First-Time Pro

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Former USC DT Jurrell Casey is heading to Arizona after being selected as an alternate for the 2016 Pro Bowl, marking his first time at the event. The Titans' defensive tackle turned down back-to-back alternate invitations the last two years, but decided that this year it was time to take advantage of the opportunity. The five-year veteran started all 16 games at DT for Tennessee and was tied for the team lead with seven sacks on the season. Casey (photo by Fox Sports) also had a career-high 28 quarterback pressures and was second on the Titans in tackles for loss with 11.

Click here for more on Casey's addition to the Pro Bowl roster.

Casey marks the fifth Trojan selected as a Pro Bowler for the 2016 season, joining QB Carson Palmer, LB Clay Matthews, C Ryan Kalil and OT Tyron Smith.

Photo Gallery: Hoops Happy Homecoming

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USC men's basketball continues to thrive in the friendly confines of the Galen Center, improving to 12-0 at home after beating Washington State, 81-71, Thursday night. The Trojans have one day off before hosting a high Noon showdown with Washington on Saturday.

In the meantime, enjoy the John McGillen photos, including some beautiful shots captured behind the backboard with a remote camera.

3-Points: USC 81, WSU 71

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributors

With a convincing victory over Washington State on Thursday night, the Trojans are 12-0 at home for the first time since 1943 and improve to 16-5 overall and 5-3 in Pac-12 play. 


Trojans' Sixth Man

After three consecutive road games, the Trojans were excited to finally be back in the Galen Center to protect their unblemished home court record. In front of a packed student section, USC held the lead for over 32 minutes in the game, escaping a back-and-forth opening stretch to clinch the W. The Trojan Family is playing an increasingly important role in the team's success this season, as week in and week out, competition in the Pac-12 comes down to the wire. For a team that often played in front of just several hundred fans in past seasons, the strong showing of support means a tremendous amount. 

"It's like having a sixth player," said junior forward Nikola Jovanovic. "I think we worked really hard the last two years to get that and now we have to keep up the winning streak at home."

"It means a lot," added redshirt junior guard Katin Reinhardt. "It helps when you have a lot of fans there. When you're in a little slump, they get you going or when you're on a run, they get really loud."

No. 5's Night

Reinhardt broke out of what he deemed a slight shooting slump of late to lead the Trojans with 18 points including three buckets from beyond the arc. His 13 first half points propelled USC out of a gridlocked start and helped the Trojans take a double-digit lead at the break. Originally a transfer from UNLV, Reinhardt reached the 1,000-point career mark in the victory, finishing with his total at 1,007. The guard was just one of five Trojans to finish in double figures, in addition to Jovanovic (12), Chimezie Metu (12), Bennie Boatwright (11) and Elijah Stewart (10).  

"The coaches told me to keep my head down and keep it up," Reinhardt said of his mentality throughout his slump. "I just made sure I came out and knocked shots down for my team."

Moving Forward

After dropping back-to-back games on the road last weekend, the Trojans felt that Thursday night's matchup against Washington State was a "must win." The victory signified the team's resilience in surviving perhaps the toughest stretch of their season and in bouncing back with a statement performance. Thursday's win was just the beginning however, as the Trojans host a tough Washington team on Saturday (12 p.m.). Eager to protect their home winning streak, USC is also looking to avenge its January 3 loss to the Huskies in Seattle. 

"We know how good we are. It doesn't have to say a number on the side," said Reinhardt after the game. "We know what type of basketball team we are and today was a step in the right direction. We lost two games but came out and made a statement win and now we've just got to keep pushing forward."

Check out the SnappyTV highlights from Thursday's victory including a slew of remarkable dunks from Metu...

Senior Bowl Twosome

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Vainuku-Cal-McG.jpgSurrounded by the best college football seniors in the country, two Trojans have the chance this weekend to raise their draft stock on a big stage. Cody Kessler and Soma Vainuku will both represent the North Team in the 2016 Senior Bowl on Saturday with the hope that their performances, both in the game and in front of NFL scouts and executives all week, will help them earn a spot with one of 32 teams this April.

