After USF experienced its best season in recent memory in 2009, coach Stan Heath stressed to his team last week the importance of avoiding complacency.
The Bulls, who exceeded expectations with a 9-9 conference record and upsets over then-No. 17 Pittsburgh and then-No. 8 Georgetown, had the luxury of playing together during the summer at the Pan American University Championships in Brazil, which Heath said was a good bonding experience on and off the court.
Now, the Bulls head into the 2010 season with expectations still high even with the loss of one of the best players in school history in Dominique Jones, who’s moved on to the NBA.
During practice Friday, Heath and several players addressed Jones’ big shoes to fill and what they expect this season.
Heath on early impressions of leadership:
“I think our leadership has been the best we had. I think Jarrid Famous and (Augustus) Gilchrist have stepped in that role and done a real nice job. Even the returning guys, like a Toarlyn (Fitzpatrick), Mike (Burwell), Shaun (Noriega) or (Anthony) Crater – guys who have been around have really accepted that they can help the young guys come along and how important they are to our team.”
Heath on building from last year’s success:
“Every day, we have a thought of the day, and (Friday) it was ‘being good is the evil of being great.’ In other words, we can’t be satisfied. We can’t just say, ‘Hey, we had a good year last year.’ We have to take things to another level, and it starts with leadership. It starts with attitude out here on the court. And I’m seeing that with this team. This team is not looking to go backward. This team wants to do more than it did last year, and I’m excited about that.”
Junior forward Augustus Gilchrist on the expectations of the experienced frontcourt:
“We’re the most experienced. We know how Big East play is going to be. We jelled and played with each other. Our backcourt is not bad. We have some experience there, too. We’ve grown over the summer.”
Gilchrist on being without key pieces from last year
“We lost a lot last year. You know, Dominique (Jones) getting drafted, Chris Howard, Mike Mercer – veterans in the backcourt. Alex Rivas coming off the bench, a hard working post player. Just coming in knowing we’re capable of winning. Last year, we came in not knowing if we were going to win or not. It’s a whole different feeling.”
Jarrid Famous on getting a head start by playing over the summer in the Pan American Games:
“I think we got kind of a head start. We had 10 practices to get to learn the plays. Some players know the system. Great head start, but not too big. We still have to come here and work hard.”
Famous on picking up the scoring load with Jones gone:
“Our frontline is great. Dominique left a lot of points out there for us to get. That’s our job to go out there and get it. At the end of the day, we just want to win games and go out there and play hard.”