(Credit: Pierson Clair)
The importance of having a post presence in basketball can’t be understated. Yeah, sure, teams have won in the past, and will continue to win, with sharp-shooting guards or slashing forwards, but having a big man who you can dump the ball down to, who can create second chance opportunities, and who can defend the rim is a game-changer – something that can propel a team to the next level.
This made the news that surfaced last Thursday all the more thrilling for USC, as the NCAA notified the men’s basketball program that 7-foot-2, 270-pound center Omar Oraby’s waiver petition had been approved, and that he was immediately eligible for competition.
Not only was the USC staff enthused at the talent they had landed when picking up the Rice transfer and single-season blocks record holder, but also that all of the hard work and long hours that they had put into acquiring Oraby had paid off.
Coach Bob Cantu is confident that Oraby will significantly help the Trojans this season (Credit: USC Sports Information)
“We had a short window of time to make it all happen,” Associated Head Coach, Bob Cantu told College Chalktalk. “We called him [Oraby] on a Friday, he visited the next Tuesday, committed on Wednesday, and enrolled in classes Friday. When we got the news, we were all excited. All of us: the team, everyone.”
Oraby, who dropped in 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in the team’s 14-point victory over Coppin State in the season opener (just one day after becoming eligible), brings numerous things to the table for a USC team that finished with an overall record of 6-26 last season.
“Omar brings so many things to our team,” Cantu said. “He adds size, presence, resistance at the rim, instant low post offense. He’s going to consistently demand double teams, which will lead to good shots from the perimeter.”
The Egyptian native averaged six points and more than three and a half rebounds per game in very limited time as a sophomore last season, and has abilities every basketball coach wishes his big man had.
“He’s very, very good, and incredibly talented,” said Cantu. “He makes a minimum amount of mistakes, has great footwork, balance, and hands, and has tremendous passing ability.”
Oraby adds depth to USC’s roster, becoming the third 7-footer on the Trojans rosters heading into the 2012-13 campaign, joining junior Dewayne Dedmon and senior James Blasczyk. This will prove to be extremely helpful, as the team faced significant injury woes last season. Having the ability to play a handful of different guys will allow for more rest and less stress for the players – something that coach Cantu is looking forward to.
“We have a so much better chance of winning every game that we play in this season,” he said. “Injuries hit us last year. We were a depleted army going into battle. Our depth is so much better. We have 14 guys who can play everyday.”
While it won’t be too difficult to improve upon last years record (the team’s 26 losses set a school record for most number of losses in a season), the Trojans have big plans for the upcoming campaign. It won’t be considered a successful season with just a handful of more wins – the players and coaches want to be competitive each game, and steer toward returning the program back to national recognition. And they want to do it now.
“The team is hungry,” Cantu said. “We have a ton of individual experience, and the team experience, chemistry, and roles will be worked out as we move forward. All the guys, especially the ones who were here when we struggled, are ready to go.”
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