USC: Tim Floyd

Derrick Williams and Co. keep going, USC keeps watching

March, 25, 2011
USC associate head coach Bob Cantu remembers the time he first realized Derrick Williams could be something special.

It was Feb. 19, 2008.

Williams was a junior in high school, his La Mirada team going against fellow junior Jordan Hamilton and Compton Dominguez in the second round of the playoffs as heavy, heavy underdogs -- at Dominguez, to boot.

But Williams, in a performance that now seems somewhat similar to his monster game Thursday in a Sweet 16 win over Duke, posted a 28-point first half -- 31 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in all -- and almost led La Mirada to an upset win over Dominguez.

When Cantu, now in his 10th year as an assistant with the Trojans, left the Dominguez gym, he immediately called then-USC head coach Tim Floyd.

"We've got to get this guy," he said.

The Trojans did get Williams -- to sign with them, at least. He signed a letter of intent to attend USC later that year and had every plan to enroll at the school the next summer before Floyd's resignation and all of the controversy surrounding it.

But, shortly after Floyd resigned on June 10, 2009, Williams and two other USC signees -- Lamont 'Momo' Jones and Solomon Hill -- were released from their signed letters, per their requests and allowed to sign with different schools.

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USC-Arizona: Storylines abound

February, 24, 2011
Let's admit it: many USC basketball games this season have been lacking in storylines, boring, whatever you want to call it. Tonight's game against Arizona is none of those things, so here are five questions -- well, four, plus a prediction -- that will go a long way toward deciding tonight's ultra-intriguing 7:30 p.m. game against the Wildcats, and no, none of them have to do with the 2,000 bobbleheads that will be given out to fans in attendance at the Galen Center:

1. Yes, Derrick Williams and Co. had first intended to attend USC. So what?

First, to get it out of the way: In June 2009, Arizona's Derrick Williams, Lamont Jones and Solomon Hill were all released from letters of intent to USC because of turmoil going on in Troy after former coach Tim Floyd resigned his post. All three of them eventually decided on the Wildcats, and, a week after the final release, former Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill was hired at USC. Since then, it's always been a pretty big story every time the two teams match up.

Williams -- and everybody else involved, for that matter -- is over it.

"I hear about it every time the USC game's coming up -- a week, two weeks, even a month before the game," the 19-year-old said by phone from Tucson this week. "Me and my teammates, the ones who were going to go to USC, we just try to play the best we can against USC every time we're out there.

"I guess it's woulda-coulda, but we're happy where we're at and with all the things that went on before we de-committed from there, it just wasn't a good fit. That's really it."

O'Neill said after a USC practice this week that he felt it was a "non-story."

"It would have been wonderful if those three guys were here, but they're not," he said. "And it would have been wonderful if I'd won the lottery last week, but I didn't."

Added USC senior forward Alex Stepheson: "We're kinda over hearing that, you know. They didn't come. It'd be cool if they did, but the situation didn't work out, so we've just gotta move on."

Williams, from nearby La Mirada, expects to have about 100 friends and family in attendance tonight, for what it's worth.

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USC-Arizona: The (former) recruits

January, 29, 2011
Five questions -- well, four, plus a prediction -- that will go a long way toward deciding today's 4:30 p.m. game against Arizona:

1. How much will Derrick Williams haunt the Trojans?

It's not just Williams. The Wildcats' three leading scorers -- Williams, Solomon Hill and Lamont 'Momo' Jones -- were all USC recruits at one point under former coach Tim Floyd, and all three ended up signing with Arizona and coach Sean Miller.

It was a big story last season when the trio were booed by the Galen Center crowd; it'll be a bigger story this time around because Williams has become so good.

Averaging just 29 minutes per game, Williams is putting up 19.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game to go along with some gaudy peripheral statistics. At 6-foot-8 and 241 pounds, he's a perfect four at the college level, but he's also shooting 67 percent (21 of 31) from 3-point range this season, 75 percent from the free-throw line and a remarkable 63 percent from the field.

He's scored at least 12 points in every game this season. Hill and Jones combine to average almost 17 points per game, but the Wildcats have a full 10-man rotation so each player gets a few less minutes than you'd expect.

2. Where will USC's offense come from?

Only three of the Trojans' sevem rotation players had good nights against ASU -- Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Jones and Donte Smith. The other players -- including Jio Fontan and Marcus Simmons, who combined for a whopping no points -- struggled. USC still hasn't had a game this season where Vucevic and Fontan have both played well. Smith has often had to be the offensive savior in games this season with his 3-point shooting, but more offensive options will be needed Saturday.

Unless Vucevic and Fontan both have good nights and Jones continues his aggressive efforts from Thursday's game, expect a USC loss.

3. How much zone will the Trojans see?

Arizona State showed USC a lot of zone on Thursday. But the Sun Devils are usually a zone-defense team under Herb Sendek. It also didn't work all that well against the Trojans.

But it'll be interesting to pay attention to Arizona's defensive looks tonight, especially when USC puts together a mini-run and Miller calls a timeout to reset things.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if the next couple teams we play, even man-to-man teams like Arizona and UCLA, they tuck their pride and go zone as well," Fontan said after practice this week. "I would, if I was a coach, seeing what we’ve done so far. We gotta be ready for that."