Both players spent this week practicing with other seniors from around the country, interviewing with NFL teams and learning about life at football's next level. Kessler, who set USC's career completion percentage record (67.5) and directed the Trojan offense for the past three years, is one of two Pac-12 quarterbacks who will take the field on Saturday. He and Stanford's Kevin Hogan are both listed on the roster for the North Team. Meanwhile, Vainuku the fullback is one of just two players listed on the roster for either team at the position. The redshirt senior, who made his mark at USC as a standout special teams player as well, knows the market for fullbacks in the NFL isn't enormous. But in line with the resilient attitude he showed while at USC, Vainuku isn't daunted.

"I'm willing to get in there and work my butt off to show them that if they draft me, their number is not wasted," Vainuku told Gary Klein of the LA Times.

Click here to read Klein's complete profile of Vainuku as he prepares for the next stage of his career.

The Senior Bowl kicks off at 11:30 a.m. PT on Saturday and will be televised on the NFL Network. For more information on the Senior Bowl, click here.

Check out these highlights of Kessler from this week of Senior Bowl prep...

Golden Trojans

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USC football legends Ronnie Lott and Lynn Swann won four Super Bowl rings apiece, earning a spot on the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team, selected by the Hall of Fame voters. Of the 26 players picked, only Charles Haley can claim more Super Bowl victories than Lott and Swann.

Click here for the complete team.

After leaving USC a national champion (1978) and unanimous All-American (1980), Lott made an even bigger name for himself after being drafted 8th overall by the San Francisco 49ers, capturing Super Bowl XVI (1981), XIX (1984), XXIII (1988) and XXIV (1989). He is one of five Niners to play on all four championships teams in the 1980s.

Swann shared similar college credentials to Lott, entering the NFL as a national champion (1972), All-American (1973) and first round pick (1974). He played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, collecting rings from Super Bowl IX (1974), X (1975), XIII (1978) and XIV (1979), and cementing his big game reputation with the Super Bowl X MVP performance (4 catches for 161 yards and a TD).


Senior Strokes

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Currently 4-0 in Pac-12 competition, No. 7 USC women's swimming and diving is on a roll as it approaches postseason action. This weekend, the Trojans will face two of their biggest challenges yet in No. 2 Cal and No. 3 Stanford in their final two home dual meets of the season. On Saturday, 10 seniors will be honored before the start of the meet at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, including co-captain and eight-time All-American Kendyl Stewart who is looking to finish her senior season on top.

Click here for a complete preview of this weekend's action

Stewart is nearing the end of a highly successful Trojan career that features two Pac-12 titles in the 100y butterfly, a silver medal at the 2015 FINA World Championships and USC records in both the 100y fly and 200y back as well as records in two relays. The other nine seniors to be recognized before the Trojans take on Stanford are co-captain Lucy Worrall, Kasia Wilk, Brianna Weinstein, Joanna Stenkvist, Nikki Chang and divers Sam Adams, Natalie Kalibat, Jacqui Suitt and Katherine Van Winkle.

The Women of Troy host Cal at 6 p.m. PT on Friday (diving events begin at 12 p.m. PT) and then Stanford on Saturday at 12 p.m. PT at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Be sure to follow @USCswim on Twitter for meet updates and more this weekend!

Stewart, Kendyl USC_W_Swimming_UCLA_021315_MCG8590.JPG

Century at the Net

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

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The Pac-12 released its All-Century Men's Volleyball team on Wednesday with four Trojans earning a spot on the roster along with current USC head coach Jeff Nygaard, who was recognized for his playing career at UCLA. USC is represented by two-time All-American Dusty Dvorak (pictured above on the right), two-time National Player of the Year Bryan Ivie, NCAA tournament MVP Celso Kalache (pictured above on the left) and two-time All-American Pat Powers.

