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Basketball: Trojans' time in summer league comes to an end

7/24/2010

The Nike Sayno Classic was a learning experience for USC signee DeWayne Dedmon -- and, truthfully, for the entire roster of future Trojan players.

Six Trojans -- the center Dedmon, guards Maurice Jones and Bryce Jones and forwards Curtis Washington, Garrett Jackson and Aaron Fuller -- played spurts in the eight-game league over the last month with varying levels of success.

Each player showed potential for success; each player showed potential for failure at the Division-I level. But Dedmon, who won't play for USC until the 2011 season and won't even enroll until January, was probably the most polarizing figure.

One game he'd be great, with 14 points and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes. Another game he'd be awful, posting a four-point, four-rebound and five-foul performance in 25 minutes. Others would be more in between, like eight and seven in 24 or 10 and five in 19, but Dedmon would often fluctuate between the good, the mediocre and the bad.

His penchant for committing ticky-tack fouls was plain to see on almost any occasion -- as was even-plainer-to-see sheer leaping ability. Many of the 7-foot giant's points came on rebounds, putbacks and alley-oops from the Joneses and Jackson.

And, likewise, many of his fouls came while guarding players who appeared to lose three or four inches of height to him. And, accordingly, Dedmon's trials and tribulations in the summer league paralleled those of the rest of his squad.

Washington was so raw he himself wasn't confident in his game. Fuller displayed little-to-no ability to create his own shot while Bryce Jones' shots simply didn't fall. Mo Jones had a balky knee and Jackson couldn't control himself on the court at times -- let alone the defense.

Thus, the six Trojans -- playing as Salvatori's Squad, often with a few other local players like former USC and UC Riverside guard Kyle Austin -- won only two of their eight contests. But Dedmon sees reason for optimism in the improvement the players made over the course of the summer.

He sees it in himself: "I'm more aggressive with the ball, trying to get to the rim and score, grab rebounds," Dedmon said last week after a Sayno game. "All that -- trying to elevate my game. It's another level of competition, so I see myself getting better."

And he sees it in his teammates.

"Everybody's been improving," Dedmon said. "Everybody's been getting better.

"I think the future at SC is gonna be real good."

As a quick note, the NCAA-sanctioned Sayno Classic had planned for five weeks of basketball with two games a week. But, just a few days ago, the schedule was changed into a four-week slate with a playoff week planned for this weekend, and now Salvatori's Squad is out of commission for the rest of the summer after not qualifying for the playoffs.

All six of the Trojans are now, under NCAA rules, banned from even scrimmaging with each other with the USC coaching staff until practice officially begins in mid-October. Guard Jio Fontan, who transferred from Fordham in January, also competed in one Sayno game for another team, as did forward Evan Smith, the only USC returnee to compete in the summer league.

Fontan and Smith will be a part of the 2010 Trojans, as will all of the signees save for Dedmon. And, speaking of Dedmon, here's a full video interview with the junior college product taken after one of the Sayno games last weekend: