Bulls anxious as guard rehabs

With just about half of the regular season remaining, the USF men’s basketball team is set to begin a long stretch of conference play without one of the team’s main components.

Absent from the roster for these games will be 6-foot-5 guard Marius Prekevicius, a sophomore transfer from Weatherford College in Texas.

Prekevicius last played in the Bulls’ 81-51 win against Texas-Arlington, in which he saw only 19 minutes before leaving the game. He was shooting 44 percent from the field but suffered a tear in his left meniscus last summer while playing ball in the European Championships for Young Men. When his injury flared up and became unbearable earlier this season, the trainers and medical staff said he would have to undergo surgery. He has since missed the last three games that USF has played, two of which were lost by a combined 3 points.

“I had the surgery three weeks ago,” Prekevicius said. “It’s tough because I can’t be with my team. Especially when you lose by 1 or 2 points; it’s tough because you can’t change that.”

While at Weatherford, Prekevicius averaged 16.2 points and 3.8 assists per game and played for the Lithuanian National team the summer following his freshman year.

There was much anticipation for Prekevicius’ arrival at USF, as he would be competing with Marlyn Bryant, who was coming off of an ACL tear in his left knee.

“In any college sport, there’s always competition,” Bryant said. “It made me work harder, knowing that someone was coming in to take my spot.”

Despite early competition, Bryant and Prekevicius found themselves on the court together more often than not.

“His style of play (is) different,” Bryant said. “We play well together.”

In his short time on the court, Prekevicius has tallied 3 points and two assists along with two steals. The Bulls (8-6, 1-2 C-USA) have temporarily replaced Prekevicius’ with freshman Collin Dennis and junior James Holmes. Dennis, who has really stepped up to the challenge with 27 points and four steals in the three games, quickly recognized this early opportunity as an underclassman.

“I (have to) step up,” said Dennis. “I’m pretty much the only guard coming off the bench as wing.”

Bryant, who has had his share of knee injuries — a torn right ACL in 2003 and a torn left ACL in 2004 — added, “I tell him to work hard, rehab it every day and just don’t get down on yourself.”

Prekevicius indeed has started going through the necessary motions to get back on the court.

“I go in the swimming pool, try to jog and run, do some moves and just try to get back as fast as I can,” he said.

McCullum added, “We need him back badly, quickly. He’s an extremely valuable member of our team.”

Prekevicius, a finance and communications major, that he still has a considerable amount of playing time left at USF but just can’t help thinking about what could lie in his future.

“I really want to play professional basketball,” he said. “If not the NBA, you know, there’s always Europe; I just really want to play professional basketball somewhere.”

Prekevicius is set to return to the court in two to three weeks.