USC preparing for first-ever meeting against the Broncos.
The USC men's basketball team, one year removed from back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and 20-win seasons but coming off of a 13-17 season in 2003, takes the first step toward returning to the postseason when it opens 2004 at Western Michigan on Friday (Nov. 21) at 7 p.m. (EST) in both teams' season openers. Under eighth-year Coach Henry Bibby
, the Trojans return eight lettermen, including five starters, and welcome three talented freshmen and an eligible transfer. The game is a homecoming (of sorts) for USC guard Desmon Farmer
. The senior hails from Flint, Mich., about 120 miles northeast of the Western Michigan campus in Kalamazoo.
USC at Western Michigan on Friday (Nov. 21) at 7 p.m. (EST). It will be broadcast live on KMPC-AM 1540 in Los Angeles, KSPA 1510 in Ontario/Orange County and XEMM 800 in San Diego. First-year coach Steve Hawkins begins his career with the Broncos against the Trojans. The Broncos, who advanced to the second round of the NIT last year, feature a veteran squad that returns nine lettermen and four starters from a team that went 20-11 in 2003 and 10-8 (third, West Division) in the Mid-American Conference. Senior forward/center Anthony Kann is the team's leading returning scorer (14.4) and rebounder (8.8) while senior forward Mike Williams is second in both categories with 13.6 points and 5.7 rebounds. Western Michigan was 12-2 at home last year and 5-0 in non-conference play at home.
Senior guard Desmon Farmer scored 26 points while freshmen twin guards Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart scored 15 points apiece to lead the USC men's basketball team to a 99-79 exhibition opener win over L.A. City All-Stars on Nov. 7. The Trojans, who had five players score in double figures, shot 53.8% from the floor (35-of-65) and forced L.A. City into 22 turnovers. USC's older set of identical twins, junior guards Errick and Derrick Craven, scored 14 and 10 points apiece, respectively. Junior redshirt forward Jeff McMillan, playing in his first game after sitting out last year due to transfer rules, scored seven points and had five rebounds. Junior center Rory O'Neil and freshman guard Quinton Day both added six points ... In the second exhibition, McMillan scored 20 points and had a team-high eight rebounds and Lodrick Stewart had 17 points off the bench to lead USC to a 94-87 exhibition finale win over the Long Island All-Stars on Nov. 16. McMillan made 9-of-11 field goal attempts and also blocked two shots. O'Neil added 13 points, Errick Craven had 12 points and Rodrick Stewart had 10.
The Trojans continue to practice shorthanded during the preseason and continue to be hampered by injuries. USC opened practice on Oct. 18 short on big men for a variety of reasons, turning the first few weeks into a guard's paradise. At the start of practice, coach Henry Bibby spoke of using four-guard lineups to take advantage of the team's great depth at the position and also to compensate for the shortage of post players at this time of the season. And that's exactly what he did in both of USC's exhibition games, employing a variety of four-guard sets. USC features five frontcourt players on the roster, but only two, junior center Rory O'Neil and redshirt junior forward Jeff McMillan, are currently available. McMillan was slowed by a lingering stress fracture in his left foot at the start of practice, but is nearing full strength. Meanwhile, junior forward Nick Curtis opened camp playing, but has since been sidelined with a sore left knee that forced him to miss both exhibition games. Beefy junior forward Gregg Guenther Jr. is still playing football right now, starting, in fact, at tight end on USC's No. 2-ranked football team. He is set to join the team after the season, which could run into the first week of January. Also missing for now is senior center Jonathan Oliver, who will miss the start of the season while concentrating on academics. Another Trojan on the infirmary report is senior guard Roydell Smiley, who broke his leg in the Pac-10 Championship game in March and has yet to fully recover. He is out indefinitely. And then there's Desmon Farmer, who suffered a right hip pointer in USC's exhibition game on Nov. 16., but it isn't expected to prevent him from playing.
