Basketball: Pac-10 Media Day thoughts
October, 28, 2010
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Notes and quotes from Thursday's Pac-10 Media Day, held at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live:
- USC coach Kevin O'Neill and forward Nikola Vucevic represented the Trojans on Thursday just down the road from the USC campus. Remarkably, O'Neill walked to the event. He bought a condo over the summer just two blocks away from L.A. Live and saw no need to commute to USC and back in the early morning, although the Trojans did practice at 3:30 at the Galen Center.
- O'Neill chose three seniors -- guards Marcus Simmons and Donte Smith -- plus forward Alex Stepheson, to be his team captains this season. Asked why he chose Smith over more natural leader Jio Fontan, O'Neill said he thought it would be unfair to Fontan to force on him leadership roles as he is forced to sit out the first 10 games of the season after transferring from Fordham. "I think they should be the captains," Vucevic said of the three seniors. "They're the oldest guys on the team, and they are all good leaders."
- About Fontan, O'Neill made a point Thursday of twice bringing up Fontan's weight loss -- from 201 pounds upon arrival last winter to 174 pounds now. Going back to his first practices at USC in January, Fontan was the first the admit that he was overweight. He said all he did was eat over the Christmas break, but he also pledged at the time to lose all the weight -- and he did. O'Neill also said he expected Fontan to assume a leadership role on the team, despite not being named a captain.
- Players who earned significant compliments from O'Neill at some point during the day, besides Vucevic: Simmons, and freshmen guards Maurice Jones and Bryce Jones (no relation). In repeating his mantra from early on this season in practices, O'Neill said he has been pleasantly surprised by the Joneses' speedy acclimation processes. Simmons, O'Neill said, could end up backing up the power forward spot for the Trojans alongside his normal swingman duties. The coach said he plays bigger than USC's other two forwards who could potentially play there, freshman Garrett Jackson and sophomore Evan Smith. Curtis Washington, a 6-foot-10 freshman, is not expected to be a factor there this season.
- Among the players brought to represent their schools were noted USC-killer and Washington State guard Klay Thompson, former USC signee and Arizona forward Derrick Williams and UCLA freshman center Josh Smith. Guard Malcolm Lee was supposed to be the Bruins' representative but couldn't make it; Oregon's Jeremy Jacob couldn't make the flight because he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday and did not have a replacement, so coach Dana Altman flew solo on the Nokia stage.
- Injury report: Jackson, who suffered a fractured nose last week in practice but returned to the court Wednesday, will undergo surgery Friday to fix the break. O'Neill said he would be back by early next week. Washington, USC's least-heralded freshman, has missed most practices so far with a groin injury, and O'Neill indicated that he has fallen pretty far behind in the race for playing time.