As Stan Heath works to put together his first full recruiting class at USF, prospect Billy Rush would seem to fit into the category of "system" signee. The junior college standout is cut from the same mold as many players Heath has succeeded with in the past.
"In a motion offense like they're going to run, he's a perfect fit," South Suburban College head coach John Pigatti said. "He's 6-7, but Billy's really a perimeter player. He can get inside and has good post skills, but he's very athletic. He's basically a big guard."
Rush will play for Pigatti this season after one year at Southeastern College in Iowa. A product of Thornridge High School in Chicago, Rush is now at home, playing five minutes from where he grew up. That proximity could change in a big way, however, if he decides to attend USF.
Rush made an official visit last weekend and could be close to a decision.
"He really, really liked it," Pigatti said of Rush's trip to Tampa. "He loves the staff, but he's still evaluating other options. His recruiting has a ways to go, although it's looking like he'll sign early (November) now. It was looking like the late period before."
Rush was a late bloomer in high school and didn't become a starter until his senior season. He ended up averaging 21 points and 7.5 rebounds, and was rated the No. 12 player in Illinois in 2005-06 by MidStateHoops.com. He also played just one summer on the popular AAU circuit. Grade issues sent Rush to Southeastern, where he averaged 8.3 points, 4 rebounds and 1.3 assists as a freshman last season. He shot 46-percent from the floor, 44-percent from three (27-62) and 65-percent at the free throw line.
"He's going to play a heavy role for us this year – inside and outside. He's going to have to score, rebound the basketball and defend," Pigatti said. "From what I've seen, he's definitely a Big East-caliber player. He's as athletic as any of the guards in the Big East – not the quick, little waterbug guys, but the guards his size."
At South Suburban, Rush will play for a program that Pigatti took to new heights last year. The Bulldogs went 26-10 and finished seventh at the NJCAA Tournament in their first national post-season trip since 1987. Pigatti also has some solid connections with USF. He was an assistant under current Bulls lead assistant Dan Hipsher, when Hipsher was the head coach at Akron.
"He was my boss at Akron and I've known Coach Heath, Coach (Byron) Samuels and the guys on that staff for a long time," Pigatti said. "They have a difficult job ahead of them at South Florida, but if you can get a blue chip player or two to come in, I think there's a ton of potential there. They're going to have a chance because they'll work hard and it's a staff that's really good at developing players."
PITTS RATES VISIT HIGH:
Also on campus last weekend was diminutive Damier Pitts from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. The 5-foot-11 point guard prospect is another player who expects to sign during the early period, and the Bulls appear to have a leg up following his trip.
"I had a great visit. I liked it a lot. The campus was nice and the players were good guys," Pitts said. "They're No. 1 or No. 2 right now on my list."
Pitts is a native of Charlotte, N.C. and played his first three years of high school ball at Charlotte Christian before transferring to Hargrave for this season. His focus as a senior will be to become a more complete point guard after having played both guard positions earlier as a prep. Pitts said he has two more official visits scheduled – next weekend to Marshall and the following to South Carolina – and he also continues to talk with Oklahoma.
The Bulls, however, have made a strong case.
"I made an unofficial visit to USF about a month ago and that made me want to come back. With Coach Heath, he's a good coach and they're hopefully on the come up," Pitts said. "They think I could come in right away at point guard and be an impact player. And I would love to have an opportunity to play in the Big East."