USC: Basketball

Roschon Prince leads USC's hoop class 

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
8:14
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The clock appeared to drag on as an eager Roschon Prince (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) stared at its hands. Every tick seemed slower than the last.

Finally, when the time came to sign his national letter of intent to USC basketball, Prince was overcome with relief and excitement. He had just realized one of his lifelong dreams.

“Basically, it was a countdown,” Prince said with a laugh. “When the time came at 7 in the morning, I was excited to finally sign the papers and get the process over with. It was awesome to finally become an official Trojan and not just a commit. Signing on the dotted line was great.”

Basketball: USC releases full 2012-2013 schedule

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
1:41
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USC announced its 2012-2013 basketball schedule Thursday, with the 31-game slate including potential matchups with North Carolina, Marquette and Texas in November's Maui Invitational.

The Trojans will open the season on Nov. 9 against Coppin State and then host 2012 NCAA tournament team Long Beach State at the Galen Center before traveling to Hawaii for three games the week of Thanksgiving. Other non-conference games include a home tilt with San Diego State on Nov. 25 and road games at Nebraska, New Mexico and Georgia.

USC (6-26 in 2011-2012) will end the season on the road in Washington but won't have to trek up to Oregon at any point because of the Pac-12's non-balanced schedule. The Trojans also won't host Colorado and Utah, but they'll play every other conference opponent twice.

Kevin O'Neill's squad is expected to significantly improve on its dismal record from last season and challenge for an NCAA tourney bid.

Here is the full schedule. Game times have yet to be announced.

(Read full post)

Top football recruit Banner playing basketball

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
3:41
PM PT
Freshman offensive tackle Zach Banner, one of USC's top recruits in the class of 2012, has been practicing with the Trojans' basketball team over the last few weeks, a program source told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday.

Listed at 6 feet 8, 305 pounds, Banner plans to try playing the sport next season once the football season ends in December or January. He played both sports to similar levels of success in high school in Washington but was commonly rated as a better football prospect for the next level as a four-star football prospect and three-star basketball player.

Banner, the biological son of former NFL offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, was ranked No. 122 in the ESPN150 for football.

During the recruiting process, he insisted he'd be choosing a college partly based on whether he'd be permitted to play both sports. USC football coach Lane Kiffin said on Signing Day in February that Banner would be free to play basketball in the football offseason if he so chose.

The basketball Trojans have practiced six times already this summer under the NCAA's new provisions that allow coaches to conduct limited guided workouts with their players. They'll scrimmage four more times this summer before conveniently ending right before football's fall camp begins the second week of August.

Banner could presumably play a backup forward/center role on the basketball team for coach Kevin O'Neill.

O'Neill chimes in on new texting rule

June, 14, 2012
6/14/12
7:04
PM PT
Beginning at midnight tonight, the NCAA men's basketball recruiting world as we know it is going to change dramatically.

The conduit to the change? Unlimited texting. A new NCAA rule that goes into effect on June 15 allows men's basketball coaches to text and call recruits as often as they want, as long as the prospects have finished their sophomore year of high school.

USC basketball coach Kevin O'Neill said it's an overdue adjustment to rules that have become outdated in recent years. Until Friday, according to NCAA rules, coaches could only call recruits once a month until after their junior years and never text them.

"I think it's a really good rule," O'Neill said in a phone interview Thursday. "Players can make their own decisions whether to answer phones or not, and it cuts out all this monitoring of phone calls and all this ridiculousness that's been going on."

The rule change will also level the playing field, O'Neill speculated.

"Here's the other thing," he said. "Don't think that there haven't been a lot of coaches who've been calling unlimited for a long time.

"At least now you can do it legally."

O'Neill said the mad rush tonight to text recruits is going to mirror pro sports' officials lining up at top free agents' doors at the kickoff of free agency each offseason. But he plans to stay away for a bit and then jump in a little bit later.

"They're not gonna get so many texts at midnight tonight, they're not even gonna read them," O'Neill said. "I'm going to wait a couple days to start calling all these guys and texting them."

