And he can't wait, mainly because he gets a chance to coach 7-foot, 255-pound, Antelope Valley College transfer Dewayne Dedmon in an organized game.
O'Neill, who hasn't shied away from hyperbole about his players, the schedule or the team's potential in his two seasons with the Trojans, isn't mincing words with Dedmon's potential.
"He has a chance to be special,'' O'Neill said. "He has three years left. He won't make it three years. He may not make it past one.''
Dedmon transferred from Antelope Valley in the middle of last season. He purposely didn't play his second season at the junior college to preserve a full season of eligibility. His averages were modest at the California JC with 6.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. But he did deal with a bizarre injury -- a broken bone in his forehead and injured nasal cavity suffered during a January game in 2010 -- that forced him to miss seven games.
Dedmon spent last semester working against USC big men Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic, who was selected by the Sixers at No. 16 in the first round of last month's draft, and O'Neill said Dedmon held his own against both in practice.
Why is O'Neill convinced Dedmon can be special in the Pac-12?
"Because he's 7-foot, 250 and he runs like a deer,'' O'Neill said. "There's no question he's a first-round pick, no question. He's got a great motor. He's worked with a bunch of pros. He worked with my former player with the Pacers -- Danny Granger -- and he said he's a first-round pick. He's extremely athletic. He'll score on tip dunks. He'll run the floor. He's a great shooter and he's extremely athletic.
"He'll average a double-double in his first year, and after that, who knows,'' O'Neill said.
The Trojans, though, will have their offense go through Jio Fontan and Maurice Jones, two experienced guards returning for USC. Iowa-transfer forward Aaron Fuller is expected to make an impact if he can make shots, especially in the lane. O'Neill is banking on freshmen guards Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore being surprises, too.
Wise and Stewart can't go on the trip to Brazil, though. The Trojans will practice July 28-Aug. 11 for 10 days and then travel to Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro Aug. 12-21. The last time the Trojans took a foreign trip, they went across the border to Mexico over Labor Day weekend prior to O.J. Mayo's freshman season under Tim Floyd.
O'Neill, who this past season coached the Trojans to a 19-15 overall record (10-8 Pac-10) and a First Four first-round loss to VCU in Dayton, is confident that Dedmon can help change the course of this team in a wide-open Pac-12. The Trojans are essentially through the worst of the NCAA sanctions after missing the 2010 postseason. But the NCAA still keeps a watchful eye on USC as O'Neill confirmed that NCAA staffers were at the elite and team camps earlier in the summer to watch how everything is conducted. The NCAA does cherry-pick certain schools to oversee, and selecting USC makes sense based on past history.
If USC is going to make a play for a tournament bid in 2012, though, then it will come down to how much Dedmon lives up to the O'Neill hype.
Cal, Arizona and Washington will be tabbed as the three favorites with UCLA in the top four. But USC and Oregon should be in that next tier. Oregon State is probably in the next group with Arizona State and Stanford, and then Washington State. Placing new teams Colorado and Utah in the mix is still a little dicey. Both will likely be projected in the bottom group for this season.
O'Neill isn't afraid to showcase his team, though, in the nonconference. He did it a year ago in scheduling and there's no question it helped the Trojans get an at-large berth by playing Texas and at Tennessee, two games it won, as well as at Kansas, a game which it lost by a deuce. The Texas series was a part of the Pac-10-Big-12 agreement. The Kansas series was folded into it and the return game is this season.
USC will host Kansas, along with a solid top-four Mountain West program in New Mexico. Rebuilding Georgia comes to the Galen Center, too, as well as a return game with TCU. Still, that's four home games against the Big 12, SEC and MWC.
USC will play at UNLV and then meet either North Carolina or South Carolina in a tournament in Las Vegas. Clearly, beating Vegas on the road will be a chore, but playing the Tar Heels would certainly boost the RPI.
The true road games aren't easy, either. USC goes to Minnesota, which should climb back to a more respectable position in the Big Ten after a disappointing season. USC also goes to reshuffling San Diego State and then to UC-Riverside, a game the Trojans should/must win to avoid a horrible loss. The win gives you a road pop; a loss makes it questionable.
The schedule provides plenty of tests for Dedmon, as he'll have to go against Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III at Minnesota, and possibly Tyler Zeller and John Henson of UNC, and have to keep Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey off the backboard. That's before dealing with Joshua Smith and Travis and David Wear of UCLA.
"Our schedule will be the best in our league by far,'' O'Neill said, although Washington does have quite a back-to-back pair of games in New York by playing Marquette in the Jimmy V Classic and then Duke later in the week at Madison Square Garden in December. "This trip [to Brazil] is perfect for him to get ready.''
USC knows how to hype a Heisman. Let's see if hyping Dedmon works as he attempts to go from relative obscurity to a national notoriety in less than a season. He is in the right city and has a coach who isn't shy about expressing his opinions to have a chance to make his debut in college basketball noticeable.