USF will enter its final home game of the season againstConnecticut (9-7, 19-9) at 9 p.m. and as the Bulls exit the arena tomorrow after the game, win or lose, it will mark the end of an era at the Sun Dome the era of USFs senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick.
Hes leaving here with a strong legacy, not just stats, not just on the court, (but) hes been arepresentative for our program and hes loved Tampa and USF to his heart, coach Stan Heath said. I think hes going to have a heck of a career playing at the next level in professionalbasketball.
A Tampa native, Fitzpatrickoriginally signed with Georgia Southern, but after the coach there resigned, Fitzpatrick chose toattend USF, picking the Bulls over Miami, Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss, Tulane andAuburn.
When we first took him a lot of people raised their eyebrows, and watching him in high school I wasnt sure, Heath said. But hes had an awesome career. I can think of so many games that hes been a part of where hes helped us win.
It was clear after his firstseason as a Bull, in which he saw action in all games, thatFitzpatrick would have a lasting impact, but few anticipated the success that was to come.
With two games left for the Bulls (2-14, 11-17) in the regular season, and two games left in his collegiate career, Fitzpatrick iscurrently in the Top 10 or close to it in a combination of records in school history that fans dont see very often.
Fitzpatrick ranks No. 7all-time in career blocks with109 and became No. 10all-time in 3-pointers with 108 after draining five in USFs previous game againstDePaul. He is also nine rebounds away from another No. 10all-time record.
If Fitzpatrick manages to snag those nine rebounds over the course of the next two games he will become the first USF playerto rank in the Top 10 for both3-point field goals and reboundsin a career.
The 6-foot-8, 245-poundforward certainly grew from his first year.
Just to see him grow —– to come in as a kid who was out of shape, Heath said. I remember his first day at practice, and he didnteven know if he could make it through sprints. He went from a guy that I said yellow light, red light on your 3-point shot to You can shoot the three. He knew going into thisseason that he was going to have to carry a bigger load, and I think hes done a great job with it.
Though Fitzpatrick has become a dominant force for the Bulls in his four years on the court, hisoff-the-court presence hasbecome evident to Heath.
Hes been the key guy inrecruiting. Heath said. Hes helped recruit all the guys that have come in here.
As a transfer, having only played one season at USF last year, junior forward Victor Rudd said he has noticed the impact of Fitzpatrick and has experienced it firsthand.
Hes one of the guys that Ive always looked up to, to knowcertain things, Rudd said. I think hes been a great leader this year and I definitely appreciate what he does.
The two forwards showed what theyre capable of in the Bulls last game againstDePaul, being two of fiveplayers to score into double digits. Fitzpatrick led the team with 19 points, his highest since a 22-point performance against UConn on Feb. 3 earlier thisseason. He also led the team inrebounds with eight.
Now, in the Sun Dome,whether it be momentum fromthe previous game, the Senior Day Part IIatmosphere with Fitzpatrickplaying his last home game, orrevenge on UConn from earlier in the season when they beat USF by five points in a game in whichFitzpatrick scored 22 points, its clear that USF will play with one goal to win.