Indeed. Expect spurts of it from the Wildcats.

4. Can the Trojans play a full 40 minutes?

It'll take a full 40 minutes to beat a team the caliber of Arizona. USC took a few plays off against a lesser opponent in ASU Thursday but won't be able to tonight. And that will be a test for the Trojans, who have consistently been hurt this season by their inability to play an entire, fundamentally sound game. Kevin O'Neill knows it, and his players know it.

"Watching college basketball, a lot of the teams now do a better job than we do of playing complete games," Fontan said. "I feel like we haven’t really played a complete game."

The closest the Trojans have come to that, he said, was the second half of the Kansas game. But they lost that game after starting off badly in the first half. He also mentioned the Texas game, probably USC's most impressive home win this season.

Said Fontan: "Right now, we’re not playing up to that level because we’re expecting to hit the next stage and it hasn’t come yet, but we have to maintain focus like we did in those two games, playing defense and locking down."

5. Who will win?

Arizona, by about 10 points. Williams was too much for UCLA to handle on Thursday, and he'll be too much for USC to handle on Saturday.

Tuesday links and notes

May, 4, 2010
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.

Horton named USC assistant

April, 8, 2010
USC coach Kevin O'Neill finalized his coaching staff Thursday, announcing the hiring of longtime junior college assistant Dieter Horton as an assistant coach.

Horton coached at Fullerton College and Antelope Valley College for the past 14 seasons, compiling a record of 295-174. His 2006 team at Fullerton went 37-0 and won the state title. Horton, 39, has had at least 30 of his players sign with four-year schools.

"Dieter has a tremendous amount of coaching experience as a head coach and he'll be a valuable addition to our staff," O'Neill said in a statement. "He has produced successful teams wherever he's been. I'm extremely pleased he is joining us."

Horton's hiring comes after O'Neill announced the promotion of Tony Miller from strength and conditioning manager to assistant last month. Neither Horton nor Miller has Division I assistant coaching experience.

O'Neill also announced Thursday that Bob Cantu has been promoted to associate head coach after nine seasons as an assistant with the program. Former assistant Gib Arnold, who was not retained this offseason, became the head coach at Hawaii last month. Wednesday, former USC assistant Phil Johnson, who O'Neill also chose not to retain, accepted an assistant coaching position with UTEP under former USC coach Tim Floyd.

The full Horton release is available here.

Recapping Wednesday

April, 7, 2010
A few things to note as we prepare for Thursday's spring practice — the fifth of the spring:
  • Trojans baseball picked up a victory in unlikely fashion Wednesday, beating visiting Cal State Bakersfield 4-3 while using six pitchers. First baseman Ricky Oropesa, who's becoming a full-fledged star for USC, homered to break a deadlocked game in the bottom of the eighth and give the Trojans the victory. Oropesa now has six homers in his last 11 games and 23 in his two-year career. Sophomore righthander Chad Smith closed down the game in the late innings to preserve the Trojans' impressive 14-1 record when leading after seven innings. More here.
  • The Los Angeles Daily News is reporting that former Trojans forward Keith Wilkinson has been hired as the director of basketball operations at Texas El Paso under former USC coach Tim Floyd. Wilkinson, who graduated in 2009, played one season with a Ukranian professional basketball team. Interestingly, Wilkinson described, in an Outside the Lines report this week, a time when USC athletic director Mike Garrett stormed into the Trojans locker room postgame and berated then-point guard Daniel Hackett for missing free throws. Wilkinson added that it appeared as if Floyd forbade Garrett from making postgame appearances in the locker room from that point on.
  • The seventh annual USC Football/Nike Coach of the Year Southern California Coaches Clinic will be held this Friday and Saturday at USC's Galen Center. Featuring speeches from first-year coach Lane Kiffin and Oregon's Chip Kelly and Harvard's Tim Murphy. Clinic participants will also attend Saturday's USC spring practice on Howard Jones Field and hear lectures from prominent high school coaches. More information, including the cost and where to sign up, is available here.
  • USC announced the 2009 Tommy Awards on Wednesday. Former receiver Damian Williams and tennis star Robert Farah were named co-Male Athletes of the Year. Female Athlete of the Year went to senior water polo two-meter Kami Craig, a former Olympian. The rest of the award-winners, including Teams of the Year and Comeback of the Year, are listed here.

Arnold and Johnson officially out

March, 9, 2010
Basketball assistants Gib Arnold and Phil Johnson will not be retained, the university officially announced in a statement Tuesday.

The decision came after a long process, USC coach Kevin O'Neill said.

"This is a decision I wrestled with for a while," O'Neill said in the statement. "It had nothing to do with their coaching ability or performance, or with any issues related to the current status of the Trojan program.

"It simply has to do with the vision I have for how I want to structure this program."

Arnold and Johnson were brought on when former coach Tim Floyd was hired in 2005 and each spent five seasons with the team. Arnold said he had known for "some time" that O'Neill intended to bring his own assistants at some point.