Gibson, DeRozan on USA Select team

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
6:57
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Two former USC Trojans were officially named to the 13-man USA Men's Select Team roster on Monday, meaning they'll practice against the U.S. Olympic squad for six days in July to help train the eventual international competitors.

Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson and Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan were the two ex-Trojans selected. They join a roster of young NBA players like New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, as well as former USC nemesis Klay Thompson, now coming off his rookie year for the Golden State Warriors.

Gibson, who will turn 27 before the July 6-11 camp in Las Vegas, is the oldest of the 13 players. He just finished his third season with the Bulls and averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds as a reserve forward.

DeRozan put up 16.7 points per game for the Raptors last season, second on the squad. He also just finished his third season, as both players were drafted in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft -- DeRozan ninth and Gibson 26th.

Gibson will be up against established NBA forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin in camp; DeRozan will be matched up with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Andre Iguodala.

Getting named to the US Select Team is often considered the first step to eventual consideration for the Olympic team.

Five ex-Trojans in the NBA playoffs

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
3:04
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Upon statistical examination, it's true: The 2012 NBA playoffs are the first time in USC history that the Trojans have had five players participating in a single NBA postseason.

O.J. Mayo, Nick Young, Brian Scalabrine, Taj Gibson and Nikola Vucevic are all on playoff rosters this spring, and Mayo, Young and Gibson are all playing large roles for their respective squads.

Mayo has averaged 18.5 points in 26 minutes during the Memphis Grizzlies' first two games against the Los Angeles Clippers, with Young going directly against him and putting up 15 in 24 minutes.

Gibson has come off the bench in his customary role in Game 1 and Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls' series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Scalabrine was inactive for the Bulls' first game but has been moved up to the active list since Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Vucevic, who played with Gibson at USC during the 2008-2009 season, started 15 games for the Philadelphia 76ers during the regular season but hasn't yet seen the floor during the playoffs.

The biggest previous USC contingent in a single NBA playoffs? Four, in the 1975 edition, when Paul Westphal, John Block, Bill Hewitt and Ron Riley all participated. Block and Hewitt's Chicago Bulls lasted the longest, losing in 7 in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.

The Trojans also had a former player participate in the ABA playoffs that year for the Denver Nuggets, 6-foot guard Mack Calvin.

Basketball: A look at the 2012-13 depth chart

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
6:27
AM PT
USC basketball's offseason won't compare to UCLA's, with the Bruins adding on big-time recruits Kyle Anderson, Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker, but the Trojans will also be a heck of a lot better in 2012-13 than they were in 2011-2012.

Of course, it doesn't take a lot to be a lot better than 6-26. But 15 wins is probably the baseline for next season's Trojans team, with 20 victories and NCAA tournament contention both legitimate possibilities. To that end, here is a projection of USC's 2012-2013 roster and lineup, taking into account the Trojans' remaining scholarship slot, which stands to be used on a transfer, probably a wing player of some sort.

That could very well be former Tennessee forward Renaldo Woolridge, who's visiting USC for the second time this weekend. So we took the liberty of including him here. It also could not, as the Trojans continue to pursue other prospects.

But here is the projected 2012-2013 lineup and, in basic order of contribution to the team, the bench. We provide brief comments on each player:

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Basketball: USC signs Brendyn Taylor

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
1:00
PM PT
USC basketball on Wednesday officially announced the signing of guard Brendyn Taylor (Los Angeles, Calif./Fairfax) as the third member of its 2012 recruiting class.

Taylor, a 6-2 guard with limited prep experience the past two seasons because of CIF transfer rules, joins Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell and Serbian prep Strahinja Gavrilovic as 2012 signees. He averaged 18 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists per game at Fairfax last season and committed to the Trojans early last month.

"Brendyn has a great upside,” USC coach Kevin O'Neill said in a statement. “He is an athletic wing who’s best days are ahead of him. He is going to be a major plus both on and off the court for USC.

Taylor’s father, Brian, played 10 seasons in the NBA and ABA, earning ABA Rookie of the Year honors. His older brother, Bryce, played at Oregon and now plays professionally in Europe.

USC now has one scholarship slot remaining to sign a player in the spring signing period, which concludes May 16. Wednesday marked the first day recruits could sign with schools after the early signing period in November.

