TAMPA – He was a guy who seemed to have little interest in school. Now, he’s scheduled to leave the University of South Florida with his degree.
He was mostly about himself. Now, he’s a mentor and a leader.
He was motivated by the spectacular — the dunks that would produce ESPN “SportsCenter” highlights — but now he’s more of a complete player.
The maturation of senior forward Victor Rudd enters its final chapter today as USF celebrates Senior Day when the Bulls (12-18, 3-14 American Athletic) host Temple (8-21, 3-14) at the Sun Dome.
“He has grown up,’’ USF coach Stan Heath said. “We have had our moments, butting heads. But we definitely put our arms around each other right now.’’
Throughout his career, Rudd has been a spectacular dunker, evidenced by last month’s effort against Rutgers, when he jumped over a defender trying to draw a charge and threw down a windmill slam.
Rudd, who will play his final home game today along with senior Martino Brock, has since learned the importance of rebounding, ball-handling and setting an example for his teammates.
“Vic has meant a lot to this team,’’ Brock said. “I’ve seen him grow a lot. At first, he wanted to do this, do that. Now he understands the small things and it has opened up a lot of opportunities for him.
“He has a don’t-give-up attitude. He continues to play every night, bring it every night, be a leader every night.’’
Rudd, who played his freshman season at Arizona State, has 1,181 points at USF and needs 14 to enter the school’s all-time top 10. He averages 16.0 points and 6.8 rebounds, ranking among the AAC leaders in both categories.
The statistic he wanted most of all, though, was victories.
Rudd was an integral part of the 2011-12 team, which finished one victory away from the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16. One day after that run ended, he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, a hasty decision he reversed one month later.
“You always want to play better, but really, you always want to win more,’’ Rudd said. “You get in the (NCAA) tournament and all you want to do is go back. I think the future here is bright. I just wish we could get back (to the NCAA Tournament) one more time before I leave.’’
Heath said Rudd’s legacy is clear.
“He was very instrumental in the best season we’ve ever had here,’’ Heath said. “The games down the stretch, where we were right on the bubble and going down to the wire, I felt (Anthony Collins) and Victor Rudd took their games to another level.
“He should be remembered as a guy who could score, had great highlights and helped us win in his first year. Maybe he does get (to the NBA) down the road, which would be outstanding for us.’’
Louisville coach Rick Pitino is bullish on Rudd’s future.
“Victor Rudd is the type of basketball player the pros like,’’ Pitino said on Feb. 19, after the Cardinals defeated USF 80-54 in Louisville, Ky. “He’s long, athletic and only going to get better.’’
Rudd said he used those words as motivational fuel.
“It’s coming from a Hall of Famer, so I appreciate it,’’ Rudd said. “I just want to play (professionally). I want to get to that part. But I’ve still got games here, so I’m happy about that. When this is over, it’s over. So I want to enjoy it.’’