Ioana Krimili takes the ball up court at War Memorial Gym during an exhibition against San Francisco State on Oct. 19, 2019 in San Francisco. (Chris M. Leung / USF Dons Athletics)

USF Dons men’s and women’s basketball set to open season

Todd Golden heads into first season, USF women look to bounce back from rebuilding year

USF Men’s Basketball: Todd Golden, the seventh-youngest coach in men’s Division I basketball, will coach his first game on Tuesday as the Dons host Sonoma State in a 7 p.m. opener in War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on the Hilltop.

San Francisco lost head coach Kyle Smith to Washington State after last season, along with All-West Coast Conference point guard Frankie Ferrari and senior wing Nate Renfro, but Golden is considered one of the brightest young coaches in the game, and he’ll have plenty of talent to work with.

The Dons return dynamic scorer Charles Minlend, along with 3-point sniper Jordan Ratinho, center Jimbo Lull, exciting junior guard Jamaree Bouyea and under-the-radar shooter Dzmirty Ryuny.

Golden brought on Bill Cartwright — a USF alum, former NBA All-Star, head coach and champion — as an advisor, and he thinks the Dons could be better than last year, when they went 21-10 overall, but lost in the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

“Guys are a little bit older, we’re faster,” Cartwright said. “Todd’s looking to take advantage of that fact.”

Cartwright said that Ryuny — who played sparingly as a freshman last season — could be one of the best shooters in the conference, giving San Francisco two 3-point options (along with Ratinho) to space the floor for Minlend, who is coming off his first healthy offseason since he came to San Francisco as a freshman, and refined his shot.

The defensive coordinator under Smith over the last three seasons, Golden helped the Dons win 63 games, and this offseason he spent time with the Golden State Warriors, chatting with defensive guru Ron Adams during last season’s NBA Finals and watching the Warriors in training camp.

“I certainly have learned a lot from watching them play, and watching what they do with certain guys, and definitely going to try to implement some different things this coming year,” Golden told The Examiner. “We got to figure out, what are we going to do to put those guys in the best situation possible to be successful instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes, right? Because every player is different. And I think some of the things that we’re doing defensively will will make a little more sense for our upcoming roster this year.”

Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob plays pickup basketball with Golden and has known him for seven years. His assessment of the Dons’ new head man: “He’s he’s the sort of guy that — I don’t want to ever, you know, step on college’s toes, especially a local — but he’s the type of guy who could make the jump [to the NBA] if he ever wanted to.”

USF Women’s Basketball: After beating Chico State last week 105-68 in their second exhibition, the Dons open their season on Tuesday on the road against Northern Colorado.

Despite going 7-24 in a trying rebuilding season in 2018-19, San Francisco shocked Portland in the first round of the conference tournament with a 76-69 win, and head into this season with a young roster armed with some very exciting newcomers.

The Dons added graduate transfer forward Mikayla Williams, who was a consensus NCAA Division II All-American last season as the best player on 30-1 UC San Diego, as well as the D2 CCA West Region Player of the Year, the CCAA Player of the Year and the CCAA Tournament MVP.

Williams averaged a double-double (19.3 points, 10.5 rebounds) last season, and scored more than 1,300 points in just three seasons with the Tritons.

Greek import Ioanna Krimili has impressed over her first two collegiate exhibitions. The freshman guard has averaged 22.5 points, three assists and 3.5 rebounds, while shooting 50% (15-of-30) from the field and 52.9% from 3-point range (9-for-17).

As far as returners, sophomore Abby Rathbun — who was very much an athlete and a driver last season — has developed her all-around game, and in two exhibitions, has gone 14-for-22 from the field in 62 minutes, and piled up 17 rebounds.

San Francisco also returns Finnish sophomore guard Kia Vaalavirta, who played in all 31 games last season backing up senior point guard Shannon Powell, and Polish forward Julia Nielacna, who averaged over 19 minutes while playing in all 31 games off the bench. Marta Galic, who led the Dons in 3-point field goal percentage as a freshman (35.8%), spent the summer with the Croatian senior national team, and is expected to play a big role.

Senior forward Moa Lundqvist also returns, giving a stabilizing influence to what is still a young team, with 10 players in their first or second years of eligibility. Last season, Lundqvist was the engine that made the Dons go, even when it doesn’t show up on the score sheet.

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