Thursday, April 26, 2018
Colleges

Victor Rudd aims to lead USF Bulls basketball back to NCAA Tournament

TAMPA — When fans last saw USF's Victor Rudd, he had emerged as the leading scorer in the Bulls' wild run to the NCAA Tournament, then looked into entering the NBA draft before opting to return for his junior year.

The 6-foot-9 forward talked to reporters Tuesday as part of USF's basketball media day, and said he spent this summer working on expanding his skills, relying less on outside shooting and more on rounding out the other aspects of his game.

"When I played summer league back home, I didn't take any (3-pointers). I tried to get to the basket and get to the line," Rudd said. "I think I can get a lot more points if I shoot 10 free throws a game.

"I've added post moves. I'm working out with our post players, and I've added a mid-range shot. I want to do more than shoot a majority of 3s. I want to balance it out with a post game, getting to the basket and getting to the line."

With C Waverly Austin not qualifying to play at USF — he's now at Oregon — the Bulls need players like Rudd and senior F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick to shift some of their focus more toward the post, using their size to help with rebounding inside, where USF lacks depth.

Rudd said he was undersized in some post assignments last year, and has gained 10 pounds for his current weight of 232. Three years ago he was listed at 207 as a freshman at Arizona State.

"Last year, a lot of guys like (Kansas') Thomas Robinson were pushing me, so I had to fight harder, use more strength," Rudd said. "I think it's a lot better when I go to the basket, I can push guys off me."

Rudd and Fitzpatrick, a Tampa King High graduate, spoke with confidence about USF's newcomers, and about a returning nucleus that now starts its goals with the NCAA Tournament. Last season was USF's first appearance in the NCAAs in 20 years and the Bulls won two games, a first in program history.

"That's now the expectation for us now. It's not something we want to do. We did it, and I think we want to keep it going as a tradition here," Rudd said. "That's something we look forward to. Now we want to make the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight."

AIMING HIGH: Coach Stan Heath made it clear that while his team's main goal is to return to the NCAA Tournament, the Bulls are not settling for anything in the Big East.

"We want to challenge at the very top of the league, and that includes challenging for a championship, whether it's the regular season, tournament or both," Heath said. "The NCAA Tournament is a great goal, but this team wants to do more than just that. We know we have a lot of work to do. … I think there's a window right now. The best team in our league on paper going into this season is Louisville, and I think our team feels like we can play with Louisville."

THIS AND THAT: Heath said that 7-foot-3, 320-pound redshirt freshman C Jordan Omogbehin remains likely to play two to four minutes per half initially as he improves his conditioning and health. … The women's basketball team gets a boost with the healthy return of senior G Andrea Smith, who missed last season recovering from an ACL tear. After a 19-16 record last season, 8-8 in the Big East, their goal is to join the men's team in the NCAA field. "That goal, getting somewhere in the NCAA Tournament, is something we want," Smith said.

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