Leon Smith has owned the USF men’s basketball record for steals in a season (68) since he set the record during the the 1973-1974 season, the first season the NCAA began tracking the statistic, and only B.B. Walton’s 64 steals during the 2001-2002 season have come close to breaking this 45-year record.
Until LaQuincy Rideau.
In just 21 games, the redshirt junior transfer from Gardner-Webb has already tied Smith’s single-season record, and with one more steal on Thursday at SMU, he’ll own the record by himself.
We should’ve seen this coming. During his last season with the Bulldogs, Rideau became the first player in Big South history to have over 150 rebounds (189), 150 assists (171), and 100 steals (100).
He averaged just over three steals per game during his sophomore year, and he’s actually crushing his pace this year with 3.24 steals per game, which leads the nation.
“I think the world of [Laquincy],” head coach Brian Gregory said. “Tough kid. One of the few guys in college basketball that bumped up a couple levels [in competition] and is actually better and that’s because of the work he put in last year. He broke his foot at the end of the summer [his redshirt year] and he didn’t start practicing with until after Christmas. He’s one of the reasons we played a little better down the stretch because he finally got healthy and the practices just became very competitive.”
Rideau’s tenacity on defense has bled into every other player on the Bulls roster. Sophomore guard David Collins has seen his defense improve drastically this season playing with Rideau. If it weren’t for Rideau’s ridiculous season in the steals department (3.24 SPG), Collins’ 2.28 SPG would be the best in USF history since Cedric Smith averaged 2.2 SPG during the 1998-1999 season.
It’s not just steals either. Rideau has led a complete defensive turnaround this season. Opponents are shooting 40.7% from the field, the lowest mark since..you guessed it, the 2011-2012 NCAA Tournament team. Opponents are shooting just 31% from behind the arc, USF’s best defensive number since the 2012-2013 season.
Gregory knows Rideau isn’t even close to reaching his peak on either side of the ball.
“He’s worked on his game. He’s shooting the ball better,” Gregory said. “I think as a point guard, he’s just kinda scratching the surface. He’s an intelligent kid, he’s got a good feel [for the game], and he’s only going to get better.”
The rest of the American Athletic Conference is being put on notice now, you better keep the basketball on a string or Rideau and company will swipe it and take it the other way for an easy layup.