J. Meric

USF's Freshmen Growing Up Fast

January 27, 2013

WHO: USF (10-9, 1-6) at Marquette (14-4, 5-1)
WHEN: 9 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisc.
TV: ESPNU (Adam Amin and LaPhonso Ellis)
RADIO: 98.7-FM The Fan (Jim Lighthall and Todd Kalas)




USF Senior Writer

TAMPA - The Bulls are back on national television 9 p.m. Monday when they face Marquette at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.

USF is coming off a 73-65 loss to Notre Dame at home on Saturday that featured more solid contributions from the freshmen.  Forward Zach LeDay posted a career-high 17 points off the bench while guard JaVontae Hawkins scored a career-high 11 points in a reserve role. Notre Dame's entire bench produced eight points.

"I thought it was important to infuse some life into our team and I thought both of those guys did it in a big way for us," head coach Stan Heath said.

Effort and energy were to qualities Heath said both freshmen bring in practice and both have been carrying it over in recent contests. Hawkins has started four of the past five games and has been in double figures four times during the stretch. LeDay played his top game of college Saturday while logging in a career-high 28 minutes.

"They're still learning the college game and how to handle certain situations, but I love their effort and their energy," Heath said.

USF's young duo have been working to become bigger contributors even when the Bulls leave the court after practice. Alongside Heath at the Saturday's postgame press conference, LeDay told reporters about the special bond he's building with Hawkins.

"We go shoot every night and come in and put in extra work in the weight room, so we're just trying to get bigger and better," LeDay said. "Coach believes in me, so I have to produce."

Despite the loss, Heath cracked a smile when LeDay displayed a welcomed swagger when talking about his increasing role. LeDay, a 6-foot-7, 223-pounder, faced off against Notre Dame senior Jack Cooley (6-9, 246 pounds) and treated the top game of his college career just like any another game.

"I'll fight against anybody. I don't really care how big they are. They put on their shoes the same way I put on my shoes - it's basketball," LeDay said. "We've been playing it since we were little kids. I know how to shoot the ball and stuff like that, so I just went at him like anybody else."

Watch LeDay, Hawkins and the rest of the Bulls take on Marquette on ESPNU. USF stays on the road to face UConn on Sunday, Feb. 3 before returning to the Sun Dome for another battle with Marquette on Feb. 6.


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