USC: Dwight Lewis

USC basketball: Season primer

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
11:38
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video
It's not often that coaches are willing to pin the success of their entire squad on one or two players.

But second-year Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill is more than willing to do just that with his 2010-2011 squad, which officially begins play Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Galen Center against UC Irvine.


Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
USC coach Kevin O'Neill isn't shy to tell you the Trojans will go as far as big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson will take them.


See, O'Neill freely admits his team's success this year will depend -- heavily -- on the big man duo of junior Nikola Vucevic and senior Alex Stepheson. The two combined to average more than 19 points and 16 rebounds a game last season as Vucevic earned conference most-improved honors and Stepheson played his first season for the Trojans after transferring from North Carolina.

Behind them, the Trojans' cupboard is just about completely bare on the front line -- and most other places on the court, too.

"We're gonna go as far as Nik and Alex take us," says O'Neill, who went 16-14 and 8-10 last year, his first on the job. "If they constantly get in foul trouble or get injured, we're gonna struggle. We have two post players with any experience at all on the roster -- after that we'd have to play down-sized with four out and one in.

"It's imperative those guys have a great year. I think they are the types of guys that can really carry a team and lead a team."

And it doesn't stop there. According to O'Neill, USC's success also depends squarely on senior swingman Marcus Simmons, a noted defensive stopper who has struggled offensively in years past. Simmons averaged just three points a game last season while playing consistent minutes, but his shot is thought to be an improved commodity this fall after he spent the summer fine-tuning it.

Says O'Neill: "He's a guy that's going to have to have a solid year for us to be any good at all."

(Read full post)

Stories from summer league

July, 12, 2010
7/12/10
3:47
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A few anecdotes and some video to pass on from the blog's two-day stay in Las Vegas, spent catching up with three former Trojans in action for their NBA squads in summer-league play:
  • First, a great one-on-one with Marcus Johnson, in which the former Trojan high-flyer explained why -- why he thought, at least -- Suns summer-league point guard extraordinaire Zabian Dowdell didn't pass him the ball at one point in Saturday's game for what had the makings of another one of the spectacular alley-oop dunks Johnson pulled down so often at USC. Kevin Arnovitz details it over on ESPN's TrueHoop blog as well: "I mean, some guys aren't used to me, so they're not sure if I can jump or not, so I understand that," Johnson said. "But you think you can?" Johnson: "I mean, I know I can. I think you think I can too." Here's a video with Johnson, including that exchange and his assessment of his performance through two summer league games:
  • And here's the video with DeRozan, in which the 20-year-old swingman talks about what he expects out of the Raptors' 2010-2011 season. You can also see DeRozan's humorous response when asked if he enjoyed playing alongside former UCLA guard Michael Roll for Toronto during the summer. Keep in mind that Roll is sitting directly to DeRozan's right and listening to every word of the conversation after the Raptors beat the Suns 103-69:
  • Dwight Lewis, who went undrafted last month despite a fairly prolific four-year career at USC, latched on to the Rockets for the summer after flirting with playing for the Mavs' summer-league team. It's proven to be a good decision for Lewis so far, as he has been effective as a swingman behind Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger. Here's a video with Lewis, taken after his 10-point performance in Friday's 100-82 Rockets win over Johnson's Suns. Highlights include Lewis talking about the Pac-10 connection as former Cal guard Patrick Christopher did lay-up drills just behind him and Lewis' comments on Rockets' first-round selection Patrick Patterson:
  • And, lastly, a few other USC-related items of note: Lewis added to his solid performance on Friday with nine points Saturday off the Rockets' bench. Remember Davon Jefferson? The former one-and-done Trojan, who spent the last two seasons playing professionally in Israel after failing to make an NBA roster when he declared for the 2008 draft, has resurfaced on Miami's squad. He'll make his summer debut tonight at 7 p.m. With five Trojans playing in Las Vegas, the only left is O.J. Mayo, also a one-and-done Trojan. A 2008 first-round pick, Mayo will open up play for the Grizzlies at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

DeRozan beats Johnson in battle of former Trojans

July, 10, 2010
7/10/10
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LAS VEGAS -- Saturday, part two of the battle between former Trojans took place -- this time with 2009 Raptors' first-rounder DeMar DeRozan going up against Marcus Johnson as Toronto took on the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Summer League.

