By Joey Johnston
GOBULLS.COM – YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR ALL THINGS BULLS #HORNSUP
COLUMBIA, S.C. (March 18, 2023) – If you want to know about USF women’s basketball freshman forward Carla Brito — a largely unheralded catalyst behind the No. 8-seeded Bulls (27-6), who face the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (33-0) in Sunday’s NCAA Tournament second-round game at Columbia, South Carolina — there are many statistical categories to examine.
Brito can certainly score (8.6 average and 13 double-figure performances, including a 26-pointer in her sixth college game).
She can rebound (5.8 average).
She’s an effective passer and defender.
All of those qualities came together Friday in USF’s 67-65 first-round overtime victory against No. 9 Marquette. Brito had 15 points and nine rebounds while going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. She also had the most challenging defensive assignment, guarding Marquette catalyst and fifth-year senior, Chloe Marotta.
But to truly gauge Brito’s pulse, you must return to Feb. 22 at the Yuengling Center. That’s when a loose ball against Tulsa showed her heart and fire for basketball.
Brito dove headlong and blindly whipped the ball behind her, trying to save the possession. But as Brito tumbled over the courtside seats and landed in the first row of fans, the ball was cradled by a Tulsa player. It quickly went the other way — and the Golden Hurricane had a 5-on-4 advantage.
Tulsa’s shot missed. And then, sprinting into the picture and rising above everyone for the rebound was … the hustling Carla Brito.
“I had to get that ball,” said Brito, a 5-foot-11 forward from Spain.
That assertive on-court attitude has translated to Brito’s off-court personality. Upon her arrival at USF, she was shy, unsure and tentative, even in the moments when she knew it was time to be forceful. A full season — along with individual and team success — has restored her confidence.
“Carla has actually made so much impact on this team,” Bulls senior guard Elena Tsineke said. “She plays like a veteran, not a freshman. And she’s a completely different person from when I first met her to now, way more comfortable. I think one day, she will be the superstar here because she works so hard and she knows that nothing comes without the work.”
“She gives us good energy, the defense, boxing out for the rebound, a lot of things that help make the team run,” said Bulls freshman point guard Marina Asensio, who was Brito’s teammate with Spain’s under-18 National Team in the 2022 FIBA European Women’s Championship. “It’s a pleasure to play with Carla because she always gives the effort.”
Bulls coach Jose Fernandez was attracted by Brito’s versatility — and those qualities have proven to be true at USF.
“When you’re a freshman, you’re big-eyed and you don’t know what to expect,” Fernandez said. “I think Carla has made great adjustments because people get tape on you and they force you into different things. Carla has show she can run the floor in transition, finish around the basket, move the ball, keep her guy off the glass. It’s her first year — and in a different country — but she’s off to a great start.”
Brito is from Fuerteventura, Spain, part of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, about 60 miles off the northwestern coast of Africa. It’s the land of sandy white beaches and turquoise waters. Brito walked to the beach from her home, practically every day, so Tampa’s tropical lifestyle seems comforting.
“I knew USF had a lot of success with international players and Coach Jose spoke Spanish … so there were a lot of reasons to feel comfortable here,” Brito said with a smile. “But you never know until you get on the court. I’ve been happy with it. I think I have the skills to do everything, so I’m happy that I could contribute to this team.
“I’m feeling good about my role. I am always trying to get better. The comfort level is very good.”
Brito, who has a twin brother Samuel, said she enjoys everything about USF and Tampa. Early on, she liked going to the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City — a natural for anyone who likes Spanish food — but she has also learned the merits of sushi during outings with her teammates.
She’s excited to play in the No. 1-ranked Gamecocks at the NCAA Tournament — and even more eager to prepare for what lies ahead in her USF future.
“There are moments when Carla has shown the ability to take over the game,” USF assistant head coach Danny Hughes said. “She has the skills and instincts you just can’t teach. Whatever happens — whether it’s good or bad — she has the same face.
“She doesn’t seem like a young kid. She’s just getting started, but she looks like she belongs. That’s a great thing to build around for now and for next season.”
Catch The Bulls on Bulls Unlimited & ESPN+
The majority of USF’s regular-season games will be streamed live on the ESPN+ platform. The American Athletic Conference and ESPN began a new 12-year television rights agreement which started in 2020-21. Subscriptions for the ESPN+ app is $9.99 monthly or $99.99 annually and can be packaged with Hulu and Disney+ streaming services. A step-by-step guide for subscribing to ESPN+ is located here.
In addition, all games this season will be broadcast live on USF Bulls Unlimited, with Darek Sharp (home and away) and Brigid Merenda (for home games only) on the call. Bulls Unlimited is available via the free Tune In app (search “Bulls Unlimited”) and provides static-free quality whether you’re listening on your streaming device, laptop or desktop.
About USF Women’s Basketball
To stay up-to-date on the latest USF women’s basketball news, follow the Bulls on social media (Twitter | Facebook | Instagram).
South Florida recorded its 10th 20-win season during the 2021-22 campaign while playing in its sixth American Athletic Conference championship game in its nine years in the conference. The Bulls achieved their highest national ranking of the season when it checked in at No. 13 in the Nov. 30 Associated Press Top 25 Poll, and advanced to their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in the last nine years.
USF has made 17 postseason tournament appearances and had eight NCAA Tournament berths in head coach Jose Fernandez‘s 22 seasons. The all-time winningest coach in program history, Fernandez has guided USF to 10 20-win seasons, two WNIT final four appearances, the 2009 WNIT championship, and has won over 400 career games. Fernandez was named a finalist for the WBCA and semifinalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Awards. He was also tabbed the 2021 American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign.
In 2021-22, the Bulls had three players recognized by The American for impressive seasons, including Elena Tsineke (All-Conference First Team), Bethy Mununga (All-Conference Second Team) and Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu (All-Conference Second Team).
In addition, Tsineke and Mununga were named to the American Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team.