USC senior Desmon Farmer is USC's leading returning scorer. His 18.7 scoring average was fourth best in the Pac-10 last year and good enough to earn 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors. He was also selected to the Pac-10 All-Tournament team after he averaged 22.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in the conference tourney. He scored in double figures 27 times and had at least 20 points 14 times and became USC's 28th player with at least 1,000 career points ... Junior guard Errick Craven is USC's second-leading returning scorer after posting a scoring clip of 13.0 points. He started 26 times and became the first Trojan ever to lead USC in rebounds (5.3), assists (2.6) and steals (2.5) in the same season. His 73 steals were the most in the Pac-10 and second-most ever at USC in a season (behind Jeff Trepagnier's 94) ... Junior center Rory O'Neil rounds out USC's trio of returning scorers in double figures (10.1). He led the team in blocked shots (1.3, fifth in the Pac-10) and was fourth in rebounding (4.9). He averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in the Pac-10 Tournament, earning All-Tournament honors ... Senior guard Roydell Smiley is a sharpshooting swingman who averaged 8.6 points in 2003 despite battling nagging knee injuries for most of the season. He made the second-most three-pointers on the team (40) and shot a team-high 84.4% from the free throw line (38-of-45). He suffered a broken leg in USC's final game of the season and has yet to return to 100% ... Junior guard Derrick Craven, identical twin of Errick, returns after starting for most of last season at the point. He averaged 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds last year and was one of only two Trojans to play in every game (along with Farmer). His 40 steals and 70 assists were both the second-highest totals on the team ... Junior forward Nick Curtis, who had a strong start in 2003 derailed by nagging foot injuries, is ready to make an impact for the Trojans. He averaged 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds (tied for team high) in 21.0 minutes, posting three double-doubles and starting 15 times ... Senior center Jonathan Oliver joins Farmer and Smiley as the three seniors on the team. Oliver saw limited action last year as a reserve and will miss most of the preseason this year while concentrating on his academics. When he becomes available, Bibby hopes he can contribute to the Trojans' front line ... Junior forward Gregg Guenther Jr., a two-sport player at USC, became a boon to Bibby last year in his second season switching from football to basketball. A starter at tight end for football as a junior, he will join the basketball team at the completion of football season. Guenther averaged 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 18.6 minutes, starting nine of 19 games and showed marked improvement in his second year with the team. His overall rebound average was third on the team and his 6.1 boards per game in Pac-10 play was eighth in the conference ... Jeff McMillan, who transferred from Fordham last year and spent the year as a redshirt, will bolster the Trojans frontcourt in 2004. A beefy forward whose build mirrors the 2002 Pac-10 Player of the Year Sam Clancy, his inside scoring and knack for rebounding will be a welcome addition.
THE NEW FACES
Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, 6-foot-4 guards from Rainier Beach High in Seattle and 6-foot point guard Quinton Day from Paseo Academy in Kansas City, Mo., join the Trojans as freshmen in 2004. Rodrick Stewart earned Parade All-American third team, McDonald's Preseason All-American, All-State first team and Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team honors and was named 3-A State Player of the Year as a 2003 senior, averaging 18.8 points, 8.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 steals. His brother Lodrick earned McDonald's Preseason All-American alternate, Students Sports All-American special selection and Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team honors, averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 assists. Day earned All-State first team honors and was named the Kansas City Star's All-Metro boys' Player of the Year as a senior in 2003, averaging 20.2 points, 5.0 assists, 6.0 steals and 3.2 rebounds.
USC AGAINST THE PRESEASON TOP 25
USC is scheduled to play two schools that opened in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason Top 25 and another five that received votes. The two ranked schools looming on the Trojan schedule is No. 4 Arizona and No. 17 Stanford. Oregon just missed the Top 25, finishing 26th among the coaches' votes. Other USC opponents also receiving votes are fellow Pac-10 schools California and Arizona State as well as non-conference foes BYU and UNLV.
SOMETHING IS IN THE WATER
Thank heavens for uniform numbers. This year, USC will feature two sets of identical twins. Trojan fans and the Pac-10 have grown familiar with Errick and Derrick Craven, twin 6-foot-2 guards from Carson, Calif., who enter 2004 as juniors. Now as freshmen come USC's second set of mirror image players, Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, 6-foot-4 guards from Seattle. Surprisingly, this is not the first time two pairs of twins have been on the same Division I team at the same time. Valparaiso, in the 1994-95 season, featured two sets of twins - Bill and Bob Jenkins were freshmen and Jeff and Brian Smith were juniors. In other athletic twin news, Alabama-Birmingham currently has one set of twins on its basketball team, but its football and track teams both feature two sets of twins each.
PETE NEWELL CAMP
Rory O'Neil and Nick Curtis both attended Pete Newell's Big Man Camp over the summer. For O'Neil it was his second consecutive time at the camp while Curtis participated for the first time. Both received strong reviews from the mentor of the program.
