In six weeks, Blake Nash has gone from a name that most USF basketball fans weren't aware of to the Bulls' likely starting point guard for the upcoming season. With Monday's news that senior Anthony Crater has been dismissed due to a violation of team rules, Stan Heath's club will be relying on point guards with little or no Big East experience, but Nash -- a coveted recruit who played at Williston State College in North Dakota -- is already working to prepare himself for a major role this season.
"I know it's going to be tough, but this summer I'm planning on working extremely hard to get better," Nash said by phone Wednesday night from his home in Arizona. "I know I'm going to have a heavy load on my hands, and I want to be prepared."
Crater was a question mark for the upcoming season before his dismissal, having undergone shoulder surgery after the season that was sidelining him for the entire offseason. Nash said he wasn't concerned about playing time before, and he's focused now on improving his core strength to have him more physically prepared for the demands of playing in the Big East.
"I just want to go to college, compete at the highest level and win," Nash said. "If I get the starting job, I'm going to work hard and make things happen."
Nash said he talks with Heath a few times every day, building a "really good relationship" and trust before he arrives on campus next month. He's finishing his last class from Williston online and expects to be at USF when the Summer B semester starts on June 27.
"I'm in the gym shooting a lot. My trainer and I are working a lot of footwork moves, but I'm mainly working on my strength," he said. "Plios, a lot of core stuff. I've been working out with a football trainer to get my core stronger. I played at 173 during the season and right now I'm at 180. I want to be able to play at 180, 185."
The Bulls also have rising sophomore LaVonte Dority back after playing sparingly as a freshman, and Heath also signed another point guard in Houston prep standout Anthony Collins. Point guard was an underperforming position last year for the Bulls, who finished last in the league in assists and turnover margin in conference play. Nash is familiar with his new teammates -- he knew forward Victor Rudd from when they were in high school together in the Los Angeles area -- and likes the talent he'll have around him in Tampa.
"(Heath) has players who all can play a specific role to make us really, really good," Nash said. "We've got big shooters, we've got big posts that can defend. We've got big athletic wings that can run and shoot, and a really good point guard. It's scary, actually. Coach did a great job in recruiting."
Posted by Greg Auman at 10:49:09 am on May 19, 2011