TAMPA — The optimism surrounding USF men's basketball took a major hit Wednesday as sophomore forward Gus Gilchrist, the team's leading scorer in its 7-1 start, will be sidelined until late January after severely spraining his ankle in practice Monday.
"It's a big void. He's been playing terrific, so we'll miss him," coach Stan Heath said. "Guys are going to step up, and we'll have to play a little different than how we've been playing, but I think this team can still perform out there on the court, pick up the slack and win games."
Heath said it could be February before Gilchrist can play again, and with only two healthy post players on roster, he will work on a four-guard lineup in the four games before Big East play begins on Dec. 30.
Freshman forward "Toarlyn Fitzpatrick will have to step up, and the whole team will have to step up with more rebounding and scoring," said Heath, who said Gilchrist rolled his ankle after stepping on a teammate's foot.
Gilchrist leads the Bulls with 18.8 points per game, and his 7.4 rebounds are just behind junior Jarrid Famous for the team lead. Famous and Fitzpatrick will be USF's only true post players until center Alex Rivas returns from surgery on both legs, but that is likely at least a month away.
"We'll miss (Gilchrist) but there are a lot of teams playing four guards," Heath said. "I think we're going to match up okay. We'll play faster. We'll miss the rebounding, a guy like him that can score inside and outside. It's a big hole, but I think the guys will rally around each other."
In other news, sophomore point guard Anthony Crater, a transfer from Ohio State expected to compete for a starting position, will not join the team as expected Sunday and won't begin playing until "sometime in January" at the earliest.
Heath declined to elaborate as to why, citing student confidentiality rules. Fanhouse.com reported last week that Crater had failed a second drug test and would be suspended four or six games. Heath did clarify that Crater was disciplined in June and hasn't done anything wrong since.
Heath said freshman guard Jordan Dumars, son of former Pistons star Joe Dumars, will transfer to be closer to his home in Detroit. In the first eight games, Dumars totaled six points in 27 minutes.
USF returns to action after an 11-day break Sunday against Central Michigan, then it's three more nonconference games before opening Big East play at Louisville. If Gilchrist returns at the start of February, he would miss 13 of the 22 remaining regular-season games.