The Trojans are pursuing a number of potential transfers for that spot, including former Tennessee forward Renaldo Woolridge, former Drake guard Rayvonte Rice and Brazilian big man Renan Lenz, a junior-college product.

Basketball: USC officially out on Muhammad

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
6:54
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ESPNU No. 2 recruit Shabazz Muhammad has officially ruled out USC as his college choice, a school source told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Thursday.

He told reporters at the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago on Wednesday that he had narrowed his options down to a final three of Kentucky, UCLA and Duke, in no particular order.

Most observers believed Muhammad had eliminated the Trojans from his top schools some time ago, but the Trojans continued to recruit him until as recently as earlier this week. He never officially visited USC but came to campus for unofficial visits multiple times during the recruiting process, once even sitting for a presentation from athletic director Pat Haden on how he could maximize his marketing potential going to school in Los Angeles.

His father, Ron Holmes, played for USC in the 1980's and was one reason the highly-ranked left-handed scorer was considering the Trojans.

Of course, the NCAA is investigating Muhammad for potential eligibility issues relating to who paid for his many unofficial visits across the country. A high-ranking athletic department source told ESPNLosAngeles.com earlier this month that the school was operating as if it was a possibility he would miss a limited number of games due to violations, not an entire season.

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Basketball: Washington, Smith also on the way out

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
1:29
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USC announced last week that forward Garrett Jackson was transferring away from the Trojans and we reported Tuesday that guard Alexis Moore was joining him in departing.

Well, two more 2011-2012 Trojans are also leaving the basketball team, according to multiple program sources. Forward Curtis Washington has requested his release and will receive it this week and forward Evan Smith will leave the team via a medical retirement, staying in school and on scholarship but not counting against the team's 13-scholarship limit.

Both of the moves have been expected for some time.

Washington played 11 total minutes during his freshman season in 2010-2011 and then tore the labrum in his left shoulder last August, which forced him to miss all of last season. Smith played in four games for the Trojans last season before re-injuring the shoulder that has bothered him on and off since his arrival to USC in the class of 2009.

USC now has four open scholarships, two of which will be filled by 2012 signees J.T. Terrell and Strahinja Gavrilovic upon their summer arrival. The Trojans also have Woodland Hills Taft guard Brendyn Taylor committed for the third spot and continue to recruit other players for the fourth and final slot.

The spring signing period begins April 11 and lasts until May 16.

Basketball: Where the recruiting class stands

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
2:26
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Only one team USC played in 2011-2012 is still around in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament: second-seeded Kansas.

The Trojans played a few other eventual NCAA tourney teams this season, including No. 12-seeded Cal, No. 11-seeded Colorado, No. 5-seeded New Mexico and No. 6-seeded UNLV and San Diego State. They lost to all of them, with the closest thing to a win coming in the third game of the season against SDSU.

But enough about the tournament, which resumes Thursday. Let's take a look at where the Trojans could be next season and, more specifically, let's take a look at the makings of the next USC recruiting class.

Two players already signed in November, during the early signing period: guard J.T. Terrell and forward Strahinja Gavrilovic. Terrell is a junior-college transfer from Wake Forest who's expected to start right away next November. Gavrilovic, from the San Diego area, stands to be a non-factor in his first season with the Trojans.

The third spot is where things start to get interesting. USC had a commitment from Arizona prep point guard Dewayne Russell until a few weeks ago, when he de-committed shortly after the Trojans got another commitment from Woodland Hills Taft guard Brendyn Taylor.

(Read full post)

Kevin O'Neill on keeping his job and staying relevant

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
10:43
AM PT
Kevin O'Neill's USC Trojans had already lost for the final time this season, a 55-40 second-half laugher to UCLA in the opening round of Wednesday's Pac-12 tournament at the Staples Center.

He had just completed his press-conference obligations and his players had just filed onto the team bus to go back home. He was saying his goodbyes to a few conference administrators and making his way -- eventually -- home, too.

Then he was asked a question that stopped his movements for a bit: Would this, this latest debacle, be his last game as USC's basketball coach? Did he fully expect to be back next season for his fourth with the Trojans?

