Las Vegas: Troy Baxter

LAS VEGAS — In some respects, Troy Baxter hardly resembles the player he was just a couple years ago. He looks and is built approximately the same, but Baxter gradually has migrated his game out toward the perimeter on a more sustainable basis. The Florida native’s play this summer has opened eyes and he’ll enter his senior year on a high note, prior to matriculating at USF in 2016-17.

Troy Baxter always has looked the part. A 6-9, long, sinewy athlete, the native Floridian emerged at the 2013 Nike Team Florida Classic as a talented work in progress.

And yes, he need to progress, but to his credit he absolutely has succeeded. Baxter hit the Under Armour trail this year with Team Breakdown and has built momentum over the course of the past several months. Though still a power forward based on his best defensive position as well as ballhandling that still requires improvement, he’s beginning to transition from hybrid four-man into a quasi-stretch four.

Baxter’s jump shot is noticeably improved. He still shoots a ball that has some sidespin — ideally, he’ll eliminate that going forward — but he now finds the net from three-point distance on a regular basis. He’s particularly fond of the corners and sets his feet nicely, seeking open shots on kickouts from post players such as Breakdown teammate Dewan Huell or one of the club’s guards.

But he hasn’t abandoned his home in the post, either. Baxter blocks shots, rebounds, hammers down dunks and disrupts opponents defensively despite lacking muscle, an area he’ll certainly improve at USF.

The Bulls are likely to incorporate him into the rotation very early. Orlando Antigua’s building program has needed an overall talent upgrade since he arrived on campus last year, and Baxter is exactly the type of versatile athlete — and in-state product — they’ll need to sign going forward.

Baxter presently slots as the nation’s No. 22 power forward but could receive a promotion in our next rankings update, based on his summer play.

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