USF coach Stan Heath and the Bulls weren’t accustomed to playing with so much at stake in August.
However, the Bulls went 4-1 at the Pan American University Championships earlier this month, losing only in the final to Brazil.
More importantly, though, Heath now knows what his main focus will be in preparation for the 2010-11 season.
“I saw some really good things out of this team in a short amount of time,” Heath said. “I also saw some of our weaker areas. We’ve lost some really experienced guards in Chris Howard and Dominique Jones. Finding our leadership at point guard is going to be our challenge to really have a good season.”
USF’s won its first four games over Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay before falling in a rematch to Brazil 69-63.
For the most part, Heath had the same starting lineup throughout the tournament: junior Anthony Crater at point guard, while sophomore Shaun Noriega and junior (junior college) Hugh Robertson were at shooting guard. The frontcourt was junior Augustus Gilchrist and senior Jarrid Famous.
Heath said Robertson, who scored 18 points in a win against Columbia, could help fill some of the void left by last year’s starting guards Howard, Jones and Mike Mercer.
“I thought he did a nice job for us. He gives us an athletic wing player that will be very valuable for us,” he said.
Noriega scored a team-high 20 points in a 90-55 win against Columbia, and added 14 in two other games.
Sophomore forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and sophomore guard Mike Burwell were suspended for the first game against Columbia after their dine-and-dash incident in May, and came off the bench during the tournament.
Note: In its inaugural season, the Pan American University Championships, part of the Pan American Games (a multi-sport event that is held every four years) pits competitors from nations in the Americas. University athletes, no older than 24, are eligible to compete in the tournament.
Bulls appreciate trip
After arriving home from its trip to Brazil to represent the U.S. in the Pan American Championships, the USF men’s basketball team had some time to reflect on its 4-1 performance that garnered a second-place finish to Brazil.
However, it wasn’t just what happened on the court that made the trip. The team stayed in the northeastern part of the country in Salvador, on the coast about 700 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, from Aug. 8-15, getting a chance to see aspects of the region.
USF coach Stan Heath said it was eye-opening to experience different cultures.
“It was just what the doctor ordered for our team,” he said. “We had a chance to see some of the other countries and their struggles to make us appreciate the way we live a lot more.”
Heath said the team toured Salvador, including a trip to a poor local junior high school where kids were being taught to play basketball in an outside-of-school program.
Guard Anthony Crater gave one of the kids his shoes.
“We got a chance to work with them on drills – just work with kids,” Heath said. “I thought not only did we teach them some things, but the kids taught us some things as well, and it was a real positive experience. There were a couple kids trying to play basketball with no shoes at all.”