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October 4, 2013

Nico's Nuggets: Week 1 report and Q/A with Heath

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Runningthebulls.com basketball writer Nico Ghibauldy recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the USF Men's Basketball Head Coach Stan Heath.Coach Heath discussed his thoughts and observances from the first week of official team practice.

He also spoke about his optimism about the upcoming season, the talent of his incoming recruiting class, and the impact the new big men could have on improving the rebounding margin, something that plagued last year's Bulls team.

Q and A with USF Men's Basketball coach Stan Heath

RTB: With a new and nationally-ranked recruiting class, Bulls fans obviously have reason to be excited. What have you seen from the new guys in practice this week?
Stan Heath: They're really talented. They'll make a mistake but they're so good they can recover from their mistakes; whether it's blocking a shot, scoring a basket, or making plays for their teammates. Like all freshman, they have stuff to learn. But they're guys that want to be coached. I really love the talent level, as well as the size and paint presence they provide that we didn't really have last year.

RTB: Obviously last year's squad struggled with the rebounding factor, especially when Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who's not a true center, was thrown in the middle by necessity. This year with big men like John Egbunu and Chris Perry coming in, what kind of impact can you expect from them, specifically regarding the rebounding battle?
SH: When we lost Waverly Austin last year, we knew that we were going to struggle inside. It's always been a staple of mine to be a strong rebounding team, and when we didn't have that, it really had an effect on everything. It affected our ability to score inside and even our ability to get out and run fast breaks. The new big guys will open up the floor a lot more this year, simply because the defense will have to respect the big guys inside. That will open up a lot more shots for our perimeter scorers.

RTB: As a team, what are some offensive and defensive goals for this season?
SH: We definitely want to improve our scoring average. We want to jump somewhere between eight to ten more points per game right away. On the defensive end...we were a solid defensive team, but the rebounding made things a lot worse than it really was. We are tweaking some things defensively; we want to be more aggressive, press a little more, create more turnovers, and generate more offense through our defensive pressure. This year you'll see a more aggressive team on the defensive end and a much-improved rebounding team at both ends of the court.

RTB: Last season, Victor Rudd had his decision-making questioned at times, especially on the offensive end of the floor. What do you expect to see from him this year? Many scouts have been talking about his potential to be an NBA player.
SH:I think Victor is a smart player. Sometimes he takes difficult shots, and that's just his aggressive makeup. But last year there were times that he got stuck, Vic and AC (Anthony Collins) would end up with the ball with the shot clock about to run out. This year, we're going to play in a way where he'll get better shots, he's got more weapons around him, and we have more depth at the guard spot. But Victor has to keep a good mentality and play with consistency, because if he can bring it for 40 minutes straight, he can be as good as anybody around the country.

RTB: There is obviously a battle for the starting shooting guard spot heading into this year, with Javontae Hawkins, Musa Abdul-Aleem and Martino Brock all bringing something different to the table. What do you want to see from those guys in order to claim the starting spot?
SH: It's an extremely competitive position. With Rudd having the ability to play the 4 and the 3, it gives us more flexibility. But like you said, they all bring something unique to the table. Martino is the best defender, and he slashes to get to the basket best. Musa is the best 3-point shooter. Javontae has the most all-around talent. From day 1 of last year to now, you can see the tremendous improvement Javontae and Zach LeDay have made. But right now, I see Javontae taking his game to another level and he could have a nice sophomore year for us.

RTB: You mentioned Zach LeDay. He and Chris Perry have both have had a great offseason in the weight room, with both of them putting on 20-25 pounds of muscle. That will definitely help inside.
SH:Definitely. Last year Zach played so aggressively in the paint against bigger guys who he didn't match up with well, but this year he'll be able to hold his ground even better. Both Chris Perry and Zach haven't lost a step since putting on the weight and both have actually improved their vertical jump.

RTB: With Anthony Collins recently having his knee drained, Bulls fans have reason for concern. What's the update on AC from a health standpoint?
SH: It's not a major issue. It will probably be a little bit longer than we originally anticipated. We thought it would be a two-week deal, but it might extend to three weeks; but by the time we get to November, he'll be a full-go and he'll start practicing within the next few weeks. He's the type of guy where it will just take him a week to get himself back in shape. He'll condition and shoot a million shots a day. We would like to have him out here right now, but in some ways it might be a blessing in disguise. We have guys like Corey Allen, Josh Heath, who are really getting a lot of reps and experience with the key guys. I think it's going to help speed up their growth, and when AC returns, it just end sup making out point guard position that much stronger.



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