Freshman Focus: Russell Renteria

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

When it comes to the three-time defending national champion men's water polo team, the rich keep getting richer. El Toro high school's Russell Renteria headlines another stellar Jovan Vavic recruiting class. 

At six-foot-two and 210 pounds, the former 2009 CIF Division I Co-Player of the Year (picture via OC Register) comes to Troy with college-level stature and an ability to score (122 goals his senior year) that makes him virtually unstoppable in the pool. While Vavic brought in his largest recruiting class to date in 2011 (15 recruits), Renteria's rare physical tools could make him an instant asset to an already well-oiled machine.

"Renteria is a very difficult to match-up with because he can beat you on the outside and he's a two-meter man," Vavic said upon signing the Lake Forest, CA native. "He's very strong and very fast and a great shooter."

Despite never logging a single minute with the Trojans, the humble Renteria is already showing signs of a mature student-athlete. The way he sees it, the USC men's water polo team has been doing just fine without him the past three seasons, and if that means more learning than playing early on, he is ready for it.

"I honestly don't expect to have a huge impact my freshman year," said Renteria. "I expect to learn a lot my first season, seeing as the team is full of such great players already."

While his staggering stats and high school hardware are definitely something at which to marvel, the freshman admits he is not without flaws in his game. With increased practice time under the tutelage of Vavic and his staff, he hopes those deficiencies will someday be a thing of the past.

"I just need to improve on all of my defensive skills and also adjusting to the college water polo atmosphere because they do things so differently and are all very skilled," said Renteria. 'It's an honor to play for coach Vavic, and I definitely look forward to learning from him."

For the first time in his water polo career, Renteria will be the small fish in a big pond. But with a pond full of NCAA champions at his disposal, USC's latest catch might benefit in the long run by sitting, waiting and watching those who have already been there and held the trophy.

(Photo by OC Register)

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