent minutes in his first two seasons at USC, the 2020 California High School Gatorade Player of the Year, has proven himself as an elite scorer and a strong defender. He has the ability to shoot the midrange and three point shot as well as go down hill to the rim with his size and athleticism. That size and athleticism in addition to his work ethic also makes him a dependable defender on the other side of the ball. 

Like Thomas, Mogbo has a lot of talent on both ends of the court. At 6’8, Mogbo makes his presence felt in the paint, averaging seven rebounds and 1.1 blocks for the Missouri State Bears last season. On offense, his size and athleticism makes him a threat on the inside, where he averaged eight points on an efficient 58.9 field goal percentage. 

In an interview with the Foghorn, men’s basketball assistant Coach Michael Plank expressed his enthusiasm for the Don’s recruiting success. “[With recruiting] you get excited about the talent level and the potential that they’re going to bring to the team,” he said. Besides their individual talents, Plank explained that an important aspect of recruiting is seeing how each new player will help team chemistry. “Trying to get [the] guys to blend, get to know each other, get to trust each other, get to care about each other because the tighter knit the group we have the better the team is going to be,” he said. 

The women’s team has signed four transfer students. To improve the backcourt, the Dons added fourth-year guard Mia Vuksic from Kansas University Jayhawks and third-year guard Freja Werth from the University of Albany. And for the frontcourt, USF has acquired third-year forward Sol Castro from Robert Morris University and third-year center Seynabou Thiam from Tarleton State University. 

In an interview with Foghorn Vuksic, who hails from Croatia, explained that her decision to come to USF was rooted in the team’s long history of international players. “I think it is nice to have teammates who go through similar situations like you and you can always rely on them during good and hard times,” said Vuksic. After having three solid seasons coming off the bench for the Jayhawks, Vuksic is thrilled to be a Don. “I felt it was the right spot for me as a person and a student athlete,” she said.

Thiam, the 6’6 center, is another significant new addition to the team. Her stature and massive wingspan makes her an elite rim protector. Her 2.3 blocks per game put her in the top 20 in the nation for block shots last season. In addition to her defense, Thiam has proven to be a major threat in the paint, averaging 6.3 points on 45.3% shooting in only 18.5 minutes per game. Because USF was in desperate need for a dominant post player this past season, Thiam’s presence down low is expected to make an immediate impact for the Dons next year. 

USF is also excited to add Werth and Castro to the team. Both players are incredibly efficient shooting the ball, both averaging over 40% from the field in their first two seasons. 

Only two months into the offseason, USF has already made significant changes to their basketball rosters. With lots of time left for the teams to make more changes, it will be exciting to see how both teams continue to evolve going into next season. 

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