"I understand and support this decision and wish Kevin, his new staff and the USC basketball team all my best," Arnold said. "I am thankful that I was able to help Kevin during his transition year."

Johnson, who also served as an assistant coach with Arizona and the NBA's Chicago Bulls, said he was proud to be a part of USC's three straight consecutive winning seasons under Floyd.

Added Johnson: "I have no doubt that Kevin and his new staff will do extremely well and I'm sure exceed that."

Bob Cantu, often named one of the top assistants in the nation, will stay with the program. Cantu has served an assistant under former USC coach Henry Bibby, Floyd and O'Neill.

The official statements from O'Neill, Arnold and Johnson are available here.

Family runs deep for Lewis

February, 25, 2010
There was no following of any footsteps for USC guard Dwight Lewis.

None. His father, also named Dwight, has been a musician for most of his life. And he wanted his son to do so too.

Keep in mind they lived in Metairie, La. — a suburb of New Orleans. The elder Dwight said after USC's practice Wednesday that near New Orleans, "music is everything."

But not to young Dwight.

"When he was eight or nine years old he told me he wanted to play basketball,” the elder Lewis said, laughing. “At first, I asked him why, because I wanted him to play music. He said, ‘Dad, it’s what I want to do.’ ”

So father and son learned basketball together. It was a relationship strengthened through the game.

And it reached a high point when Dwight, 18 at the time, came to USC. It worked out for everyone. Young Dwight grew as a person and a player, his parents said, and they enjoyed seeing him develop from afar.

"He likes it," said his mother, Rosa. "This is just what he likes to do."

And Rosa and Dwight aren't ready for their son's four-year ride with the Trojans — in which he has nearly tripled his scoring average since his freshman season — to come to an end.

"Me personally, I wish he had another year at USC," Lewis' father said. "I've enjoyed watching, I've enjoyed seeing the ups and downs."

With some luck, the season will end in positively. If the Trojans win their final four games, there's a solid chance USC will capture the regular-season Pac-10 title. But that will be it for Lewis' college career.

"It's going to affect him after the Arizona game, knowing that it's the end," the elder Lewis said. "There's no more games left to play — it's over."

Lewis' parents will be in attendance this weekend — both tonight against Oregon and Saturday against Oregon State.

“It’s tight,” the younger Lewis said Wednesday. “They don’t get to see me play too much so it’s cool for them to see me in person.”

Speaking of Oregon, tonight's game against the Ducks tips off at 7:30 at the Galen Center. No television, but we'll have frequent in-game updates and a postgame report.

Notes: USC's men's volleyball team lost to Cal State Northridge for the 16th consecutive time Wednesday night in four sets. ...With the Women of Troy basketball team in Eugene, Ore. to also face Oregon tonight, check out this featureon USC guard Jacki Gemelos from the Daily Trojan, USC's student newspaper. Of Saturday's impending Senior Night celebrations, Lewis said: “After the game, I’ll probably be a little emotional."

Preview: USC at Washington State

February, 20, 2010
If Thursday's game against Washington was the good kindof rematch for USC, then Saturday afternoon's rematch with Washington State is the vengeful kind.

See, when the Cougars and Trojans played last month, USC succumbed to an improbable second-half comeback from WSU and lost, 67-60. At the time, USC forward Alex Stepheson called it "pretty bad," memorably shaking his head while looking down.

But, as Stepheson will tell you, the tables have turned.

Since that game, the Trojans (16-9, 8-5) have won five of seven games — including their last four. The Cougars (15-11, 5-9) have lost six of seven.

But that doesn't make USC coach Kevin O'Neill any less worried about today's 2 p.m. contest at the Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum in Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars still have Klay Thompson. They still have Reggie Moore.

And combined, that duo's good for an average of 34.3 points per game — enough to keep any coach worried.

In January, the WSU duo had 41 of their team's 67 points. At the time, O'Neill called Moore the best point guard in the Pac-10.

Both Moore and Thompson struggled in the Cougars' 20-point loss to UCLA on Thursday, together recording just 19 points, but WSU did get 10 points from forward DeAngelo Casto.

And Casto may well be the key to this game. Averaging 14 points in his last four games, the 6-foot-8, 229-pound forward is the closest thing to an inside threat the Cougars offer.

While Cougars coach Ken Bone frequently runs a 4-guard offense, he can only do so if Casto manages to limit USC's Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic down low — and score some himself.

We'll see. No television today, but we'll have halftime and postgame updates.

Notes: We profiled USC baseball in this space yesterday, and the Trojans' first game against Cal Poly was an overwhelming success, as starter Andrew Triggs went seven strong innings and designated hitter Matt Foatwent 4-for-5 with 4 RBI. USC won 9-4 and will be back facing the Mustangs again tonight at 6 p.m...Meanwhile, USC's appearance before the NCAA Infractions Committee in Tempe, Ariz. is set to conclude today. The Los Angeles Times reports that the focus of today's proceedings are centered around the basketball program. Former USC head coach Tim Floyd, who resigned last year, is in attendance alongside one of his attorneys.



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