Part one featured Johnson and fellow USC alum Dwight Lewis going one-on-one for portions of Friday's Rockets-Suns contest.

"It's cool, having all these USC alums out here, going against each other now after being teammates," Johnson said. "It's real nice."

In 27 minutes Saturday, 20-year-old DeRozan had 16 points, two rebounds and an assist to lead Toronto to a 103-69 win at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. Half his points came from the free throw line, and he didn't come off the bench in the fourth quarter after the Raptors went into the final period up by 20.

"That's real cool, seeing one of my teammates in summer league, playing against him," DeRozan said of the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Johnson. "We played together last year so it's real cool to have the opportunity to play with him."

Johnson played 14 minutes off the bench Saturday after logging just five against the Rockets on Friday. He finished Saturday's game with two points and one rebound, but his primary impact came on defense, where he was assigned to guard DeRozan and former UCLA guard Michael Roll.

"I defended well," Johnson said. "Offensively I didn't play as well as I could've but I felt like I defended pretty well and that's what I'm out here for -- just to play defense."

Johnson, who spent two seasons playing for UConn before finishing his career at USC, said it was difficult to jump right in to the mix with the Suns.

"You're playing with a brand-new group of guys," Johnson said. "Every single person on this team I've never played with. It's brand new offense, a brand new coach, so, for a guy like me it takes a little adjusting."

Johnson, then 21, befriended the young DeRozan when the highly touted high-flyer came into USC as a 19-year-old freshman for the 2008-2009 season. The two were part of a solid core of players that took the Trojans to the second-round of the NCAA tournament that season, where they fell to eventual tourney runner-up Michigan State.

"A lot has changed," DeRozan said when asked about the past 16 months. "I'm living my dream, I'm in the NBA. I went through my first year, my rookie year and did well. It shows me how fast time goes by. You see other people out of the USC program, it's great."

Lewis and DeRozan will face each other Tuesday when the Raptors and Rockets play at the Thomas & Mack Center. DeRozan said he was looking forward to it.

"I love seeing my teammates -- former teammates from USC -- in this situation," he said. "It's great.

"And to see them doing well, it's even better."

A full recap and box score for the game is available here. Toronto's Sonny Weemsled all scorers with 19 points; Suns' second-round selection Gani Lawal had 18 points and a thunderous slam while 2009 first-rounder Earl Clark added 15 points.

Lewis, Johnson make solid debuts in summer-league play

July, 9, 2010
7/09/10
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LAS VEGAS -- Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson found plenty of perks while making their NBA debuts Friday in the Las Vegas Summer League, playing against each other for the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.

Plenty of them, indeed. The pair of former Trojans were wearing NBA uniforms, defending each other mano-a-mano for a time and playing on national television while auditioning for a spot on NBA teams. For Lewis, though, maybe the best part of the whole situation was the socks he was wearing.

Yes, the socks. Playing in the NBA, interestingly enough, grants you the privilege of receiving free NBA socks -- a very important perk, Lewis said while smiling big after what he termed a positive debut.

Maybe they really were the reason Lewis' debut was so positive. Whatever it was, Lewis performed admirably for the Rockets on Friday, backing up Rockets guard/forward Chase Budinger and scoring 10 points and adding two assists in 13 minutes of play for Houston's summer-league squad.

"It was fun," Lewis said afterward. "It was a good experience, playing summer league. I always used to watch it on TV -- now I finally get to play in it."

Meanwhile, Johnson appeared for a second-half spurt and held his own, converting a lay-up under the basket for his first -- and only -- points of the night.

Late in the third quarter, Lewis and Johnson matched up on both sides of the court and appeared to have some fun, laughing during dead-ball situations. Playing defense, Lewis managed to knock the ball away from Johnson on one occasion.

