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Heath: ‘We’ve got to move on’

Posted Aug 27, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated Aug 27, 2012 at 01:49 PM

University of South Florida men’s basketball coach Stan Heath said he learned only last week there was a brewing problem with the eligibility of 6-foot-11, 270-pound center Waverly Austin, a first-team junior-college All-American who was denied admission to USF on Friday.

Austin is now looking for a new school with Oregon and Xavier among the possibilities.

Austin, who received his Associate of Arts degree from Palm Beach State College and was a full NCAA academic qualifier, was conditionally admitted to USF for summer school.

“Some things (junior-college classes) weren’t accepted and he was here conditionally and some of the conditions for his admittance weren’t met,’’ Heath said Monday. “Am I happy about it? Well, no, I’m not happy. I’m disappointed. I feel bad for Waverly. I think everyone shares in the responsibility. Ultimately, the player has to take some responsibility. But I respect the academic side. We just have to move on.’’

Austin was recruited out of high school to USF in 2010, but wasn’t academically eligible and moved to junior college.

Heath said it’s the third time one of his recruits was denied admission to USF. In 2008, Teeng Akol bounced to Oklahoma State, then Western Kentucky. Last season, junior-college center Andre Jackson surfaced at Cal-Bakersfield.

“Waverly was pretty disappointed because he wanted to be here,’’ Heath said. “I had to help him turn the page. Once he realized he was a hot commodity, I think his mood changed. At the end of the day, he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be in a good program.’’

Although Heath said “our team is hurt’’ by the absence of Austin, who averaged 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots for Palm Beach State, the Bulls are exploring their frontcourt options.

Senior Kore White (6-8, 241), a graduate student who transferred from Florida Atlantic and was a late addition last spring, will have a more defined role.

“I guess signing Kore looks like a great move now,’’ Heath said. “He becomes very important. I always thought signing him was a good move because you have to be ready for injuries or anything, really. You can always use depth.’’

Holdover senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (6-8, 245) can play center, while junior Victor Rudd Jr., an outside shooting threat, will see added time at power forward.

USF’s most intriguing angle, though, involves redshirt freshman Jordan Omogbehin (7-3, 334), who was thought to be a work-in-progress this season, probably playing no more than 10 minutes. His role could change.

“Our biggest commitment is winning games for our program, so we’re having conversations with our strength coach, our coaching staff, everyone, seeing what we can do to speed up his (Omogbehin’s) curve,’’ Heath said. “What is realistic? We might need to see if we can borrow some minutes, get him out there more.

“We lost a 6-11 guy. Now we’ve got to root for the 7-3 guy. If he can run up and down the court, he’s a problem. If he’s there setting a pick in the lane, he’s a problem. If he catches it down low and goes to the basket, he’s a problem. So when he develops, we think we’ve got something really special.’’

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