Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF's Orekhova programmed to shoot

USF's Inga Orekhova, right, looks to take a shot as Rutgers' Betnijah Laney blocks her path during a game last month.

AP photo

USF's Inga Orekhova, right, looks to take a shot as Rutgers' Betnijah Laney blocks her path during a game last month.

TAMPA — Inga Orekhova feels as if she was born to play basketball.

Growing up in Austria as her parents played professionally, the Ukraine-born USF junior forward was immersed in the sport from an early age.

"I never had a choice to play anything else. I was always in the gym with them," said Orekhova, preparing for today's game with No. 3 Connecticut. "It was playing basketball and watching their games. Overseas, I was always shooting. My dad and my mom always said, 'You've got to shoot.' It came naturally."

Though much of the spotlight for USF this season has been on its leading scorers, senior twins Andrea and Andrell Smith, Orekhova is its third-leading scorer. The 6-foot-2 sharpshooter with a quick release averages 12.4 points per game and is tied for fifth in the Big East in 3-pointers (34 in 14 league games) and third in free-throw percentage (88.6 percent).

Facing the Huskies, the Bulls need a big day from Orekhova, who remembers how close USF was to beating UConn on the road last season. The Bulls trailed by one early in the second half before UConn pulled away to win 77-62. USF beat two ranked teams in four days last week, giving it confidence against one of the nation's best.

"For us to be successful, I think you have to shoot a good number from all aspects: from the floor, from the 3-point line, from the free-throw line," USF coach Jose Fernandez said.

Orekhova's path to USF was a long, winding one. She moved to San Diego when she was 17, played two years of high school ball there and became one of the nation's top recruits.

She signed with Northwestern but wasn't admitted. She then was slated to play at USC but wound up at a small junior college in Oklahoma, where USF coaches spotted her. They sold her on Tampa's weather being like San Diego's, beating out Oklahoma to sign her.

Orekhova sat out the first half of last season as mandated by the NCAA after she played parts of two seasons with her mother on an Austrian team coached by her father. Fernandez was once worried about her leaving early to play overseas, but she has committed to returning for her senior year and is on schedule to graduate in December. She speaks fluent Russian, German and English, and took five years of French in school.

Orekhova has her idiosyncrasies. She microwaves her breakfast — cereal, milk and all — because she doesn't like it crunchy. And Andrea Smith said she's addicted to Southern cooking, which she gets on trips to the Smiths' home in Lakeland.

"She likes the home-cooked soul food: ribs, chicken, greens. Oh my goodness, she loves that kind of food," Andrea said. "My parents cook a lot, and she takes, like, four to-go plates. She can eat. And she loves chocolate cake. You look at her. You can't tell a thing, but she loves to eat."

Fernandez knows he has an elite scorer in Orekhova, one who will carry a greater part of the offense next season when the twins are gone. In the meantime, he wants to see the rest of her game be as strong as her shot.

"If we can just get her to guard somebody," Fernandez said. "I tell (USF all-time leading scorer) Jessica Dickson, 'I found a worse defender than you.' Great kid, fun to coach. Really understands the game, has really good court vision. If we can get her to contain the dribble and defend better, she can be a very, very good basketball player."

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com.

USF's Orekhova programmed to shoot 03/01/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 9:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning to retire Vinny Lecavalier's No. 4 in February

    Blogs

    When Marty St. Louis became the first Lightning player to have his jersey retired back in January, it was hard not to think that former captain Vinny Lecavalier would be the next one.

    Vinny Lecavalier takes the ice before a 2010 game against the Florida Panthers.
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Worst-Case (Keenum) scenario

    Bucs

    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis in their latest podcast.

    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) scrambles away from Bucs defensive end William Gholston (92) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. J.T. Brown of Lightning respects NFL players' protests

    Blogs

    There was something in the air in the NFL on Sunday. President Trump’s comments and tweets on NFL player protests achieved the effect of creating more of them. Lightning winger J.T. Brown was asked about it as he stood in a hall at Amalie Arena, a few hours before the Lightning played the Florida Panthers in …

    J.T. Brown, one of about 30 African-American players in the National Hockey League, would not rule out that he might protest.
  4. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Vikings review

    Bucs

    Greg Auman looks back on Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the latest edition of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Quarterback Jameis Winston is sacked during the first half of the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Who took a knee? How each NFL team responded to Donald Trump's tweets about anthem protests

    Bucs

    NFL players, coaches and owners across the league reacted in various ways on Sunday to remarks from President Donald Trump speaking about NFL players who have protested during the national anthem.

    Members of the Oakland Raiders kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. [Alex Brandon | Associated Press]