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USF looks to replace size, leadership

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 22:10

basketballweb

ORACLE FILE PHOTOS/LUCAS CANNISTRACI

Junior Victor Rudd Jr. (left) and senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (right) have accepted larger roles, both as leaders and as presences in the paint, after the graduation of Ron Anderson Jr. and Augustus Gilchrist.

Following up the best season in school history and replacing two seniors that were huge — in both stature and playmaking — will not be an easy task for the USF men’s basketball team. But that’s not stopping the team from preparing for a big season.

With the departure of forwards Ron Anderson Jr. and Augustus Gilchrist, who combined for almost 14 feet and 472 pounds of post presence, the Bulls will need to replace both the size and leadership of a pair of seniors that led the team to USF’s first NCAA Tournament since 1992 and the first two NCAA Tournament victories in program history.

“I think the biggest things we lost was the leadership from Ron Anderson Jr. and Gus Gilchrist,” senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. “So (Anthony) Collins, Victor (Rudd) and I will need to be more vocal to take the leadership. It’ll be important for us to show the way for our newer guys, tell them what we need from them to win.”

Fitzpatrick, who led the team in three-point shooting at 41 percent, said he is familiar with the situation the team is in at the moment — without a true threat in the post game.

“We have to weather the storm,” he said. “We’ve been in this situation before, like in my freshman year when Gilchrist was hurt and I had to play. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was thrown to the wolves. We have a tough group and I think we can overcome it.”

One player who could immediately step into the paint to contribute is center Jordan Omogbehin, a towering Nigerian product who stands at 7-foot-3 and is listed at 334 pounds. Though the redshirt freshman has the size to impact any game, there are concerns with his mobility and ability to avoid injuries.

Rudd, a junior, said Omogbehin’s improvement in getting up and down the court was seen during the team’s offseason workouts.

“He’s getting better at it,” Rudd said. “We have this drill called ‘22’ where we have to go up and down the court twice in 22 seconds, and he’d been doing it in 25, 27 seconds. Then, last week, he did it in 22 seconds, so he’s coming along in that aspect.”

As for Rudd, the Bulls will need strong production from the forward who led the team with 14.8 points per game in USF’s five postseason contests. The 6-foot-9 transfer said he took advantage of a chance to play summer league basketball in his hometown of Los Angeles.

“I’ve added a lot of things from when I played summer league back at home,” he said. “I didn’t take any threes, I tried to get to the basket and to the line, because I can score a lot more if I’m shooting 10 free throws a game. I’ve added some post moves working with (assistant coach Andy Hipsher), and I’ve added a mid-range shot. I want to do more than just shoot a majority of threes.”

Rudd also said he bulked up for the 2012-13 season, knowing that he may have to take responsibility for bigger players on the defensive end.

“I’m at 6-foot-9, 232 this year, where last year I was at about 6-foot-8 and 222,” he said. “So I added about 10 pounds, which adds confidence. Last year, when I would guard bigger guys like (Kansas forward) Thomas Robinson, they’d push me and I’d have to fight harder to guard them. So getting bigger will help me to guard bigger guys.”

Coach Stan Heath said his team’s lack of size may actually be an advantage against bigger, slower opponents.

“We have a different team — we don’t have a single main post guy,” he said. “But I’m not going to change a guy like Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who was my leading three point shooter percentage-wise last season. I’m going to let him shoot. We’ll make teams with those other 7-foot, 6-foot-10 guys guard us outside.”

Fans can get their first look at the 2012 team on Friday night at the first annual USF HoopLa at the USF Sun Dome at 8 p.m. The team will begin its season Nov. 10 against UCF at home.

 

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