Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
With just eight days until they open their season at home against Cal State Northridge, the USC men's basketball was up early on Thursday preparing on the Galen Center's main court...
- The Trojans' No.1 offensive option in 2011, sophomore guard Maurice Jones (pictured below by Pierson Clair), struggled mightily from the field on Thursday, going 1-for-10 during five-on-five drills. But coach Kevin O'Neill remained adamant that if USC is going to make a dent in the Pac-12 conference, Jones will need to continue looking for his shot regardless of past success. "On days like today when he's not hitting his shots, he needs to keep shooting," said O'Neill. "But what we have to do as a team if he's missing, is to go get the offensive boards and put it in."
- One of the guys O'Neill will rely heavily on to grab offensive boards is redshirt junior Aaron Fuller (transfer from Iowa), who continues to impress with his effort and constant physicality in the post. "I think I give this team a presence down low," said Fuller. "I'm a guy who loves to go get rebounds. Basically, my mentality is to do whatever it takes to help my teammates out. After sitting out a year, I'm just excited to go play basketball."
- Fuller on the team's chemistry: "We have certainly made strides in the past few weeks. We have a bunch of new guys, so mistakes are going to happen. But as we've progressed these last few weeks, you can see this team starting to gel both offensively and defensively together. We can play with anyone in the nation, as long as we remember that we are a defensive-minded team first."
- Heading into 2011, a lot of the buzz surrounding the Trojans centered around their defensive-minded big man, redshirt sophomore Dewayne Dedmon. Despite playing with a cumbersome splint on his right hand (suffered fracture on October 12), the transfer from Antelope Valley College showcased his off-hand talents on Thursday with a bevvy of left-handed, post-up moves. "It's easier to play with the splint than the cast," said Dedmon, who also turned a routine steal into an impressive coast-to-coast dunk. "Hopefully I start the season with nothing on my hand. It's tough because I can't use my right hand, but it's also been good for me in terms of developing a left-handed shot."
- Freshmen Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore were consistently targeted by a very colorful O'Neill on Thursday, for what the coach continually referred to as freshmen mistakes. As the team's projected starting shooting guard and small forward respectively, the two highly-touted newcomers will be expected to perform right away when the season tips off next week. "I think it's very difficult for them, because if Jio [Fontan] was playing, their minutes would be limited," said O'Neill. "As it stands right now, both of them are looking at playing 28 to 30 minutes a game and when you are doing that with two freshmen perimeter players there are going to be some growing pains."
- Painful is certainly the word to define redshirt sophomore Evan Smith's time at Troy. For the second straight season, the Calabasas, CA native will be forced to sit out until at least the beginning of Pac-12 play with what is being called a labrum injury. Unlike last year, Smith has opted to go the rehabilitation route rather than potential season-ending surgery.
- Former Trojan Dwight Lewis (USC's leading scorer in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010) made a rare appearance at practice. Last season, Lewis played for the Carabobo Globetrotters in Venezuela's professional basketball league. He also represented Venezuela in September's FIBA Americas Championship.
- USC will hold a closed scrimmage against Long Beach State at the Galen Center on Saturday. Here's the coach after an up-and-down session...