Welcome back to The Most Important Player For USF Basketball Countdown! When we last left you, newcomer Anthony Collins came in at #8 as he gets settled in and learns the offense. Number 7 might have turned the corner this offseason, but I'd like to see the jump in his game before I can move him up. So The 7th Most Important Player For USF Basketball this year is Shaun Noriega!
After getting off to a slow start last year, Shaun really came on strong during Big East play. Playing in all 33 games and starting 10 of those, Noriega averaged 6.4 PTS/.9 REB on 37% shooting from the field and 38% from behind the arc. While Noriega was pushed out of the rotation in the middle of the season, Heath started using Shaun more after his big game against Notre Dame in the middle of February. Noriega scored a career high 23 points on 6-10 shooting from behind the arc. In the last 8 games of the year, Shaun averaged 12.5 points a game, and became USF's first real threat from the perimeter since Melvin Buckley or possibly even Reggie Kohn.
Having a quality outside shooter means the world to our posts, as opposing defenses will finally have to respect someone on the perimeter. For the past decade, opponents would collapse in the lane because we never had anyone who could shoot the ball consistently. With Noriega, there will now be that little bit of extra space our bigs to work with as they have to respect Shaun's ability to shoot. If they don't, Shaun will take advantage as he just needs a little bit of space to make opponents pay.
While Heath has gushed about Noriega's improvement on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, I would really like to see how he does during our non-conference schedule this year. With Jawanza Poland out for at least the first month of the year, Noriega will see a ton of minutes early on as he rotates with Hugh Robertson and Victor Rudd on the wing, and getting off to a strong start will be big for Noriega's confidence. If he can produce, it could be a big year for not only him but for everyone else around him.
So who will be number 6 in TMIPFUSFB countdown? Your answers are below.