"I'm assuming I'm back," O'Neill said. "I think we'd be having a meeting right now if I wasn't. That's what you would think, right?"

Then he paused and pulled out his BlackBerry.

"Wait a minute," he said. "Let me check my texts."

He scrolled through some of the several-dozen unread e-mails on his phone from the last three hours and smiled.

"I'm back," he pronounced. "I'm back."

It sure seems like it. Despite a program-worst 6-26 record this season and a dreadful 1-19 stretch to end the season, USC athletic director Pat Haden has said over and over this year he has no plans to fire O'Neill. Next season, Haden has said, will be the one on which he's judged -- when he gets three key players back healthy and three transfers newly eligible.

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Basketball: Taking the fun out of the game

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
6:43
AM PT
Kevin O'Neill has been doing this for a long time.

He's been an assistant for 33 years and a head coach for half that, 16 seasons, 15 of which have come at the major-college level. Overall, he's won some but lost slightly more, experiencing both mind-numbingly bad seasons -- like a 5-25 record at Northwestern in 1999-2000 -- and fairly great ones, like a Sweet 16 appearance and 24-9 mark at Marquette in 1993-1994.

So, yes, with five games left in the 2011-2012 season, USC's third-year head man is fully aware of how badly his Trojans are doing this year, of how they look like locks go down as the worst-ever team in school history and of how he might very well break his own losses record.

Has his job, then, lost any and all semblance of fun?

Just about. But that doesn't mean he's going to stop doing it, or stop approaching it in the same way. He's been through situations like this before, he maintains. This might be different, with four key players now out with season-ending injuries, but it's not that different.

(Read full post)

Basketball: Stanford 59, USC 47

February, 12, 2012
2/12/12
8:31
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LOS ANGELES -- It's getting to the point now where it's near-impossible to expect the USC Trojans to beat any opponent.

They'll compete the whole game and they'll stay within reach -- at least for the first half -- but they just won't win. There's not enough offense, there's not enough depth and there's not enough experience.

The lowly Trojans kept visiting Stanford close for almost 30 minutes on Sunday at the Galen Center but couldn't keep up down the stretch and fell, 59-47.

"This is the same old thing," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said afterward. "We had our chances, honestly. We've had our chances a lot.

"I thought we played pretty hard, pretty well. But when you're not making your shots, you're not making 'em."

USC (6-20, 1-12 in the Pac-12) is now nearing all-time worst status. The Trojans' most-ever losses in a single season came into 1988-1989, when they went 10-22. Their worst-ever winning percentage came in 1976-1977, when they were 6-20.

It's very likely they'll break both of those marks this season. With five regular-season games remaining and adding on a likely loss somewhere in the Pac-12 tournament, USC has to win four of its next five to not break the school record for losses.

Currently, the Trojans have won four of their last 21, dating back to Thanksgiving.

Stanford freshman Chasson Randle led all scorers with 16 points Sunday; Byron Wesley and Greg Allen each had 13 points for the Trojans and Maurice Jones added 10 points but on 2-of-14 shooting.

Player of the game: Wesley, a freshman, was assigned to defend Stanford leading scorer and senior Josh Owens for most of the evening and did an admirable job, according to O'Neill.

Owens, who has three inches and 30 pounds on Wesley, had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. But the Trojans' freshman didn't have a bad game, either -- scoring 13 points in 37 minutes.

He also added two assists, a block and a steal while playing his fourth-straight game of 37 or more minutes.

"I love the way Byron Wesley plays," O'Neill said after Sunday's game. "I like his aggressiveness. He fights hard."

10 of Wesley's points came in the first 13 minutes of the game. He was then shut out for 25 minutes, until the 1:35 mark of the second half.

Wesley attributed that to a zone-defense look he saw for much of the game's second period and couldn't quite figure out.

"They did a better job on him in the second half," O'Neill said. "They were more aware of him."

As he has often said this year, O'Neill said Wesley "has a chance" to be a "real, real big-time player" over the next three years.

Stat of the game: USC was out-rebounded 45-19 by Stanford, and the Cardinal grabbed 13 offensive rebounds off of 27 of their own missed shots. By contrast, the Trojans grabbed just one of the rebounds from their 33 missed shots.

