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Fitzpatrick steps up with Gilchrist out

Posted Nov 30, 2011 by Adam Adkins

Updated Nov 30, 2011 at 03:28 PM

An injury in the post was the one thing University of South Florida men’s basketball coach Stan Heath knew his team could ill-afford, but five games into the season the dreaded scenario became a reality.

However, junior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick has done a solid job of softening the blow for the Bulls with senior forward Augustus Gilchrist sidelined with a minor left shoulder injury, showing signs of the type of player he always envisioned he could be.

“Toarlyn is starting to get more and more comfortable,” Heath said of the former King High standout. “He’s a guy who worked extremely hard over the summer, and I was expecting him to be kind of this guy a little earlier but now I’m seeing what I thought I’d see out of him.”

Fitzpatrick, who is expected to make his third consecutive start tonight at VCU, is averaging a respectable 9.0 points and 7.7 rebounds on the season, but over the past three games when Gilchrist has missed time he’s averaged a double-double (11.0 points, 10.3 rebounds) and shot 50 percent from the field (12-for-24, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range).

Heath expects Gilchrist, who is questionable for tonight’s game, to return to the lineup Saturday at No. 15 Kansas at the latest, but Fitzpatrick will continue to get plenty of floor time.

“I don’t want to see Toarlyn’s minutes drop too much,” Heath said. “I’ve always thought the three of those guys (Gilchrist, Fitzpatrick and senior Ron Anderson Jr.), there’s 80 minutes in those spots. If we went 30, 25 and 25 I think that’d be fair for all three of those guys. And who knows? Maybe at some point in time we’d be able to play all three of those guys together. It kind of depends on what other guys are doing.

“I don’t want to see him drop too much because he’s a very important player. At one time Gus was probably the guy who could really knock down the perimeter shot from the post, but I think right now he’s shooting the ball as good as anybody from the perimeter. Having that extra guy out there who can do that opens things up for guys like (Anthony) Collins, who can penetrate, and (Blake) Nash, who can make things happen, too.”

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