The two players were friends during the two years they spent together at USC and have kept in touch since their season ended in March. Lewis said he was happy when he found out that they would be playing against each other in their first-ever professional game.

"We had a couple comments for each other — a couple jokes while we were running down the court," Lewis said. "It was fun."

Lewis' first points of the game came on free throws, setting the tone for his performance -- he visited the line twice more on the day, converting four of five attempts. He added a isolation play he converted into an and-one and a smooth 17-foot jumper a couple steps left of the key, but his best play was probably a drive-and-kick to Rockets' first-round pick Patrick Patterson, who made the resulting 18-foot jump shot look easy.

Lewis, who converted 3 of his 4 field goal attempts in the Rockets' 100-82 win, assessed his performance like this: "I got to the line a lot, got some free throws. I was able to finish on some plays. I could've taken a couple more shots that I passed up, but it doesn't matter.

"I enjoyed myself. We got the win, so I'm happy with that."

A full recap and box score for the game is available here. 2009 second-round selection Jermain Taylor led the Rockets with 25 points; ex-Virginia Tech combo guard Zabian Dowdell had 16 for the Suns while Gani Lawal and Earl Clark added 14 apiece.

Friday links and notes

July, 9, 2010
7/09/10
4:02
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A few things to pass along on this Friday:
  • First of all: junior fullback D.J. Shoemate is gone as of last night, heading to UConn with plans to play running back -- something he never had a chance to do at USC. Highly recruited out of Servite High School, the 6-foot, 220-pound Shoemate started his Trojan career at receiver but was moved mid-season to fullback. Injuries also limited his progression with the Trojans, as he missed a 2008 game due to a shoulder injury and missed the majority of 2010 spring practice. Now, the Trojans will be forced to use either walk-on Hunter Simmons or incoming freshman Soma Vainuku as the backup to likely All-Pac-10 fullback Stanley Havili.
  • A baseball update: junior-to-be first baseman Ricky Oropesa participated in the inaugural college home run derby this week that took place in famed Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. Oropesa, who hit 20 homers last season as the Trojans' lone marquee hitter, was one of seven competitors in the derby but couldn't advance past the first round after hitting only two out of the park. Featuring guest coaching from MLB Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Andre Dawson, the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby will air Sunday on CBS at 10 a.m. PST
  • More baseball: ex-Trojans lefthander Adam Dedeaux signed with the Dodgers last week and reported to the Arizona League Dodgers soon after. He has yet to appear in a game. Interestingly, Dedeaux's grandfather — and long-time USC baseball coach — Rod Dedeaux and Dodgers special advisor Tommy Lasorda were widely reported to be great friends before the elder Dedeaux passed in 2006. Grandson Adam pitched 26 career innings for the Trojans with an ERA higher than 6.
  • In basketball, fellow former Trojans Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson are matching up for the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns in the second game of NBA Summer League play in Las Vegas. At the time of this writing, it's halftime and the Rockets lead the Suns 43-42. Lewis has logged significant minutes on the perimeter for Houston and has seven points and an assist; Johnson hasn't gotten into the game.

