USC: Kevin O'Neill. Garrett Jackson
January, 7, 2011
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
A few notes from Thursday's practice as the Trojans prepare to play UCLA on Sunday at the Galen Center:
- Alex Stepheson's full return from the hand injury that had limited him for the last two months was clearly a big boost for USC, and Stepheson practiced with a new fervor Thursday while being defended by freshman Curtis Washington and transfer center DeWayne Dedmon. The brace-free hand will still need some adjusting-to for Stepheson, but coach Kevin O'Neill said after practice he had never seen Stepheson practice as angry in his three years at USC. And while he did admit to witnessing his team experience a letdown in the final 20 minutes of practice, he said he was pleased with his team's effort three days away from UCLA.
- Freshman forward Garrett Jackson and senior guard Donte Smith had especially good practices, with Jackson spending a good portion of the session playing the power forward spot while giving Stepheson or Nikola Vucevic breaks and Smith knocking down shot after shot when plays disintegrated. Jackson has done that at times this season but never with much regularity -- he could be an option to get more minutes against UCLA because of the Bruins' interesting forward-center configuration with the undersized Reeves Nelson and the oversized Josh Smith. Put it this way -- one of Stepheson or Vucevic, probably Stepheson, will be giving up 50 pounds or so to Smith in the low block. The other guy will likely be too slow to keep Nelson contained. Enter Jackson, who's probably of a similar height to Nelson and of a slightly smaller build. O'Neill has also praised his defensive acumen in the past.