OFF THE TOP OF OUR HEAD NOTES
The Trojan team Desmon Farmer joined in 2001 featured five players who would eventually settle into the top 18 of the school's all-time top scorers and four of the top 12. They included Sam Clancy (third), Brian Scalabrine (seventh), Brandon Granville (eighth), David Bluthenthal (12th) and Jeff Trepagnier (18th). Farmer is already 26th on the list with 1,062 points and has a good chance at cracking the top 5 as a senior ... Coach Henry Bibby and Farmer are the last connections remaining from USC's breakthrough 2001 Elite Eight team that reached the NCAA Regional final before falling to eventual national champion Duke. As a freshman , Farmer played 26 minutes in three games off the bench in USC's NCAA run ... Bibby has coached nine of USC's 28 players who have scored at least 1,000 points. Errick Craven is poised to become No. 10, beginning his junior campaign with 753 points. After Craven, Rory O'Neil seems the next best bet to crack the 1,000-point threshold, but he is still more than 500 points off and is likely another year away.
USC PICKED TO FINISH FIFTH IN MEDIA POLL
USC was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 media poll on Nov. 6, receiving one of the 35 first-place votes. Arizona was picked first with 26 first-place votes and 339 points. Stanford (seven first-place votes and 321 points) was second and California was third (the remaining first-place vote and 238 points). Oregon was fourth (215), followed by USC, UCLA (188), Arizona State (185), Washington (108), Washington State (69) and Oregon State (55).
USC AT THE SPORTS ARENA
Dating back to 1996-97, the Trojans are 64-26 (.711) in their last 90 games at the Sports Arena and USC is 122-50 (.709) at the Sports Arena since the beginning of the 1991 season, including a 16-game winning streak over a span of the 1992 and 1993 seasons, a 12-game streak between the 2000 and 2001 seasons and two nine-game winning streaks that spanned the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons and the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons. USC's 12 home wins in 2001 were its most since winning 12 in 1993. USC's 10-game home win streak to open the 2001 season was its biggest home win streak to start a season since 1975.
USC is 68-29 all-time in its season openers and have won 12 of its last 15 such games. Under seventh-year Coach Henry Bibby, USC has gone 6-1 with wins over Long Beach State (1997), San Diego State (1999), Cal State Northrdige (2000), Bradley (2001), Wyoming (2002) and UC Riverside. The only loss was to New Mexico (1998). The Trojans have also won their last eight home openers.
THE TROJANS VS. RANKED TEAMS RECENTLY
USC was 3-6 against ranked teams in 2002-03, falling to No. 15 Missouri at the Wooden Classic, to No. 2 Arizona at home, at No. 25 California, at No. 1 Arizona, vs. No. 21 Stanford and vs. No. 18 California, but beating No. 19 Oregon at home and No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 California in the Pac-10 Tournament. The Trojans were 12-16 against ranked teams in the past three years combined and 14-21 in the last four years. USC was 6-4 against ranked teams in 2002, defeating No. 11 UCLA on Jan. 10, losing at No. 15 Arizona on Jan. 17, defeating No. 14 Stanford on Jan. 26, losing at No. 15 UCLA, defeating No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 16, beating No. 10 Stanford on Feb. 21, losing to No. 13 Oregon on Feb. 28, beating No. 16 Stanford on March 7, downing No. 9 Oregon on March 8 and falling to No. 14 Arizona on March 9.
USC COACH Henry Bibby
Henry Bibby, a coach with 21 years of college and professional experience and the only person to ever play for an NCAA, NBA and CBA championship team, is in his eighth full season in 2003-2004 as the head coach of the USC men's basketball program. He is just one year removed from guiding the Trojans to only their second back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2001 and 2002 and only their third back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
* Bibby and the Trojans underwent a rebuilding season in 2003 as USC finished 13-17 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-10 (tied for sixth). Two big bright spots, however, created major optimism for 2004. First of all, USC, despite fielding a team made up predominantly of underclassmen, held second-half leads in almost every game (though it had trouble closing them out). Secondly, the Trojans made their second consecutive run to the Pac-10 Tournament championship game, showing a maturation Bibby hopes carries over to 2004.
* In 2002, he led USC to a 22-10 record that included a 12-6 finish in the Pac-10 (tied for second), a finals appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 20 wins gave USC back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1939-40. USC enjoyed its fifth winning season and fourth postseason berth (three NCAA, one NIT) under his watch. Bibby was named 2002 NABC District 15 Co-Coach of the Year.
* In 2001, Bibby led USC to perhaps its greatest season ever, piloting the Trojans to their first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance under the tournament's current format. In their second NCAA Tournament appearance under Bibby, the No. 6-seeded Trojans reached the East Regional Final before losing to Duke. USC's three NCAA Tournament wins (against No. 11 seed Oklahoma State, No. 2 seed Boston College and No. 3 seed Kentucky) were its most ever in one tourney and the Trojans' final record of 24-10 matched the most wins ever in one season at USC. The Trojans finished 11-7 in the Pac-10 (tied for fourth place).