Wednesday links and notes

July, 7, 2010
7/07/10
5:10
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A few things to pass along on this Wednesday:
  • Just as Seantrel Henderson wanted out of his letter of intent to USC — and got it, Tuesday — another Trojan signee in the class of 2010 wants out. Linebacker Glen Stanley (Thatcher, Ariz./Eastern Arizona JC) has requested his release from USC, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. Interestingly, his comments in the Sentinel — "Hopefully they grant my release," he said — contrast directly with coach Lane Kiffin's comments to the L.A. Times on Tuesday: "We anticipate Glen being here by fall camp once he has taken care of everything." The Stanley saga has been long and winding. The juco linebacker first committed to UCF last fall with the stated intention of enrolling at the school in January. He didn't, of course, and he didn't resurface again until he committed Tennessee in January, a week before Signing Day. Then, on Signing Day, he faxed in his letter of intent to USC in what was regarded as a mild surprise, even by recruiting insiders.
  • In other football news, USC athletic director Mike Garrett has sent formal letters to a number of schools apologizing for incorrect allegations concerning the recruitment of USC freshman running back Dillon Baxter, an early enrollee who practiced with the Trojans during the spring. The day after the NCAA announced its sanctions on the football program, the Trojans went public with allegations that five schools — Florida, Washington, Oregon, Fresno State and Alabama — had contacted Baxter against NCAA rules. Questions were raised about the Baxter claims because the San Diego native reportedly lost his phone just after the incident and was unable to provide proof of calls from any of the schools. Now, various media reports have confirmed that each of the other schools have all received Garrett's apology letter as well.
  • On basketball: two former Trojans — guards Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson — will compete against each other in the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League on Friday as members of the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns summer-league teams. The two squads will match up at 3 p.m. at COX Pavilion in Vegas. Meanwhile, fellow former USC guard Gabe Pruitt is listed on the official summer-league roster for the New Jersey Nets but has not logged playing time in any of the Nets' first three contests.
  • And, lastly, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that — while Tennessee did turn down an opportunity to face USC in 2011 — it was not Kiffin who first approached the Volunteers' athletic department with the possibility, but, rather an Atlanta Sports Council official. Either way, the Trojans and Volunteers will not play in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and will instead have to wait until a two-year home-and-home series begins in 2021 to face each other — barring, of course, a bowl game matchup.

Lewis, Johnson latch on to summer league teams

June, 28, 2010
6/28/10
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Former Trojan guards Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson weren't selected in week's NBA draft, but both players have managed to find a temporary home for summer league play.

Johnson, who averaged just under 10 points a game in his second season with USC in 2009-2010, will play for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League next month, according to an Arizona Republic report.

Johnson shot under 40 percent from the field last season and under 30 percent from 3-point range, but his fast-paced style of play seems to be a good fit for the Suns' backcourt. Still, his ability to provide solid defense, which came only in flashes for the Trojans, will be the key to his future with the team.

"They're not going to come and get him for the way his dribbles, his scoring ability or his dunking,'' USC coach Kevin O'Neill told our Ramona Shelburne for a February story on Johnson's penchant for slams. "For Marcus to make it in the NBA, he has to get a reputation as a lockdown defender, [an] athletic guy that can guard multiple positions. Which I think he can do.''

Lewis, meanwhile, already has a reputation as a balanced, all-around player — one capable of many skills but dominant in little. And, in the days after the draft, he was unable to find a team to commit to him for the summer. Instead, he'll be auditioning for both the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets this week among select other ex-college players, according to various media reports. Dallas' summer league mini-camp takes place today and tomorrow.

Summer league play begins July 9 at COX Pavilion in Las Vegas. If Lewis were to make the Rockets' squad, the two ex-Trojans would go head-to-head on opening day.

One-on-one with Dwight Lewis

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
7:20
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As we briefly detailed yesterday, outgoing USC guard Dwight Lewis has a solid chance of being selected in the second round of today's NBA draft. Today, we'll catch up with him.

The draft — airing right now on ESPN — features plenty of talent at the top but is believed to decline somewhat around the mid- to late-first round. That could work well for Lewis and his former USC teammate, Marcus Johnson, who both have hopes of going somewhere in the second round.

Lewis and Johnson were two of the Trojans' top three scorers during the 2009-2010 season, combining for more than 23 points a game. Lewis led the squad in scoring in both his junior and senior seasons, but he became known among Pac-10 observers also for his defensive acumen and strong motor on the court.

A New Orleans native, Lewis is currently in Texas, where he moved prior to his senior year of high school because of Hurricane Katrina. Now, Lewis and his parents call a Houston suburb home. Here's what Lewis said Thursday:

Question: Your hope, of course, is to be drafted. What do you think the chances are that happens tonight?

Answer: Yeah, I'm hoping to be selected. But hey, whatever happens, happens, right? Some teams like me but I don't really know for sure.

Q: What teams did you work out for and what did you like about each of them? Any you liked more than the others?

