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November 16, 2012

Tournament preview


The University of South Florida men's basketball starts its first of four games in five days on Friday, Nov. 16 when it faces University of Maryland Eastern Shore on the first day of the USF Invitational at 7:30 p.m. The four-team tournament includes the Bulls, UMES, Loyola-Chicago and Western Michigan with each team playing each other once over the course of three days. USF will face Loyola-Chicago on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Western Michigan on Sunday at 3 p.m. All games will take place in the Sun Dome.


The Bulls' game vs. UMES will be broadcast on 98.7 The Fan with Jim Lighthall (play-by-play) and Todd Kalas (analyst) calling the action.

The Coach

Head coach Stan Heath is in his 26th season of coaching, 12th as a head coach and sixth at USF. He has posted a 185-169 overall record and is 73-92 at USF. Heath has made four NCAA appearances (2002-Kent State, 2006 and 2007- Arkansas, 2012 - USF) and one NIT appearance in his 11-year career.


The Bulls are coming off a special 2011-12 season that saw the team make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991-92 and pick up their first NCAA wins as they advanced to the Third Round after recording wins over California (First Round) and Temple (Second Round). USF tied the school record in wins with a 22-14 record and posted its best-ever finish in BIG EAST play with a 12-6 record for sixth place which secured a first round bye in the conference championship for the first time. Head coach Stan Heath also earned his first BIG EAST Coach of the Year award and the Bulls advanced to the BIG EAST quarterfinals for the first time in program history.


Coach Stan Heath returns an experience group for the 2012-13 season and has four of his top five scorer's from a year ago back in junior G/F combo Victor Rudd, Jr., sophomore PG Anthony Collins, senior F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and senior G Jawanza Poland. Joining those four is senior G Shaun Noriega who has seen action in 81 career games and has been a proven threat beyond the arc. Two Bulls who sat out in 2011-12 will be ready to go this season in South Alabama transfer junior G Martino Brock and freshman C Jordan Omogbehin. Graduate student F Kore White spent three seasons starting for Florida Atlantic and will have one year left with the Bulls. Sophomore G Musa Abdul-Aleem joins USF with three years of eligibility remaining after spending a year at Georgia Perimeter College. True freshmen JaVontae Hawkins (ESPN Top 100 for his class) and Zach LeDay round out the group.


Senior Jawanza Poland opened his 2012-13 season with a bang against UCF, scoring a career- and team-high 22 points (8-of-11 FG, 2-of-3 3FG, 4-of-5 FT). His eight FGs made also tied a career high and it was his third career game with 20+ points. The 6-4 senior saw action in 29 minutes against the Knights while also picking up three steals and three rebounds.


The Bulls will kickstart the 2012-13 season starting on Friday, Nov. 16, as they face their first of four opponents in five days at the Sun Dome. USF faces Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday (7:30 p.m.), Loyola-Chicago on Saturday (7:30 p.m.), Western Michigan on Sunday (3 p.m.) and Bradley on Tuesday (7 p.m.).


When junior Victor Rudd came to USF in 2010-11, he was 6-7 and 201 pounds. After having to sit during the 2010-11 campaign Rudd put his time to use, gaining 22 pounds of muscle to bulk up his small frame. After another offseason with strength & condition coach Graham Anderson, Rudd is now up to 235 pounds giving him a much bigger presence and the ability to be able to play inside at the four/five position or step back to the three.


After spending the 2011-12 season in three different venues in the Tampa area, the Bulls are taking full advantage of being back in the renovated Sun Dome. They will host 18 opponents this season which is their most since 18 in 1984-85, a year that saw the team advance to the second round of the NIT. Additionally, nine of those teams coming to Tampa will do so during the non-conference slate for USF's most home non-conference games since 1994-95, a year the Bulls advanced to the third round of the NIT.


An area where the Bulls have depth at this year is the 2-3 position as USF is stacked with student-athletes for those spots. The Bulls return seniors Jawanza Poland and Shaun Noriega, and add in junior transfer Martino Brock, sophomore transfer Musa Abdul-Aleem and freshman standout JaVontae Hawkins. Additionally, Victor Rudd is capable of playing a guard position, as proven a year ago, depending on the lineup the Bulls are using.


Two Bulls that will look to build upon their late season success from the 2011-12 season will be sophomore point guard Anthony Collins and junior forward/guard Victor Rudd. Collins averaged 13.5 points and 5.3 assists over the final 11 games a year ago while leading or sharing the team lead in scoring in seven of those outings. Rudd scored in double-figures in all five of the Bulls' postseason games averaging 14.8 points and seven rebounds during that span.


With the loss of Ron Anderson Jr., and Augustus Gilchrist the Bulls will play the season with a shorter frontcourt led by senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. Fitz, who is 6-8.5, will be joined by the versatile guard turned forward Victor Rudd at 6-9, FAU transfer Kore White (6-8) and freshman Zach LeDay (6-7). Big man Jordan Omogbehin, who stands a bit above his frontcourt teammates at 7-3, 340, sat out the 2011-12 season due to an initial eligibility waiver from the NCAA. He'll look to gain minutes as the season progresses.


Senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick proved last year that he can attack from both inside and out while being a force on the boards as well. In the BIG EAST, the junior was the only player to be ranked in the top 3 in 3-pt FG% and top 15 in rebounding. In 18 conference contests, he pulled down a team-best 6.7 rebounds and hit at a team-best 43.1% (25-of-58) from 3-point range, which ranked second in the BIG EAST. In all games, Fitzpatrick also led the team in rebounds (6.4 rpg) while shooting 44.3% (102-of-230) from the field including a team-best .412 clip from 3-point range (42-of-102).


The Bulls received their highest-ever preseason pick by the BIG EAST Coaches this year as they are slated to finish eighth in the conference. The Bulls were picked 14th a year ago and went on to finish tied for fourth after posting a school-record 12 conference wins.


Along with the Bulls getting picked eighth in the preseason BIG EAST coaches poll, sophomore point guard Anthony Collins was also selected to the preseason All-BIG EAST Second Tea. The Houston native averaged 13.5 points and 5.3 assists over the final 11 games of the season in 2011-12.


While most teams spend their preseason camps with afternoon workouts, coach Stan Heath put his Bulls to the test with their fourth-annual two-week boot camp that started every morning at 6:30 a.m. The team would alternate days between different strength training exercises including carrying 100-pound weight balls up and down the court, and basketball-like exercises to get them ready for the 2012-13 season.


During the Bulls' incredible run in 2011-12, they weren't even playing at their home arena as the Sun Domeunderwent a $36.5 million dollar complete renovation that turned the building into one of the top arenas in the nation. The Bulls made the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the University of Tampa and the Lakeland Center it's home a year ago but are eager to get back to playing on campus. Here's a look at some of the upgrades to the facility:

-Four-sided LED center-hung video board

-The first students-only club in the nation

-21-22 inch wide seats in the 100 and 200 levels

-10 Loge Suites

-22-foot wide main concourse

-Three auxiliary locker rooms and four dressing rooms for concert talent

-Brand new USF retail store

-Numerous concession stores throughout the concourse



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