TAMPA — From the very beginning of his University of South Florida basketball career, senior forward Victor Rudd knew how to catch your eye. Whether it was an alley-oop thunder dunk or a deep 3-pointer, Rudd was flashy and fan-pleasing.
After his sophomore season, when USF made the NCAA tournament and one of his highlight plays appeared on the CBS season-closing anthem “One Shining Moment,’’ Rudd decided he would enter the NBA draft. One month later, he wisely returned to USF, realizing there was much still to learn.
Fittingly, as a senior, his game has matured.
He’s still capable of the splash plays, but Rudd now understands the importance of defense, rebounding and leadership, all qualities he has used to help keep the Bulls afloat this season.
“I’m happy with the way I’ve been playing,’’ Rudd said. “As long as we win, I don’t have any problems.’’
Rudd, 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, had 23 points and 10 rebounds in USF’s victory at Temple on Jan. 9, his 13th career double-double and fourth this season. He leads the Bulls in scoring and rebounding. And whenever an attitude adjustment is needed, even after coach Stan Heath has left the locker room, Rudd firmly sets the direction for his teammates.
“He is really emerging,’’ Heath said. “It’s fun to watch his growth. No question, (early in his USF career), he wanted the home-run dunk, the long-range three, he wanted to wave to the crowd. That was almost like his identity for the longest (time). Sometimes, he would get a little temperamental. You don’t see that much anymore.
“In the past, I think he felt like, ‘I’ve got to put a lot of points on the board.’ You know what? He might be more of a triple-double kind of guy, those kind of numbers. He’s buying into the fact that he can do those things. He handles the ball on breaks. He makes some nice passes. He goes to the boards. He has evolved.’’
Signing Day party: USF football season-ticket holders are invited to the team’s Signing Day Party on Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Sun Dome.
The event features a buffet dinner and appearances by football coach Willie Taggart and his staff, who will talk about members of USF’s 2014 recruiting class.
Cost is $15 for season-ticket holders who have renewed for 2014 and $20 for those who haven’t yet renewed. Fans can reserve tickets for the Signing Day Party by calling 1-800-GoBulls. The reservation deadline is Friday, Jan. 31.
Bulls bits: USF could have a pair of players in Super Bowl XLVIII. Denver Broncos rookie CB Kayvon Webster is competing in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Seattle Seahawks rookie QB B.J. Daniels is competing in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. …Women’s basketball sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins was named to this week’s AAC honor roll. Jenkins had 18 points and 12 rebounds against Temple, then 12 points and 11 rebounds against Louisville. The Bulls (8-8, 3-2) play at UCF (8-7, 1-3) on Saturday night. …Ken Eriksen’s softball team begins with the USF-Wilson DeMarini Tournament on Feb. 6 with an opener against the Florida Gators. …Lelo Prado’s baseball team begins Feb. 14 at home against Maryland Eastern Shore. The non-conference highlight is a two-game home set against Florida State — and two-sport standout Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback — on March 4-5. USF RHP Jimmy Herget and 2B Nik Alfonso are members of the preseason All-AAC team.