By C.J. Rucker
Every team needs a player that’s willing to use an elbow or two to give his squad a spark during a game.
That’s exactly what the LSU basketball team got when sophomore forward Craig Victor II transferred back home from the University of Arizona last winter.
Last year his feistiness was relegated to practice because of NCAA transfer regulations, but practice this year is no different even though Victor is not eligible to play until mid-December. He’s been known as the muscle of the Gold team in practice since joining the Tigers last January.
Junior guard Tim Quarterman is Victor’s scorned enemy on the practice court because he’s on the Purple team.
Quarterman said the two might seem like friends off the court but as soon as the first whistle for practice blows all of that gets thrown out the window.
“We go after it — man we go after it,” Quarterman said. “We cool right now, but at 3 o’clock… it’s over with. He’s a great competitor, tough dude and that’s what we’re going to need this year. We’re going to need those tough plays and tough-minded people in the game down the stretch.”
If there’s a loose ball during practice, chances are Quarterman and Victor are the ones fighting for it and that’s just how things should be said Victor.
“I want to win and [Quarterman] wants to win so sometimes we disagree on things but at the end of the day we’re all on one team,” Victor said. “It’s best to compete in practice before you go out and compete on the court. I feel if you don’t compete in practice and you go out on the court it’ll be new to you.”
The New Orleans native was the No. 37-ranked prospect in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2014. He attended St. Augustine high school where he also played football alongside LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette.
Victor left New Orleans his senior year of high school to play for Findlay Prep, a prestigious high school basketball powerhouse in Nevada. He spent eight games at the University of Arizona before leaving the Wildcats to become a Tiger.
Victor, who grew up with seven brothers and sisters, chose to come home to Louisiana to be closer to his mother who was battling health issues.
LSU was originally one of Victor’s frontrunners during his high school recruitment so when the opportunity to come back home arose, his decision was made.
“Things didn’t really play out the way I thought they would so I came home which was a blessing because LSU was still interested,” Victor said. “Coach [Johnny Jones] called me — he was one of the first to call me actually. I took that and ran with it because I wanted to be closer to home with everything that was going on. It was a blessing to be closer to home.”
Victor is now the seventh player on the Tiger roster from the state of Louisiana. He competed against players like sophomore guard Jalyn Patterson and Quarterman while on the AAU circuit before leaving to play on the west coast.
Quarterman said he still teases Victor about leaving the south to play on the west coast during practice.
“I let him know, you’re not on the west coast anymore,” Quarterman said. “You’re back home and we’re going to treat you like it.”
Basketball was the minority in Victor’s household growing up. Most of his brothers played football while he excelled on the basketball court.
Two of his brothers attend John Curtis Christian High School, the same school that’s won three Louisiana state football championships in the last five years.
Victor’s rugged temperament on the court stems from going up against his brothers who brought their football background to the blacktop in pickup basketball games.
Many are already starting to peg Victor as the Dennis Rodman of the team because of his unforgiving demeanor on the court.
The six-foot-nine-inch forward said he’s less concerned with comparisons and wants to stay within himself while doing whatever he needs to do to help the team win.
“I’m going to just come in and play basketball man,” Victor said. “Rebound, play hard, do what I do. Stepping out, shooting the mid-range and being on the block. Just communicate and lead the best I can.”
Victor believes this year’s team is a special one that can accomplish great things, but for now, he’s just happy to be able to finally play in front of his family again.
“I’m just happy to be home man,” Victor said.