New faces, roles abound for Bulls
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 00:10
Despite a strong nucleus returning from a successful 2011 campaign, the USF men’s basketball team is looking toward some new faces to produce in 2012.
When the Bulls take the court for the first time Friday night at the first annual Bulls Basketball HoopLa, fans will see a plethora of new contributors who, according to senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, have a chance to make a big impact.
“We have a transfer in Martino Brock who we have a lot of defensive expectations for,” he said. “He’s really athletic. And then we have a couple of freshmen coming in with Zach LeDay and Javontae Hawkins. Zach is undersized but he works really hard to get rebounds and stuff.“
Junior Victor Rudd Jr. echoed Fitzpatrick’s thoughts on Hawkins, a guard hailing from Flint, Mich., and LeDay, a Texas native.
“Javontae Hawkins after some time is going to be crazy,” he said. “He can do everything — shoot, play athletically and defend. Zach rebounds — he’s 6-foot-7 but he goes to the glass hard. When a shot goes up I have to work to go up and get the ball because Zach goes hard for the rebound.”
Coach Stan Heath said LeDay’s abilities have turned him from a potential redshirt candidate into an immediate contributor.
“Zach LeDay was initially a redshirt kind of guy,” he said. “But I think we may have found a Dennis Rodman-type of player. He’s just so active, getting rebounds, blocking shots, dunking — he’s a quick riser and he’s kind of forced my hand to find some minutes for him.”
Heath said Hawkins has been better than he expected before initial workouts over the summer.
“Javontae Hawkins is probably a little bit better than advertised,” he said. “He’s a very good player, very aggressive, shoots the ball better than we originally thought. I think athletically he fits in well with how we want to defend and guard people.”
Despite the hype from a couple of players who are new to the roster, the talk of the team is the improvement from a returning senior, guard Shaun Noriega. After averaging 3.6 points per game in limited minutes a year ago, the Sarasota native has turned the head of his coach.
“Shaun Noriega in the last few weeks has been one of our top guys in practices,” Heath said. “Not only is he shooting the lights out, but he’s creating his own shot more than he did before and defending well. That’s been kind of the area that Shaun had to get better at, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Shaun steps up in his senior year and gives us a consistent perimeter shooter.”
Noriega said his desire to play helped fuel his improvement on defense.
“I know that if you want to stay on the floor, you have to play defense, and it was one of my weaknesses,” he said. “So I worked on it knowing that’s what I would have to do to play more. Hopefully, I have done enough to be able to get on the court.”
With new faces making their debuts and old faces taking larger roles, the USF men’s basketball team hopes to improve on last season, the best in school history. The team opens play at the USF Sun Dome on Saturday, Nov. 10 against UCF.