Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Josh Heath fits in nicely with USF Bulls

TAMPA

From the scalp down, Stan Heath loves everything about his newest point guard. Josh Heath, youngest of his two boys, brings smarts, efficiency, instincts and an unkempt Afro adding roughly 3 inches to his 6-foot-2 frame.

"Other than his haircut, I'm good," the elder Heath said.

In the ideal scenario, this coiffure clash never would have materialized this winter. Stan's glistening pate would've occupied one end of the Bulls' bench, Josh's retro tuft the other. Dad wanted to redshirt son. Son responded with nary a whimper.

"That was the plan," Josh said.

But junior PG Anthony Collins' lingering knee problems turned Heath's roster on its 'fro. Josh Heath, 2012 MVP of the Class 3A state tournament as a Tampa Prep junior, formally burned his redshirt Thursday at Temple.

In the process, he might have altered the trajectory of the season. In his 19-minute debut, Josh had five assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers as USF rallied from one 10-point deficit after another in an 82-75 triumph.

It was a performance far more clutch than cameo. Despite being "super nervous" initially, Josh's steadiness enabled starting PG Corey Allen Jr. (14 points) to play off the ball extensively and provided a momentum shift.

His presence was so stabilizing, F Victor Rudd called to his coach at one point in the second half and asked him to re-insert Josh.

"In the first game on the road, I thought he was terrific," Stan Heath said. "We know he's going to be a really good player, but to do it in your first game and not have a turnover, be instrumental in a comeback, that was huge."

Had Stan Heath been dealing with a more egocentric personality, this might not have worked. Inactive the first 15 games, Josh could've balked at burning his redshirt (Stan says the decision was his son's). He could've played mom off dad. He could've moped.

Instead, he pondered for several days and consulted Joe Fenlon, his high school coach. Fenlon's message: If you're going to burn the redshirt, don't burn it for naught. Play so well, your dad will have to keep you in the lineup.

"We needed some more backcourt depth, somebody who could run the team, get Corey Allen off the ball where he's better, he can score, he can make plays," Josh said. "I just decided if I can help I might as well come back."

If Josh can build on his debut effort, USF's offense expands. If he struggles, tension in the Heath household likely won't escalate. This is a kid who committed to his dad's program by phone. He has long since separated the father from the coach.

"He doesn't want anything different, anything special," Stan said. "I think he makes sure he stays kind of in basketball mode when we're out here in our environment here. When we're at home, he pops by, we have fun, we joke around, and it's that."

MILLENNIAL MARK: Rudd, who spent his freshman year at Arizona State, is one point shy of 1,000 for his career. He has 961 in two-plus seasons at USF.

SHRINE SIGHTING: LB DeDe Lattimore, USF's second all-time leading tackler (337), will be the Bulls' lone representative in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.

It's the only postseason all-star event on his docket. Since graduating with a criminology degree in December, Lattimore has been training at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami, which boasts dozens of NFL players among its clientele.

"Right now this is the main showcase," said Lattimore, training at ILB and OLB for Jerry Glanville's East squad. "So I plan on taking advantage of it."

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Published: 01/17/18