Rideau back in stride after missing last season

Laquincy Rideau leads Division I men's basketball in steals per game. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

He had to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

He likely would have missed a majority of that season anyway due to a broken foot that sidelined him from practice until after Christmas.

But that was then and this is now and right now, Laquincy Rideau is making the most of his opportunity with USF men’s basketball in its resurgent season.

“It was very hard,” Rideau said. “I’m a very competitive player and going out there, watching my team play, when I know I couldn’t go out there and help them win, it was very hard for me to watch.

“I learned how to read the game more, how to be a better leader and the dos and the don’ts.”

Coach Brian Gregory attributes his team’s better play at the end of last season to Rideau finally being able to participate in practice after his injury.

“It’s one of the reasons we played a little better down the stretch … he finally got healthy and practices became very competitive,” Gregory said. “The starters didn’t like it very much.”

Rideau joined USF after spending two seasons at Gardner-Webb (Boiling Springs, North Carolina) where he led the team in points per game (14.2), assists (171) and steals (100) in his sophomore season in 2016-17. He was the first player in Big South history to record at least 150 rebounds, 150 assists and 100 steals in a season.

The now-redshirt junior is continuing the offensive production in his first season with the Bulls, shooting more than 42 percent from the field and averaging 5.75 assists per game.

But his biggest impact has been on defense. Rideau’s 66 steals are just three shy of setting a new program single-season record. On Jan. 12, Rideau’s defensive effort helped him record a points-assists-steals triple-double against Temple, becoming just the sixth player in the last 20 years to record such a feat.

“I think the world of Quince,” Gregory said. “One of the few guys, I think, in college basketball that bumped up a couple levels and is actually better, and that’s because of the work he put in last year. He worked hard on his game.

“I still think as a point guard, he’s just kind of scratching the surface. He’s an intelligent kid, he’s got a good feel, and he’s only going to get better. So, I’m excited about coaching him everyday because he brings it every single day.”

While the decision to transfer to USF brought Rideau much closer to his hometown of West Palm Beach, the opportunity to build something also drew him to Gregory and the rebuilding Bulls.

“One, it was closer to home,” Rideau said. “And two, knowing that it wasn’t a good program in previous years, I wanted to be a part of the change.”

Rideau certainly has been part of the change. He ranks first in Division I with 3.3 steals per game and has been a large factor in the Bulls’ 14 wins, which are the most since the 2011-12 season, USF’s last season with a postseason appearance.

The Bulls are very much mathematically alive in their quest to snap their six-season postseason-appearance drought, and doing so would mean a lot to Rideau.

“It would mean a lot, because I’ve never been to a postseason before,” Rideau said. “It’d mean everything to me.

“It’s what the people want … it’s what the fans want a winning program.”