A: The Mavericks, Hornets, Bulls and Rockets. They're all great. I just want to play in the NBA, doesn't matter where.

Q: You've essentially been preparing to audition for NBA teams for the last three months, since USC's season ended. Do you feel like you're improving at the same time or do you feel like you're just trying to show off what you already accomplished in college?

A: Kind of both, actually. You're trying to show what you've done already but by doing that you're also kind of honing your skills more, so you're trying to show that.

Q: In your workouts with NBA teams, did you get the opportunity to match up against anybody projected to be a first-rounder? Were you impressed by them and did you feel you held your own?

A: Gordon Hayward, James Anderson, the New Mexico guard, Darington Hobson. Yeah, definitely.

Q: In conversations with NBA coaches and scouts, how do they see you helping out their team in the future? What can you do at the NBA level?

A: They've said they think I can be a defensive asset for them, shoot the ball sometimes and get some points.

Q: When you came into USC four years ago, was this scenario that you expected?

A: Well, this was always my dream. But when I was going to college I just wanted to be a good college player, try to help my team win. I wasn't thinking about this stuff too much.

Q: Whether or not you're drafted, there's certainly a precedent for second-round or undrafted guys fighting their ways through the ranks and becoming key cogs for NBA teams, even starters? Can you see yourself doing that?

A: Yeah, I can. It basically all depends on how hard you work, and I work hard enough to be in the league and eventually be a starter.

Q: Have you talked to your coach at USC, Kevin O'Neill, about the pre-draft process? What'd he tell you? As a former NBA guy, he knows quite a bit about how the whole system works

A: Yeah, I did. He knows a lot about it. He just told me, "Keep working hard, keep your head up, and everything will work out.'' That's pretty much it.

Q: So what's the plan for tonight? Obviously you've been waiting for this moment for a long time, but there's nothing you can really do about it now, is there?

A: Nope, there's nothing you can do really right now. I don't think I'm gonna watch, I'm just gonna hang out with some friends and wait for the phone call, I guess.

On eve of draft, Fontan eyeing year to come

June, 23, 2010
6/23/10
7:56
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Two weeks ago, we wrote about former USC baseball player Grant Green, who, in the year since he was drafted 13th overall by the Oakland A's, has made tremendous strides in developing as a shortstop and all-around hitter.

In that story, Green reflected some on his 2009 MLB draft experience and speculated a bit about where a few Trojans prospects would go in the 2010 draft.

Well, today we present the opposite: a story about USC's Jio Fontan, a junior-to-be point guard who transferred from Fordham last December and who has his eyes set on the NBA — eventually. Fontan also has high hopes for the Trojans who could be selected in Thursday's NBA draft, swingmen Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson.

Fontan — pronounced as if there's an "i" between the last two letters of his name — spent a little more than one full season playing for Fordham, averaging 15.3 points and 4.7 assists per game his freshman year for a dismal Atlantic 10 team that finished 3-25. He requested a release from his scholarship at the conclusion of the season but didn't get it, then returned to school — only to endure much of the same at the start of the 2009-2010 season, going 1-4 and losing to MAAC bottom-feeder Manhattan by double digits.

He decided to transfer to USC in December, then spent the spring semester getting acquainted to his new school and teammates. He often served as a sort of understudy for Johnson and Lewis in the backcourt during late-season practices.

Fontan will be able to play for the Trojans this season after the fall semester, possessing two remaining years of eligibility — with a possible third year if the NCAA grants him a waiver.

Before any of that, though, he wants to focus on the upcoming season. Yes, he says, he has thought about declaring for the 2011 draft, assuming the season goes well — he even talked it over with USC coach Kevin O'Neill in what appears to be a a fast-moving friendship.

But that's not the 6-foot, 178-pound scoring point guard's immediate goal. That, rather, is grabbing attention for himself and a USC team that will return both members of its frontcourt and have the services of three highly touted freshman.

"I'm most excited because now I finally get to play on a big stage, in front of the right people and I get a better feel for what the next level is looking for," Fontan said Tuesday. "Right now, I really don't have too much of an idea besides what my coaches tell me."

