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Newsome basketball alum Anthony Gamble flourishes at University of Tampa

University of Tampa small forward Anthony Gamble credits Spartan’s coach Richard Schmidt with his progress on the court. The walk-on from Newsome High scored a career-high 14 points in a recent contest with Alabama Huntsville.
University of Tampa small forward Anthony Gamble credits Spartan’s coach Richard Schmidt with his progress on the court. The walk-on from Newsome High scored a career-high 14 points in a recent contest with Alabama Huntsville.
Published Nov. 22, 2016

TAMPA — Blue-chip prospects usually do not flock to the University of Tampa's men's basketball program. But Spartans coach Richard Schmidt, entering his 34th season at UT, has made a career out of identifying potential, then developing it.

That's why Spartans sophomore Anthony Gamble, a walk-on from Newsome High School, said he knows he's in the right place.

"When I was in high school, I knew the system, I knew what to do, but it was just like hammer-nail, hammer-nail, hammer-nail," Gamble said. "After that, what do you do? You kind of freeze up.

"Coach Schmidt gets you to understand why you are doing something. He's very demanding, but you've got to listen to him. He knows his stuff. At the end of the day, he's always going to be there for you and if you do what he says, you're going to prosper."

Schmidt said the Spartans were inexperienced last season, when they were 9-18 (4-12 Sunshine State Conference) for only the fourth losing season in Schmidt's UT tenure.

Five of the conference defeats were by six points or fewer — and three were one-pointers — so Schmidt hopes there were lessons learned.

"I think we have come a long way," said Gamble, a 6-foot-4 small forward who drew some Division III interest out of Newsome, but decided the academic/basketball offerings of Division II UT, plus the proximity to his Riverview home, provided an ideal combination. "We're capable of contending for a championship. We have that belief."

Belief was something Gamble didn't possess at Newsome.

"I didn't think I was that good, just one of those average players," Gamble said. "I was timid. I didn't have a lot of confidence. I was joking around and I don't think I knew how to work hard."

When Gamble decided to walk-on at UT, he was 190 pounds. He couldn't do a bench-press with a 45-pound plate on each side of the bar — and he was mocked. Now he's 210 pounds and he's benching 155, a figure that keeps increasing.

On the court, his fortunes are improving, too.

After redshirting, then averaging 1.2 points (and just 6.5 minutes per game) as a freshman, he earned a start in UT's first regular-season game this year. Gamble had a career-high 14 points — in 18 minutes — against Alabama Huntsville on Nov. 13.

"I'm much more of a useful piece than I was two years ago," Gamble said. "I'm capable of contributing to the team. I'm comfortable and I have some experience.

"Coach Schmidt still gets on me. But that means he cares. He still sees something in me, probably more than I see in myself."

That has been Schmidt's mantra since he became UT's coach in 1983-84, when the Spartans brought back their men's basketball program after a 12-season absence.

Schmidt's first recruit was 6-7 Todd Linder of St. Petersburg, who was ignored by Division I-A programs. Linder became a two-time All-American and the Division II National Player of the Year.

Early on, he also recruited 6-8 Nate Johnston of Belle Glade, who didn't have the grades for Division I. Johnston was a UT All-American and had a brief stint in the NBA.

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Spartans volleyball coach Chris Catanach, who this season won his 1,000th career match, said he learned better ways to identify athletic talent over the years in casual conversations with Schmidt.

"He's a smart, smart guy," Catanach said. "The track record of his players proves that."

Unproven. Unheralded. Passed over.

That was Gamble's resume when he arrived at UT. He's improving, almost by the day. He's stronger and more experienced. He's ready to make a jump.

Sound familiar?

"UT is a great school for academics," Gamble said. "And it's a great place to be for basketball. I think I'm going to fulfill my potential."

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