* The Trojans' landmark team that Bibby guided featured a trio of NBA draft picks in forward/center Brian Scalabrine, guard Jeff Trepagnier and forward Sam Clancy. Scalabrine and Trepagnier were taken back-to-back in the second round of the 2001 draft; Scalabrine going to New Jersey with the 35th pick while Trepagnier went 36th to Cleveland. Clancy went in the second round of the 2002 draft to Philadelphia with the 45th pick. Clancy was the fourth Trojan taken in the NBA Draft since Bibby has been at USC (the first was Rodrick Rhodes in 1997). Elias Ayuso became the fifth Trojan under Bibby to sign with an NBA team when he inked a deal with the San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 2003.
* In his seven years as head coach, Bibby has been instrumental in player development and has guided eight players to a combined 13 All-Pac-10 honors and five players to All-Pac-10 Freshman honors. Under Bibby, Sam Clancy became a Pac-10 Player of the Year, two Trojans (Rhodes and Scalabrine) have earned the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year award and another (Ayuso) earned Pac-10 All-Newcomer first team notice. Seven of USC's top 20 scorers of all time, and eight of its 28 1,000-point scorers have played under Bibby.
Junior * Guard * 6-Foot-2 * 215 Pounds
* A 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior guard in 2004 and identical twin brother of fellow Trojan junior Errick Craven, he is an athletic and aggressive player who has a tenacious work ethic on defense. He matured as Troy's starting point guard for most of 2003 and will fight to keep the job in 2004.
* He averaged 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game last year, starting 25 of 30 games as a 2003 sophomore. He was one of only two Trojans to play in every game (along with Desmon Farmer).
* His 40 steals and 70 assists were both the second-highest totals on the team.
Junior * Guard * 6-Foot-2 * 205 Pounds
* A 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior guard in 2004 and identical twin brother of fellow Trojan Derrick Craven, Errick Craven returns to the Trojans as one of the top all-around guards in the Pac-10. One of the quickest players and top defenders in the conference, he is USC's second-leading returning scorer and is tied as the top returning rebounder.
* He is fifth on USC's career steals chart (141) and 17th on Troy's career three-point chart (59).
* His 2.3 career steals average is just off Pac-10 record-holder Jason Kidd's 2.5.
* Averaged 13.0 points (second on the team) and 5.3 rebounds (tied for first) as a 2003 sophomore guard, starting 26 of 29 games
* Became the first Trojan ever to lead USC in rebounds (5.3), assists (2.6) and steals (2.5) in the same season.
* His 73 steals were the most in the Pac-10 and second-most ever at USC in a season (behind Jeff Trepagnier's 94).
Junior * Forward * 6-Foot-8 * 225 Pounds
* Nick Curtis, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound junior forward in 2004, is a strong rebounder and athletic presence who will look to build on a solid sophomore campaign that was curtailed by nagging injuries to both feet ... That said, he's currently nursing a sore left knee now that kept him out of both exhibition games.
* He attended the Pete Newell Big Man Camp in August for the first time with teammate Rory O`Neil.
* Averaged 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds (tied for team high) in 21.0 minutes, starting 15 of 29 games
* Had three double-doubles on the season, including a 17-point, 15-rebound (career-high) effort at Washington.
Freshman * Guard * 6-Foot-0 * 175 Pounds
* An athletic and quick 6-foot, 175-pound point guard, 2004 freshman Quinton Day is a first-year Trojan whose perimeter skills and know-how for the game figure to give him an opportunity to earn playing time right away.
* He averaged 20.2 points, 5.0 assists, 6.0 steals and 3.2 rebounds as a 2003 senior guard, leading Paseo Academy (Kansas City, Mo.) to a 26-4 record and a second-place finish in Missouri Class 4. He earned All-State first team honors and was named the Kansas City Star's All-Metro boys' Player of the Year.
Senior * Guard * 6-Foot-5 * 220 Pounds
* Desmon Farmer is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior guard in 2004 with a great scoring touch and a fiery defensive presence who will start for the second year in a row.
* He is 26th on USC's career scoring chart with 1,062 points and 10th on the career three-point chart with 120.
* He averaged 18.7 points as a 2003 junior guard, tops on the Trojans and fourth-best in the Pac-10 ... He was named a 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection and earned Pac-10 All-Tournament honors after he averaged 22.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in the conference tourney
* He averaged 20.4 points in Pac-10 play, becoming only the second Trojan to average at least 20 points in conference games since 1992.
Gregg Guenther Jr.
Junior * Forward * 6-Foot-8 * 245 Pounds
* Gregg Guenther Jr., a 6-foot-8, 245-pound redshirt junior in 2004, is a two-sport player who plays tight end on USC's football team as well as power forward for the basketball team. A physical athlete, Guenther provides the Trojans with a good deal of muscle in the post with the ability to rebound and hit the open jumper. He is set to join the team after the 2003 football season.