"And once the season starts I want to be the leader of the team from the sideline, and I want my team to know once December 18 (his projected return date) comes that I'll be on the court and I'll be just like another coach on the court."

Fontan also provides assessments of the Trojans' 2010 draft hopefuls.

"He is definitely a big-time shot maker," he says of Lewis, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard who led the Trojans in scoring his junior and senior seasons. "And, Dwight, with him having a great career at USC, being drafted would be something that’s big for not only him but for our program too.”

"He has that athleticism and the ability to play defense," he says of the explosive Johnson.

Lewis has worked out for the New Orleans Hornets and Dallas Mavericks, among other teams; Johnson has reportedly impressed in auditions for the L.A. Clippers and Chicago Bulls, where he could conceivably join former USC teammate Taj Gibson.

The most likely route for both of the former Trojans is fighting for a roster spot through an opportunity in the NBA's Vegas Summer League, beginning next month. But, of course, at this time last year most thought Gibson would go in the late-second round or not be chosen; instead, he was picked in the first round — 26th overall — by the Bulls and became a starter by the end of the year.

“I know it’s something that they’ve dreamed about for the past four years,” Fontan said. “And they've both been working really hard.

"I think they’ve both got a shot.”

Tuesday links and notes

May, 4, 2010
5/04/10
2:57
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Plenty of USC-related news on this Tuesday in Los Angeles:
  • Fresh off its first Pac-10 series win this season, USC baseball returns to the field today with a big midweek game against UC Irvine. Of course, UC Irvine's head coach is Mike Gillespie, who resigned from the same post at USC in 2006 — only to be replaced by his son-in-law (current coach Chad Kreuter) -- and took the job at Irvine, where he is 114-47 in two-plus seasons. Kreuter's Trojans are 19-24 this season and in desperate need of a string of wins. Last week, Kreuter said he expects the Pac-10 could very well qualify eight teams for the NCAA Tournament later this month. USC is currently 10th — the only team in the conference under .500. Still, an eighth-place conference finish is within reach.
  • In basketball news, the school announced today that Iowa big man Aaron Fuller will transfer to USC and redshirt the 2010-2011 season. Fuller was a valuable player for the Hawkeyes, leading the team in both points (12.3) and rebounds (7.6) during Big Ten play. "We are very excited to have Aaron at USC," coach Kevin O'Neill said in a statement. "He is going to be a tremendous asset to us on and off the court. We love his tenacity, hard work and desire to get better."
  • The latest installment of Athletic Director Mike Garrett's "From the Desk of the A.D." journal entries arrived today. A nugget regarding the NCAA investigations: " I get asked daily about when we'll be hearing from the NCAA regarding its findings in the pending investigation. I don't have an answer; the NCAA will release the results when its committee members have concluded their work. We hope it is soon."
  • Here's a profile of USC guard Marcus Simmons from a school publication. Simmons, a senior to-be, was an important cog in O'Neill's rotation this season and could be even more important next season, considering the Trojans will graduate senior guards Mike Gerrity and Dwight Lewis. Simmons plans to improve by then. A highlight from the story: " 'I'm going to get better," Marcus said nodding his head with enthusiasm. 'That's a promise. Bigger, faster, stronger for next year.' "
  • USC director of basketball operations Dwayne Polee turned in his resignation last week, the L.A. Times reports. Polee was hired by former coach Tim Floyd in 2007, during the time his son, Westchester High standout Dwayne Polee Jr., was committed to USC. Polee Jr. since decommitted from the Trojans and will soon choose between St. John's, Oregon and Georgia. The elder Polee did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Monday links and notes

