John Denton's Knights Insider: Spurlock Hoping to Contribute to Success

Oct. 18, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Flashing a knowing look and a devilish grin, Tristan Spurlock admitted that he likes his role as an enigma for the UCF men's basketball team.

Loaded with talent, size and versatility but bereft of much playing experience, the 6-foot-7 Spurlock revels now in the fact that he could be a deciding factor in just how successful the Knights are this season.

If Spurlock is the knockdown shooter and flashy scorer that he showed at times in practice last season while sitting out because of NCAA transfer rules, the Knights could feature a dynamic offense full of possibilities with the return of Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton.

Spurlock likes that there are plenty of eyes on him as the Knights open training camp in preparation for the season. He is also plenty eager to clear up some of the mystery surrounding his game and prove that he can be a key contributor for the Knights this season.

``I like being thought of as an X-factor,'' Spurlock said, flashing a knowing smile. ``Teams weren't able to scout me last year because I was sitting out, but I feel like I will impress some people with what I can do. I'm an athletic wing and coach has used me in a lot of situations such as pick-and-pop, pick-and-shoot and there's no problem with me driving the ball down the court. Whether I'm playing (shooting guards), (small forwards) or (power forwards), I feel like they are going to have their hands full guarding me on the (offensive) end.''

UCF coach Donnie Jones said a couple of the true strengths of this season's team will be the depth and versatility of the roster. No player exemplifies that versatility more than Spurlock, who will likely split time this season at three different positions.

But because Spurlock has played so little the past two seasons, there is some uncertainty as to how much of an impact the 220-pounder can have this season. Spurlock rarely played as a true freshman at Virginia and then was required to sit out all of last season after transferring to UCF. Along with fellow Division I transfers Josh Crittle (Oregon) and Jeff Jordan (Illinois), Spurlock practiced with the Knights all of last season and showed signs of greatness while learning the system.

But Jones stressed that this first season at UCF will still be somewhat of a transition period for Spurlock as he works adapt to the Knights' aggressive, attacking style of play.

``Tristan just needs experience,'' Jones said. ``He has a lot of talent and he can shoot the ball from deep. He can play the (power forward) or the (small forward) and (shooting guard) spots, he's 6-7 and long and athletic. He has a lot of ability offensively and we just need to get him some experience.''

In high school in Virginia, Spurlock averaged 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks a game. He was rated the 80th best player in the country by ESPNU and the 15th best small forward.

That led him to Virginia where he appeared in 13 games as a true freshman. But he saw an opportunity to make a greater impact at UCF, so much so that he was willing to leave his friends and family in Virginia for a future at UCF. Excited about seeing him play significant minutes for the first time in two years, Spurlock's family attended Friday's UKNIGHT Madness and have already made plans to attend the season opener on Nov. 12 at UCF Arena against Saint Thomas.

``My emotions were sky-high in Canada, and those weren't even real games,'' Spurlock said of UCF's three-game exhibition tour over the summer. ``My emotions will be high for our first game and I just want to go out there and play hard and help this team win.''

Spurlock said he's much more prepared for this opportunity after being forced to sit out all of last season because of the NCAA's transfer rules. He struggled not being a part of the team, but he took advantage of the time off by working on his game and strengthening his rail-thin body. He would often return to the gym hours after practice and get up hundreds of extra shots. The extra work was both beneficial to his game and therapeutic to his psyche.

``Sitting out was extremely hard and one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with basketball-wise because there was nothing I could do,'' he said. ``You don't see the rewards right then and there because it's all about getting better for the future. But now I'm plenty more mature, I've grown and on the basketball court I've gotten better. My teammates did a good job keeping me in the fold last season so I felt a part of things.''

Now, Spurlock wants to be a really big part of the UCF offense. Jordan averaged 15.2 points a game last season, while Clanton scored 14.2 points a game while pulling down 7.7 rebounds a night. Spurlock feels that his ability to create off the dribble, knock down shots from the perimeter and play multiple positions will help to take some of the pressure off UCF's two standout juniors.

``Last year, those guys didn't have a lot of help at times and I feel like now this year teams won't be able to double team off of any of us,'' Spurlock said. ``They can't double-team Marcus and Keith like they did last year because we have so many more scoring threats. I feel like I'm a very good shooter and I want to be able to be that knock-down shooter for us.''

And if he can do that, it will ultimately clear up some of the mystery surrounding Spurlock.

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