* He is currently starting at tight end on the football team. He's fourth in receptions (12) and has two touchdown catches.
* He averaged 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 18.6 minutes last year, starting nine of 19 games and showed marked improvement in his second year with the team.
* His overall rebound average was third on the team and his 6.1 boards per game in Pac-10 play was eighth in the conference.
Junior * Forward * 6-Foot-8 * 260 Pounds
* Jeff McMillan, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound redshirt junior forward in 2004, is a strong rebounder with the ability to score around the basket. He sat out the 2003 season after transferring from Fordham in 2002 and is expected to make big contributions this season.
* He started 14 of Fordham's 28 games as a sophomore power forward for the Rams in 2002 and led them with 7.6 rebounds per game (seventh in the Atlantic 10) while averaging 10.2 points per game (second best on the team).
Senior * Center * 7-Foot-0 * 230 Pounds
* Jonathan Oliver, a 7-foot, 230-pound center, is a 2004 senior in his second year with the Trojans. Extremely agile for his size, he is a quality shot blocker who runs the floor with ease. After seeing only limited time as a junior, Oliver hopes to expand his role this season.
* He is currently out while concentrating on his academics and will miss USC's first six games.
* He averaged 2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 7.8 minutes in 17 games as a reserve center.
Junior * Center * 6-Foot-11 * 240 Pounds
* Rory O'Neil, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound junior center, hopes to build on a solid sophomore campaign in 2004. For the second summer in a row, he has worked hard in the gym to add muscle to his long frame. One of the best shot-blockers in the conference, O'Neil seems poised to become one of the top big men in the Pac-10
* He attended the Pete Newell Big Man Camp in August for the second consecutive year.
* He started 25 of 29 games as a sophomore center in 2003 and averaged 10.1 points per game, third-best on the team.
* He led the team in blocked shots (1.3, fifth in the Pac-10) and was fourth in rebounding (4.9). He scored in double figures 17 times and had four double-doubles.
* He averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in the Pac-10 Tournament, earning All-Tournament honors.
* He was named a Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention selection with a 3.01 GPA in mathematics.
Senior * Guard * 6-Foot-4 * 195 Pounds
* Roydell Smiley, 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, is in his second year with the Trojans as a senior guard in 2004. A hard-nosed player, he brings an excellent perimeter game to the Trojans as well as the ability to handle the ball.
* He broke his lower left leg in the season finale loss against Oregon and is still being bothered by the injury, preventing him from playing in either exhibition game. He is out indefinitely.
* He finished as USC's fourth-leading scorer (8.6) despite battling nagging knee injuries for most of the season in 2003.
* He made the second-most three-pointers on the team (40) and shot a team-high 84.4% from the free throw line (38-of-45)
* Made a team-best 26 consecutive free throws during an 11-game span.
Freshman * Guard * 6-Foot-4 * 210 Pounds
* Lodrick Stewart, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound freshman and the identical twin of fellow Trojan freshman Rodrick Stewart, is a gifted and athletic player who can play the 1, 2 or 3 positions. Like his brother, he's an excellent finisher with a knack for scoring. Also a tenacious defender, he will fight for minutes in the backcourt.
* Stewart, a 2003 McDonald's Preseason All-American alternate, Students Sports All-American special selection and Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first teamer, averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 assists as a 2003 senior at Rainier Beach High (Seattle, Wash.) ... Earned 3-A State Tournament MVP honors en route to leading Rainier Beach to its second consecutive state title.
Freshman * Guard * 6-Foot-4 * 200 Pounds
* Rodrick Stewart, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound freshman and the identical twin of fellow Trojan freshman Lodrick Stewart, is a gifted and athletic player who can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward. A great open-court player and defender who can also finish with the best, he will challenge for immediate playing time.
* Prepped at Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) High, where he earned Parade All-American third team, McDonald's Preseason All-American, All-State first team and Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team honors and was named 3-A State Player of the Year as a 2003 senior ... Averaged 18.8 points, 8.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 steals in 2003, helping to lead Rainier Beach to a 26-3 record and its second straight 3-A state title.
* USC is currently fielding two walk-ons, second-year 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Edward Chang and first-year player Greg Gaudino, a 6-foot-6 sophomore forward.
* Chang prepped at Dallas (Tex.) Jesuit. He served as a translator for the Chinese Jr. National team in the summer of 1999 and got to practice with the team as well ... Gaudino played on USC's volleyball team in 2003 as a freshman.