Marc Daniels' From the Press Box

Nov. 13, 2009

By Marc Daniels

When the game is on the line and Kirk Speraw needs to design a game-winning play, who will he call upon to be the go-to guy? Good question. Kirk might need to get back to you on that... for now.

In previous seasons, there was no question who got the ball in crunch time. But Jermaine Taylor is now a member of the Houston Rockets. Not only did he take his 26 points per game with him to the pros, but he took his big game ability of making the impossible shot, the flying dunk and his swagger that carried UCF so many nights.

This year's version of the Knights are younger than last season's team and among the youngest in the country. That means the role of Mr. Clutch might be more of the Group To Grow Up.

When UCF tips off the new season against UMass on Friday night, basketball royalty might be in the stands with a certain player's father, but last we checked his college eligibility has expired.(Although he did leave early). So who steps up and wants the role? Who is the guy that convinces Kirk Speraw the play should go through him? Who is the player that says, "I want the ball?"

For now that role will likely fall to several players. A.J. Rompza had a big game winner against Tulsa last season. His driving ability is vital for the team's success this season. However, Rompza must sharpen his outside shooting to be that guy.

Isaac Sosa looks to be the likely candidate for the role. He can come off a screen and knock down a three. But he must continue to work to create his own shot because opponents will defend his outside range.

A.J. Tyler can play inside and has nice range stepping away from the basket. But Tyler will need to be the low post force for UCF as younger front line players develop.

Don't be surprised if freshman Keith Clanton becomes that late game option as the year moves along. He has great low post ability and a nice outside touch. Clanton seems to be a player who offers a variety of choices, but let's not forget he is a rookie and there will be first year challenges.

To some degree, Kirk will offer a team that forces defenses to account for several players. In time, someone might become UCF's go-to guy. But that will have to develop.

For now, the Knights will likely battle every night and roles will be defined. Kirk Speraw says his new class is young and inexperienced for the college game, but their basketball knowledge is incomparable to any other group he has brought in. Translation, there will be growing pains, but the upside is great. And once his players get comfortable and the game comes to them at a slower pace, their talent will take over.

So don't look for the highlight reel moments of what Jermaine gave us in the past, but it's OK to think about the future and how bright it is. That future begins with UMass Friday night.

Marc Daniels' From the Press Box runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.