John Denton's Knights Insider: Herzog Fits in With Talented Knights

Oct. 31, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Having been a part of a Michigan State program that made the past two Final Fours, Tom Herzog didn't know what to expect about the talent level of the UCF's men's basketball team when he transferred in for his senior season.

But as a three-time honors student, a graduate with a degree in applied engineering sciences and a master's enrollee, Herzog is a person who always does his homework.

So to make himself more familiar with the Knights, Herzog pulled up YouTube.com clips of power forward Keith Clanton and was thoroughly impressed with the fluidity in the sophomore forward's game. He talked to others around the program about point guard A.J. Rompza and was told about his fiery passion for the game. And he looked on from afar as shooting guards Isaac Sosa and Taylor Young stroked one jumper after another.

Needless to say, Herzog's concerns were quickly put to rest.

``We have a lot of talent here and we're going to be a really deep basketball team,'' Herzog predicted. ``We have athletes, we have shooters, we have four pretty good big guys and I think all of the pieces are in place for us to do well.''

Part of the hope for major improvement this season at UCF under new head coach Donnie Jones has been the addition of Herzog, a 7-foot shot-blocking center, and 6-foot-8, 245-pound bruiser Dwight McCombs. One of Jones' first missions upon taking over at UCF was to add some size and muscle to the frontline in hopes of dramatically improving the Knights' rebounding from a season ago and make the power forward position more diversified.

``We needed depth at that center position and we immediately addressed it with Tom and Dwight,'' Jones said recently. ``Now, we can put Keith Clanton and A.J. Tyler (at power forward) and they don't have to take the brunt of the contact on a day-in and day-out basis.''

The Knights are hoping that Herzog can be a stopper in the lane this season. The Flint, Mich., native committed to Michigan State after a decorated high school career and redshirted as a freshman. Over the next three seasons he played sparingly off the bench, getting into 44 games and making one start. Because Herzog is enrolled in UCF master's program, he was allowed to transfer to UCF without having to sit out a season.

UCF wants to push the ball in transition this season, and thus far Jones has been highly impressed with Herzog's ability to run the floor and finish on the break. More so than delineating players by specific position, Jones wants his players to be ``basketball players'' and have the ability to put the ball on the floor and knock down open shots when available.

Herzog said the creative freedom that Jones allows his players is a big confidence-builder to the squad. Herzog was recruited out of high school by Jones, formerly a lead assistant coach at the University of Florida. He is delighted now that he will get to play for Jones, whom he describes as the perfect coach for him.

``I feel like I fit in and can really compete here and make us a better team,'' Herzog said. ``I came down here and talked to Coach Jones and saw a lot of the guys on my visit, and I just felt like I fit in here. I felt that I fit in with the way that Coach Jones wants to play the game. It seemed like a perfect fit. When you have a coach who is on your side, encouraging you and believes in you it really gives you a lot more confidence to do things. Coach Jones has been great for me.''

In addition to swatting shots and rebounding in traffic, Herzog said another one of his big duties this season will be to try and lighten the load on Clanton, UCF's standout sophomore power forward. Herzog likes what he sees already and thinks that Clanton has the chance to be an elite player in Conference USA this season.

``Coming in, I looked at the stats from last year and I looked at a couple of Keith's clips online, and I've been really impressed by his skill level,'' Herzog said. ``He's really crafty, he can shoot it and somehow he finds ways to score and get open. He's going to be a really good player here the next couple of years.''

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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.