The USF Bulls success on the court is stunning and led by plenty of talent including Selton Miguel, “The Pride of Angola.”

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TAMPA, Fla. (February 5, 2024) – Rewind to last March 29. Amir Abdur-Rahim, following his NCAA Tournament appearance with Kennesaw State, had just accepted the job as head coach with USF men’s basketball. He was seated on the plane at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, heading to Tampa for his formal introduction. Before the door closed, he had time for a few quick cell phone calls.

The first one went to USF holdover player Selton Miguel.

“I knew about him, liked his game, and wanted to make sure he was all aboard,’’ Abdur-Rahim said. “He was ready to go. Since that moment, we’ve been dedicated to making him into the best possible player he could be.’’

The game of Miguel, a 6-foot-4 combination guard, has taken flight.

He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in America (42.9 percent from long range). He’s a lockdown defender, a proficient ball-handler, a reliable passer, a solid leader, and one of the biggest reasons why the Bulls (15-5, 8-1 American Athletic Conference) are on a major roll heading into Tuesday night’s mega-game and battle for first place against the Charlotte 49ers (14-7, 8-1) at the Yuengling Center.

It doesn’t matter whether Miguel starts (four games) or comes off the bench (16). He has accepted his varying roles and produced consistently, whether he gets introduced with the starting lineup or comes in no later than the first media timeout.

“Whatever we’ve asked of Selton, he has delivered — and delivered big,’’ Abdur-Rahim said. “He’s not a me-first guy. He’s a team-first guy. He’s very adaptable.’’

For as long as he can remember, adaptability has been Miguel’s way of life.

Born in the Central African nation of Angola — a country twice the size of Texas — he left home at age 11 to attend a military school in Portugal. Three years later, he came with his older brother to America — when he didn’t speak a word of English — to play basketball for Orlando’s West Oaks Academy and the Team Breakdown AAU organization.

He earned a scholarship to Kansas State, but after two years, he transferred to USF. He played for Coach Brian Gregory last season, averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 assists. Those numbers have leaped under Abdur-Rahim. Miguel averages 14.3 points, second only to Chris Youngblood (14.6).

“Three different head coaches in my last three years of college … living in three different countries since I was 11 … growing up without my family,’’ Miguel said with a smile. “Man, I’ve had a crazy journey. I feel like I’ve made some sacrifices. But you know what? I feel comfortable. I feel at home.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot of growing up. New situations and new people aren’t going to slow me down. Life is about change and how you adapt to that change. I feel like my time is now and I’m trying to be the very best I can be.’’

The Pride Of Angola

Miguel comes from Luanda, the capital city of Angola, a land of tropical Atlantic beaches, breathtaking waterfalls and a Sub-Saharan desert. The country is best known for its production of timber, oil, and diamonds.

Basketball players?

Not so much.

Only two Angolan players have reached the NBA — Bruno Fernando (currently with the Atlanta Hawks) and Carlos Morais (Toronto Raptors in 2013).

The most notable Angolan basketball moment probably occurred at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Angola was drummed 116-48 by the United States “Dream Team’’ (Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and company) in a preliminary-round game.

But since that resounding result, which included a 46-1 run by the dominant American squad, Angolan basketball has slowly raised its profile with a few dozen players competing professionally throughout Africa, Europe and Asia.

Miguel said he hopes to be part of that national pride.

Actually, that’s happening now.

Miguel’s USF exploits are covered extensively by African media and his highlights are circulated throughout social media. He returned home last summer to conduct basketball clinics and he was greeted at the airport by a mob of autograph-seekers. And, of course, everyone wanted a selfie with Miguel.

“It was crazy,’’ Miguel said. “It was a humbling moment. These are my people, the people I represent. I want to give them things to be proud about.’’

“He has shown me the videos and it’s really cool,’’ Abdur-Rahim said. “He loves where he’s from and loves being a source of light and hope for young kids from his country. He loves his family. I love that about Selton.’’

His father, Henriques (known as “Riquinho’’), worked as a promoter for sporting and entertainment events. He brought a series of American rappers to Angola for concerts. As a 6-year-old, Miguel said he remembers being on stage with 50 Cent, a noted rapper.

His mother, Suzana, has her own business. Miguel is the second oldest of four siblings, brothers Rifen and Henriques and sister Raica.

“They all follow what I am doing at USF and support me very well,’’ said Miguel, who is fluent in four languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French and English, along with a local Angolan dialect). That will come in handy for the communications major who best expresses himself on the court.

Focused In The Offseason

Miguel always has been serious about basketball. But with Abdur-Rahim’s hiring and the feeling that something big was ahead at USF, Miguel approached his offseason training with increased ferocity.

He’s 10 pounds lighter — a reflection of working with strength and conditioning coach Cody Dukquis and director of sports nutrition Jordyn Laufenberg.

He also attacked his on-court preparation, getting up about 600 shot attempts during individual work — and the results have been tangible from 3-point range.

“When I first got here (to USF) in the summer, Selton caught my eye,’’ said Youngblood, a transfer from Kennesaw State. “I definitely noticed his competitiveness. We bumped heads early on — two Alpha dogs getting after it — but in the back of my head I knew this was a guy I wanted to go to war with.

“I knew we’d eventually be best friends and great teammates because we want the same things. We’re willing to work hard and sacrifice because at the end of the day, we’re here to win championships. Selton is extremely talented. He’s a big part of what we do.’’

Miguel said he aspires to become another version of the NBA’s Jimmy Butler, a two-way guard capable of creating his own shot while playing physical defense. Professional basketball is his desired destination. Meantime, there are plenty of goals to achieve in his present-day position at USF.

The Bulls have won 13 of their last 14 games and carry a seven-game winning streak into the pivotal game against Charlotte. The ESPN2 telecast is another opportunity to showcase USF’s turnaround — “It’s not the same old South Florida, my brotha,’’ Abdur-Rahim likes to say — and the individual talent of players such as Miguel.

Winning makes it all worthwhile, Miguel said.

“We trust in Coach Amir because he does not only what’s best for the player, but more than that, what’s best for the team,’’ Miguel said. “The way we play, it’s fun. We lost a few games we shouldn’t have lost in the early season, but we’re past that now. I think we’re coming together.

“When we’re focused and playing together, the sky’s the limit. We can play with anybody in the country.’’

Heading down the stretch, Miguel said he likes USF’s chances in the AAC.

Feeling good.

Flying high.

And the USF fans are loving him right back.

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About USF Men’s Basketball

The South Florida men’s basketball team is led by Amir Abdur-Rahim, who was named the 11th head coach in program history on March 29, 2023. Abdur-Rahim was named the 2023 Mid-Major Coach of the Year (Hugh Durham Award) after leading Kennesaw State to its first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament berth in 2022-23. Abdur-Rahim’s Kennesaw State team set an NCAA record as the fastest team to ever reach the NCAA Tournament after a one-win campaign, accomplishing the feat in a span of just three seasons. He was also named the 2022-23 NABC District 3 and ASUN Coach of the Year after leading Kennesaw State to both the regular season and tournament titles, and a school-record 26 wins.
 
USF has retired three numbers in its 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.
 
For tickets, contact the USF Ticket Office at 1-800-Go-Bulls or by going online to 
USFBullsTix.com. Season tickets for the 2023-24 USF men’s basketball slate are on sale now. To purchase season tickets, click here.