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
10:54
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Plenty of USC-related news on this Monday:
  • To start it off, multiple sources are reporting tonight that USC coach Kevin O'Neill has decided not to retain assistants Phil Johnson and Gib Arnold. Both Johnson and Arnold were in their fifth seasons with the program. At the time he was hired last year, O'Neill said of Johnson: "I have a great respect for the basketball knowledge of Phil Johnson and am very pleased that he has decided to stay at USC," said head coach Kevin O'Neill. Arnold is known as a recruiting extraordinaire. Bob Cantu, the only USC assistant to stay on staff according to reports, tweeted today: "Well now that the season is over its time to hit the recruiting trail hard!!"
  • Beyond Nikola Vucevic, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson's end-of-season Pac-10 awards, multiple Trojans were also honored today. Point guard Ashley Corral was named Pac-10 player of the week after she scored a game-high 20 points in USC's come-from-behind victory over Arizona State on Staturday. Corral also garnered USC Credit Union Student-Athlete of the Week honors, as did men's swimmer Clement Lefert. Lefert won the 200-yard freestyle event at the Pac-10 championships last week and set USC's school record in the process.
  • On the topic of school records, Blake Shaw became the first Trojan runner in the school's history to run a sub-four-minute mile on Saturday in Seattle, Wash. Shaw, a sophomore, ran the mile in 3:59. Watch the video of his performance here.
  • Football news: USC announced Jeff Fucci has been hired as director of football operations, projected starter at safety Drew McAllister is likely to miss spring practice due to hip surgery, and the Trojans conducted their third of six conditioning sessions on Howard Jones Field this evening.
  • From Tuesday on, USC baseball will play a remarkable six games in the next seven days, starting with an away game at Pepperdine tomorrow, a home contest with Connecticut on Wednesday, and a four-game series at Hawaii beginning Friday. USC's Kevin Couture will start tomorrow's game, roughly 48 hours after he was roughed up in his start against New Mexico on Saturday. He lasted just 2/3 of an inning in that game.

Vucevic earns most improved player award

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
4:06
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USC sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic has been the named the Pac-10's most improved player, the conference announced today.

The award was determined by a vote of the conference's 10 coaches. Vucevic started all 30 of the Trojans' games this season and averaged 10.7 points and a conference-leading 9.4 rebounds. He was second on the team in points and second in blocks per game with 1.3.

A season ago, he played a significantly smaller role for a USC team that was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament, averaging just 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11 minutes.

The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder, who came into college a rail-thin 17-year-old, said Monday he was pleased to be awarded by the conference's coaches.

"It's nice to get that award," Vucevic said. "Everybody likes when you get a personal award and I'm happy because I spent a lot of time working all summer and it paid off."

But the Montenegro native said any award was bittersweet considering the Trojans' five-game losing streak that ended their 2009-2010 season.

"It would've been nicer if we had won to finish off the season," he said. "As a player, I always want to make my team win, and we unfortunately didn't win the Pac-10 [regular season] championship. But I think the season was pretty successful, as all throughout the season we played well as a team and I feel like I helped the team play well."

Vucevic was also named second-team all-conference and received honorable mention all-defensive team honors. As part of the rest of the awards, Cal's Jerome Randle was named most valuable player, Arizona's Derrick Williams was named freshman of the year, and Arizona State's Herb Sendek was named coach of the year.

USC's Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson earned honorable mention all-conference and all-defensive honors.

Final: Arizona 84, USC 82 (2 OT)

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
12:06
AM PT
USC's season ended dramatically with a double-overtime loss to Arizona Saturday, 84-82. But much the way they did all season long, the Trojans competed until the end of the game — regardless of the obstacles along the way.

And there were a lot of obstacles Saturday. USC led 69-66 with seconds to go in regulation, only to have Nikola Vucevic called for a foul on Arizona's Kyle Fogg with 0.2 seconds remaining. Fogg went to the line for three free throws and converted all of them.

The Trojans also dealt with a number of other questionable calls, including an Arizona shot attempt that appeared to go off after the shot clock hit zero. In the end, though, Wildcats point guard Nic Wise wiggled through the USC defense to make a layup with 1.2 seconds left and send the Trojans home after two overtimes.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill refused to comment directly on any specific call when discussing the game with reporters afterward.

"Everyone knows what happened out there," O'Neill said. "It's no secret. Everyone at the game saw what happened and I'm going to leave it at that."