The numbers are rare, and they are damning. Stanford started three players measuring in at 6-8 or higher; USC has only one available player taller than 6-6.

Quote of the game: "I think we have a chance going into any game." -- O'Neill

The Trojans' coach was asked about the feasibility of his team winning any one of its five remaining regular-season games, at UCLA on Wednesday, at the Arizona schools next week and at home against the Washington schools the week after that.

Predictably, he brought up one of his favorite lines, about how anybody wearing "short pants" can beat anybody else at basketball. It sounds nice, but it's going to be tough for USC to win any of those games -- with the Arizona State visit being the only real winnable one.

Final notes: Stanford forward Andy Brown, a product of Santa Ana Mater Dei, made his first career field goal in the first half of Sunday's game. Brown is a third-year player but tore his ACL three times over the last four years and never suited up for a college game before last month...Only two USC players made field goals in the first half of the contest, Wesley and Allen. And only five Trojans made anything from the field all game, actually: those two, plus Jones, guard Alexis Moore and forward Garrett Jackson...USC head football coach Lane Kiffin and family watched the first half from Galen Center courtside seats.

Basketball: Cal 75, USC 49

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
11:54
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- For most of one half of Thursday night's game against Cal, lowly USC looked like it could actually compete against the class of the Pac-12 conference.

Buoyed by superb play from sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, the Trojans actually led, 23-19, with eight minutes to go in the first half. Then the Bears went on a 16-6 run to finish off the period, and USC was soon run out of its own building. Cal ended up outscoring the Trojans 40-20 in the second half and wound up with a 75-49 victory.

"I thought we played a pretty good first half," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said afterward. "But we have to do a better job of putting together two good halves of basketball."

USC (6-19, 1-11) has rarely done that this season, winning only two games since November and putting together only three consistent games in that span -- the two victories against Utah and TCU and a close loss at Washington State earlier this month.

"It just feels like a re-run," said Jones, who led the Trojans with 17 points in 29 minutes.

Cal was led by Allen Crabbe, who had 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Senior forward Harper Kamp added 18 points.

Byron Wesley had 11 points for the Trojans for his third straight double-digit point game.

Player of the game: Jones had a great game, scoring his 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and turning the ball over just once. And his numbers would likely have been better had he not missed a significant stretch of the second half because of a cut on his left hand that bled.

Plus-minuses aren't kept for NCAA games, but Jones' was clearly the best on the team. Cal took advantage every time he was out of the game, including for three-plus minutes in the first half when he picked up two fouls.

"When Mo's not in there, we don't function very well," O'Neill said. "Not that we function at a high level when he is in there. But when he's not in there, it's difficult for us.

"We're asking too much of Mo."

Said Jones of his teammates' struggles when he was out of the game: "You can't blame them. They're all new to this."

Stat of the game: USC was out-rebounded 41-28 by the Bears, and Cal got a third of the available boards when on the offensive end.

O'Neill said Cal's big men were overwhelming in that department, with USC's James Blasczyk and Garrett Jackson combining for only 12 rebounds. The Bears' David Kravish, on the other hand, had 18 on his own.

"No matter what size you have, if you don't gang rebound, you're not going to rebound well," O'Neill said. "The bottom line is, those guys are more experienced and they're better and us on the front line.

"And it showed tonight. It really did."

Quote of the game: "There was a level of frustration a long time ago." -- Jones

The 5-7 guard was asked after Thursday's game if he sensed a certain level of frustration creeping into the team's mentality following another blowout loss at the hands of a conference opponent.

His answer was quick, sharp and delivered without a hint of a smile, although it elicited laughs in those he was speaking to.

Final notes: USC's two starting forwards, Jackson and Wesley, combined to shoot 7-of-31 from the field, good for a 23-percent mark...Crabbe, a product of L.A. Price High, had a contingent of two dozen or so family members in attendance at the Galen Center (announced crowd: 3,707), who cheered wildly for every one of his eight made shots...O'Neill told the Trojans not to come into the arena at any cost on Friday, giving the players a full, no-strings-attached day off Friday before prepping for Sunday's game against Stanford on Saturday.

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