College Basketball Nation: Maurice Jones

Injury-plagued USC a little unsettled

October, 19, 2011
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USC coach Kevin O'Neill has told reporters he expected the Trojans to be picked 10th in the Pac-12 and called the Trojans without injured point guard Jio Fontan a "rudderless ship."

According to ESPN Los Angeles, the backcourt without Fontan is still a work in progress as it is now expected that Maurice Jones will slide over to play point guard rather have freshman Alexis Moore be the primary ballhandler.
"Mo's going to play the point," O'Neill said Saturday. "I don't know what it's going to do, but he's going to play the point."
Part of that is Jones, who noticeably talks and acts much more like a leader than he did last season, as a true freshman some 2,000-plus miles away from home in Michigan. And part of that is Moore, who proved over the last two months to be a risky proposition as an immediate starter.

"I just feel like it's too much pressure for him to be the starting point guard," O'Neill said. "He's going to play some point, obviously. And we're running what is probably going to be a two-guard offense, but I just don't want the pressure to be on him.

"I don't think he's ready for that yet."

Moore certainly seems open to it in comments made to the team's website.

"Personally, I like to have the ball in my hands, but we have a great guy in Mo in terms of his playmaking ability, so I also like playing with him and playing off of him," he said. "Any way I can, in terms of whether that's catching a drive-and-kick from him or even setting him up for something like that, I'm happy to do it."

It's expected that Fontan will redshirt, and the Trojans appear to have added to their backcourt as well for next season when former Virginia Tech guard J.T. Terrell, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transferring to USC.

But for this season, the injuries will be something the Trojans will have to overcome. Fontan had surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Forward Curtis Washington is out for the season following surgery on a torn labrum. Another forward, Dewayne Dedmon, is working toward playing with a broken hand. And according to the Daily Trojan, there are more minor injuries to forward Aaron Fuller's dislocated finger and Jones' ankle.
"He has not said a word, and that is what I like about [Fuller]," O’Neill said. "You are not supposed to sit on the side with the sniffles."

Jones has been bothered by a minor ankle injury. He has not been sidelined, but O’Neill stated he might rest Jones at times because he is valuable to the team.

"The crippling injury would be to [Jones]," O’Neill said. "If [he] gets hurt, I am in front of a bus."

USC devastated by Jio Fontan's injury

August, 18, 2011
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USC coach Kevin O'Neill had nothing but effusive praise for guard Jio Fontan last season before he had even appeared in a single game for the Trojans. The Fordham transfer was coming, and it was going to be awesome.

[+] EnlargeUSC's Jio Fontan
Greg Bartram/US PRESSWIREJio Fontan, who averaged 10.4 points for USC last season, will miss the upcoming season with an injury.
So you can imagine how O'Neill felt today upon learning that a magnetic resonance imaging exam had confirmed his biggest fear. Fontan, the team's returning leading scorer, had torn an anterior cruciate ligament during the team's preseason tour of Brazil and would need knee surgery that would cost him the entire 2011-12 season.

"I couldn't feel worse for any player I've coached in my career," O'Neill said in a statement from Brazil. "Jio is the heart and soul of our team and had become a high-level player. His loss is a huge blow to our team."

Fontan averaged 10.4 points points as a junior after becoming eligible in December and started in the backcourt on a team that captured an NCAA tournament bid. He had already showed signs this summer that his scoring would greatly increase. In the Trojans' first two games in Brazil, he scored 29 points and then poured in 28 the following day. But in the third game, Fontan took a hit while going to the basket and landed awkwardly.

The injury could have significant ramifications on the Pac-12 race. USC, like many teams in the league, lost a player to the NBA -- Nikola Vucevic -- but the Trojans felt like they had a chance to be good. It's not as if there is a consensus preseason favorite in the conference, and USC could have made some noise.

Now O'Neill will have to expect big things at guard from Maurice Jones as well as untested freshman Alexis Moore. Earlier in the summer, O'Neill also talked up 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon as a big-time contributor even though he too had never played Division I basketball. The injury bug had already bitten the Trojans, as forward Curtis Washington is out for the season, so depth could be an issue.

But don't expect O'Neill to play up the woe-is-me act with his team. Since he took over as coach the Trojans have gone through a postseason ban and bounced back.

"We are determined to move forward and do what we've done the past two years, which is fight like Trojans and have a great season," O'Neill said. "We as a team are undaunted by this loss and we will play great basketball for our fans."

USC hyping up the arrival of Jio Fontan

December, 15, 2010
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Remember Mike Gerrity? (The Pac-10 does because after all this time he's still the featured player on the background of their basketball web page.)

The USC point guard became eligible last December and provided such a spark as a redshirt senior that the Trojans had the look of possible NCAA tournament team before self-sanctions put that to rest.

Jio Fontan -- this year's version of Gerrity -- becomes eligible on Saturday when USC plays at Kansas, and while the Fordham transfer's debut is being overshadowed by Josh Selby's, Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill is pretty fired up about it.

"He's our best player," O'Neill said. "He's our best leader. He's our best scorer. He's our best defender. He's our best passer. He's our best guard. He's our best player."

So... O'Neill likes his new point guard. Fontan certainly was good as a freshman at Fordham averaging 15.3 points and 4.7 assists before leaving after five games into his sophomore season and deciding on USC.

O'Neill said if Fontan had been eligible at the start of the season, the 6-4 Trojans who've lost to Rider, Bradley, Nebraska and TCU would probably be 9-1 or 8-2.

Fontan's abilities should prevent teams from doubling post players Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson while providing relief for the freshman backcourt of Bryce Jones and Maurice Jones.

Fontan is said to have gotten himself into shape after the long layoff from playing and will now attempt to have a Gerrity-like effect on the Trojans.

And in a Pac-10 where teams are jostling for position behind Washington and Arizona and USC is once again eligible for postseason play, that might be all the Trojans need to make some noise.

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