This honor is just one of many for these four talented Trojans, who established USC men's volleyball as an elite program. Kalache led the Trojans to their first NCAA title in 1977, earning All-American honors that season, while also playing for the Brazilian National Team in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Dvorak joined Kalache on the 1977 NCAA title team, while also aiding the Trojans to their second NCAA crown along with Powers in 1980. Both Dvorak and Powers also played together for the United States National Team, leading them to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. Once Powers retired from playing professionally, he became the USC head coach from 1997-2002. Finally, Ivie still owns several USC records, including career (2,380) and season kills (770), and career (661) and season blocks (199). He also represented the United States at the 1992 Olympics, where he earned a bronze medal, and the 1996 Olympics as well.

Click here for the entire All-Century Team.

Play It Again Sam

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Sam Clancy is one of only three Trojans to win Pac-10 Player of the Year, and now he is set to join the other two, Wayne Carlander and Harold Miner, in the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Hall of Honor at this year's conference tournament final in Las Vegas (March 12).

Click here for the full story.

Clancy put together as accomplished a career, both with his team and individually, as any USC men's basketball player ever. He ranks third all-time in scoring and rebounding, and second in blocks, leading the Trojans to the Elite Eight in 2001, the program's best showing since the NCAA Tournament expanded.

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On the Board

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USC men's volleyball has experienced the struggle of rebuilding under new head coach Jeff Nygaard so far this season, but the Trojans enjoyed a silver lining Tuesday night by defeating Pepperdine in five sets to pick up their first victory of the young campaign. After winning the first two sets, USC was forced to a decisive fifth set, ultimately overcoming the Waves, 15-11, thanks to a career-best 23 kills from sophomore Jon Rivera.

Click here for the recap.

Click here for the Rapid Reaction.

Nygaard's first career win as head coach came after six consecutive losses, the worst start to a USC season in program history. The Trojans remain home for an MPSF match on Sunday (Jan. 31) against No. 6 Stanford at 4 p.m. in the Galen Center, which will be televised live on Pac-12 Network.

Here are the highlights of the win over Pepperdine:

Udeze to Lead the Line

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Former USC All-American defensive end Kenechi Udeze, a first round NFL Draft pick in 2004, has been named the defensive line coach by Clay Helton. Udeze, who overcame cancer which ended his playing career, was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at USC last season before running the defensive line for the Holiday Bowl.

"There are times in your career when you meet someone and just know that they are going to be a superstar in the profession," said Helton. "Kenechi is that person. I was blown away by his attention to detail with technique and fundamentals in our recent bowl game preparation and in the interview process. His knowledge of the game is something that is going to be critical to the development of our young defensive line. Kenechi is a Trojan to the core and his passion for USC is felt by all."

Udeze, now 32, was a three-year (2001-03) starting defensive end at USC, recording 135 tackles, 51 tackles for loss, 28 sacks, an NCAA record-tying 14 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries in his career. As a junior in 2003 on USC's national championship team, he was a consensus All-American first teamer, leading the nation in sacks, ranking fourth in tackles for loss and ninth in forced fumbles, as the only player in the nation in the Top 9 in each of those categories. His 26 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks in 2003 were the most by a Trojan defensive lineman since Tim Ryan in 1989, and he was the first Trojan with double digits in sacks since Willie McGinest in 1992.

After the Minnesota Vikings selected him 20th overall, he played four full seasons before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (a blood cancer). He received chemotherapy treatments and had a bone marrow transplant from his brother. He was the Vikings' recipient of the 2008 NFL Ed Block Courage Award, as voted by his teammates. After attempting to return to the playing field in 2009 but struggling with peripheral neuropathy in his feet as a result of chemotherapy, Udeze retired from the NFL that summer. His leukemia is in remission.

Udeze quickly transitioned to a career in coaching, serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Washington for three years (2009-11), where he also worked with the defensive line. In 2012, he was the assistant defensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Then in 2013, he was with the Minnesota Vikings during fall camp and the pre-season as part of an NFL minority coaching fellowship, including working with the defensive line. He was the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Pittsburgh in 2014, helping with the defensive line there as well.

Known in his college days as "BKU" for "Big" Kenechi Udeze, he showed up to USC at 375 pounds, but became a weight room warrior, sculpting his body into a 275-pound pass rushing machine.