Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE
Which player is the biggest key to the Bulls' continued basketball success this season?
The Most Important Player For USF Basketball series actually predates this blog. I can remember Ken's old, old blog on The Bulls Pen (before it was eaten) doing a countdown back in 2009, before Dominique Jones was Dominique Jones and when making the NCAA Tournament seemed about as likely as Roseanne getting elected President.
With only two days to go before the season opener, though, we obviously don't have time to go through the entire roster from 13 to 1. And honestly, I don't think any of us could tell you whether Shaun Noriega or Zach LeDay will be more important to the team because this year's parts are more similar and interchangeable than they've been in a long time. So this year, we're going to do one post with The Top 5 Most Important Players For USF Basketball. Here we go.
5. Musa Abdul-Aleem - Abdul-Aleem will miss the first few weeks of the season while he continues to recover from a foot injury he originally suffered as a JUCO last year. That only makes his contributions more important when he gets back in the lineup. He'll be asked to handle the ball when Anthony Collins is out of the game, but he'll also have to be ready to defend a wide range of players. At 6'5" and 221 pounds, he could be asked to guard a 1, a 2, or a 3 in any given game.
4. Javontae Hawkins - Hawkins is the most highly-touted high school recruit the Bulls have had in ages. He comes to USF with a scoring pedigree, and he certainly didn't do anything to dispel that belief when he scored 13 points against Eckerd in only 17 minutes in Monday's exhibition. The Bulls clearly had a tough time scoring the basketball last season, and when Hawkins is in the game he'll need to score at a high level and be ready to compete on the defensive end. Sorry, I turned into Seth Greenberg writing this entry. I'm better now.
3. Victor Rudd - It's going to be crucial for Rudd to evolve his offensive game this year. We know he has all kinds of athleticism and he might be the best dunker in school history, but nearly all of his offensive output last season came on dunks, threes, and free throws, and his shot selection was... lacking at times. If Rudd has eyes on going to the NBA someday, he needs to find more ways to score, especially closer to the basket. And on defense, because of USF's lack of size, he'll have to defend the paint a lot more this season. Other than Jordan Omegbehin, who figures to play sparingly, he's the tallest player on the team. Someone has to take on the other team's power forwards, even if he ends up at a size disadvantage sometimes.
2. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick - The reason Fitzy is even more important than Rudd is because he's the only returning big the Bulls have. (It's still hard to think of Rudd that way, because he quite literally grew into the role this year.) He's going to need to be the anchor of USF's defense. There are nights in Big East play where the other team's going to pump the ball inside over and over again, and Fitzpatrick will not only have to slow them down, but he'll have to meter out his fouls carefully so he can stay on the court. Then on offense, Toarlyn is a matchup problem because he can play inside, but can also step out and shoot threes.
1. Anthony Collins - I thought about putting Rudd or Fitzpatrick here, but all I had to do was think about the last AC that played point guard for the Bulls and that changed my mind real quick. A top-shelf point guard, like Collins shows all the signs of turning into down the line, is worth its weight in gold, and you don't know how much you miss having one until you can't even get an entry pass to your bigs. Collins makes the whole offense work, and he's too fast to get beat off the dribble on defense. He might not be quite as indispensible this year, since the Bulls figure to play faster on offense and won't force him to create something with the shot clock on his back as often, but he's still the most important player on the team, and the one I'd be most worried of being without for any reason.