USC (16-14, 8-10) did have a number of impressive perfomances. Senior guard Dwight Lewis, playing his last collegiate game, had 21 points and five rebounds before fouling out in the first overtime. The team's two other seniors — point guard Mike Gerrity and forward Marcus Johnson — had 16 and 13 points, respectively.

But all five Wildcats starters were in double figures in points, including forward Derrick Williams, a former USC recruit. Williams had 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Now, Arizona (16-14, 10-8) moves on to the Pac-10 tournament, which kicks off Wednesday night with a play-in game at Staples Center. The fourth-seeded Wildcats will play UCLA on Thursday afternoon.

But the Trojans will have no more games, and so they close the 2009-10 season on a five-game losing streak. We'll have more reflection on the season later on the blog.

For now, a quote from Gerrity (via USCfootball.com) ends it well: "I think everybody can look back and say we had a good season. We didn't do what we sat out to do but people played good basketball. All in all, it was a great season."

Preview: USC at Arizona State

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
6:31
PM PT
5:30 p.m. tip-off tonight in Tempe, Ariz., for the Trojans and Sun Devils.

It's a big game for both teams — USC (16-12, 8-8) needs to win to avoid spiraling further downward as its season ends; ASU (20-9, 10-6) needs to win to keep the chance to share the Pac-10 title with Cal.

The last time these schools met in Arizona, former USC coach Tim Floyd was ejected in the final minute of play after a controversial foul call on then-Trojan Daniel Hackett. ASU's Derek Glasser had a career-high 18 points in that game. He's averaging 10 points and five assists per contest this year as the Sun Devils' leader on the floor, but ASU has also received solid production from guard Ty Abbott (12.3 points per game) and Rihards Kuksiks (11.4).

For the Trojans, scoring has been at a premium over their last three games. USC has scored a total of 135 points over its last three games — an average of 45. Leading scorers for the Trojans in that span: Dwight Lewis with an average of 11 and Nikola Vucevic with seven.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill said Wednesday after practice that the Trojans would have a similar game plan to the usual one: defending well and letting the offense flow from there. They did that successfully when Arizona State came into town in January, holding the Sun Devils to 37 points in a 47-37 win.

Only time will tell whether USC can do it again. We'll have a postgame report.

Notes: Yesterday, USC athletic director Mike Garrett began blogging on USCRipsIt. Today, he created a Twitter account. ... John Baxter has been officially announced as the Trojans' next special teams coordinator and associate head coach.

Revisiting Oregon State

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
2:01
PM PT
Again, not a pleasant atmosphere in USC's locker room following the Trojans' 49-44 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. Here are a few choice quotes we couldn't fit into the recap:

Coach Kevin O'Neill, on whether he believes his team is tired, which he said Thursday: "I can't even tell anymore. Tired’s not an excuse for 20 turnovers. Tired’s not an excuse for shooting 29 percent. It’s who we are, and it’s unfortunate for our fans and unfortunate for everybody."

More O'Neill, on the team's recent three-game losing streak to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State: "The thing that’s in common is that all those teams played us zone."

Forward Nikola Vucevic, on the Trojans' overall fatigue: “That is a factor, but it’s not an excuse,” Vucevic said. “Because every team plays the same amount of games, so everybody’s tired. We did feel a little tired and we don’t have a lot of rotation so the time accumulates and we get worn out and we can’t keep up the same intensity for 40 minutes."

Guard Dwight Lewis, reflecting on the loss: “I was disappointed with how the game turned out,” Lewis said. “We didn’t want to leave the Galen Center on a loss, but it happened, and we can’t really do much about it now.”

More Lewis, asked if he understood why the Trojans were more successful again: "It's mind boggling. I don't know what it is. We beat good teams and lose to the bottom half of the Pac-10."

Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, on his impression of a USC team that struggled to score against his Beavers: "Their front line is so athletic and imposing. It was so demoralizing for them to have nine offensive rebounds in the first half and it looked like we weren't going to be able to get back in this game."

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