Photo by Jerry Jackson
Lovejoy’s Justin Tuoyo signs the paperwork that will make him a scholarship basketball player at Virginia Commonwealth University next season.
Justin Tuoyo is known for his defense.
“He’s our Human Eraser,” Lovejoy basketball coach Rick Francis said, a nickname first coined for the late NBA 7-footer Marvin Webster, who also was known for his shot-blocking ability.
But one thing Tuoyo says he won’t erase is the signature he placed this week on scholarship papers that will allow him to play at Virginia Commonwealth University next fall.
“It’s the perfect place for me,” Tuoyo said Thursday. “The chemistry with the coaches clicked real quick and me, my family and the coaches just clicked.”
Tuoyo is what Francis calls “a double-double guy” — a guy who averages double figures in scoring and rebounding. But he’s still in single digits in the shot-blocking column, largely because opponents know what awaits them if they challenge the 6-foot-9, 205-pounder in the middle.
“Everyone knows me for my defense — I put work in on defense,” Tuoyo said.
Said Francis, “Everyone knows when they come to Lovejoy that we have a kid who does what he’s supposed to do on defense,” Francis said.
What really excites Francis is what Tuoyo will bring to the Wildcats this season, now that his left knee is finally healthy.
“He’s been playing the last season and a half on a bum knee,” Francis said. “He’s so healthy now it’s unbelievable. We’re pleased with what we see. ... We’re expecting great things. I’m thinking that VCU has done extremely well in securing him. Now that he’s healthy, the kid is doing things we envisioned him doing 1 1/2 years ago.”
Tuoyo was pursued by Virginia Tech, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia and Georgia Tech — among others. But his connection with VCU coach Shaka Smart really sealed the deal.
“On the court, he’s a great coach and off the court, overall, he’s a great person,” Tuoyo said. “He knows how to talk to you and he cares about more than wins. He teaches you a lot about life.”
With his college choice settled, Tuoyo looks forward to a relaxing senior season, but one with high expectations.
“We’re not settling for anything less than a championship,” he said.
In other college basketball-related news, Tuoyo’s former teammate at Lovejoy, Cameron Solomon, is transferring to Georgia State from Brevard Community College in North Carolina after signing his letter-of-intent Wednesday.
Solomon, the Clayton News-Daily’s Clayton Player of the Year in 2009, averages 16 points a game for Brevard last season. In moving to GSU, he will reunite with another former Lovejoy player in Justin Green.