Southern California loaded with newcomers

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2011
(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.) By BETH HARRIS AP Sports Writer Kevin O'Neill had Southern California's offensive scheme set for the season, using guards Jio Fontan and Maurice Jones to run pick-and-rolls as part of one of the Pac-12's best backcourts. Throw that idea out the window. Fontan is expected to miss the upcoming season after tearing a ligament in his left knee during the Trojans' exhibition trip to Brazil in August. The team's heart may as well have been ripped out, too. ''It changes everything we do and puts us in a position where we need to play off more movement and more inside than we planned on doing with Jio,'' said O'Neill, starting his third year as coach. Fontan only played the second half of last season after transferring from Fordham, but he quickly made an impact. The point guard led the team in assists during that stretch and finished second in scoring with a 10.5 average. Named team captain, he scored 57 points in USC's first two games in Brazil before he landed awkwardly on his way to the basket and suffered the injury. Now it's up to Jones to run the offense alongside freshman Alexis Moore, who made an impressive debut in Brazil. The 6-foot-2 guard showed he can score off the drive or from long range and can guard different spots on the perimeter. Jones, who averaged 9.9 points and set a school freshman record with 69 steals last season, is ready for his new role. ''I'm going to handle the ball more, and I've got to be more vocal and be more of a leader,'' he said. ''And I'm going to need to score more.'' O'Neill is comfortable with putting the ball in Jones' hands. ''We're going to sit him out as much practice time as we can without hurting the team, but he has to play 40 minutes a game,'' the coach said. The Trojans were 19-15 last season and tied for fourth in the league before earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. They lost leading scorer Nikola Vucevic to the NBA draft, along with Marcus Simmons, Alex Stepheson and Donte Smith. Even with the departures, O'Neill has a lofty goal in mind. ''We plan on being an NCAA tournament team,'' he said. Besides Moore, 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon and Greg Allen - both junior college transfers - Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller and freshman Byron Wesley are among the newcomers who figure to get major minutes. ''There is going to be a big learning curve. Everything is a first for these guys,'' O'Neill said. ''I hate to say it, but many of these guys are basketball virgins at the college level. Their first road trip, staying in a hotel is going to be brand new.'' O'Neill plans to experiment with playing three big men at the same time, using Dedmon, Fuller and 7-1 James Blasczyk, a former Texas A&M player who was in junior college last season. ''If we do go to that big lineup, I feel that we can dominate the offensive glass,'' Fuller said. ''Our bigs do a tremendous job of rebounding, getting good position and getting guys open shots. Any of us out there, it will be a good thing.'' Dedmon could be the Trojans' most intriguing player. Already O'Neill, a former NBA coach, predicts he will eventually make it to the pros. Dedmon didn't start playing organized basketball until he was a senior in high school. He averaged 6.6 points and 7.8 rebounds at Antelope Valley (Calif.) Community College before transferring to USC. He practiced the second semester with the Trojans, holding his own in the paint against Vucevic and Stepheson. Since then, Dedmon has bulked up and O'Neill expects him to be a force in the paint. The Trojans open the season at home Nov. 11 against Cal State Northridge. The highlight of their non-conference schedule is a visit by Kansas on Dec. 22, with other games against Minnesota, New Mexico and Georgia, before beginning Pac-12 play at California on Dec. 29. ''We're going to surprise a lot of people in the Pac-12 and even in the beginning of the year, there's going to be some teams people don't think we're supposed to beat,'' Jones said.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Twitter, Facebook report engagement decline during Super Bowl

Steve Spurrier becomes special assistant to South Carolina AD

Brent Musberger wants you to bet on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Unranked Duke uses big first half to beat No.13 Louisville

MLB reportedly close to rule preventing collisions at second base

USOC says athletes concern about Zika shouldn't attend Games

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Von Miller shares support for embattled Johnny Manziel

The Panthers had to use a silent snap count at the Super Bowl

Report: Lakers would fire Byron Scott to hire Luke Walton

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Seahawks’ Frank Clark rips Cam Newton ‘that boy a b—‘

Report: Tom Thibodeau has 'always wanted' Knicks job

Daniel Bryan says goodbye to WWE during teary retirement speech

Paul George delivers great line about driving by Kobe Bryant

WATCH: Oklahoma beats Texas on Buddy Hield's 3-pointer

Andre Drummond hits 70-foot buzzer beater to end 3rd quarter

Duke's Allen appears to intentionally trip Louisville's Spaulding

Candidates for New York Knicks head coaching job

Attorney alleges Johnny Manziel ruptured ex-girlfriend's eardrum

Jeanie Buss may clean house in Lakers’ front office

Lisa Ann wants to reward Emmanuel Sanders for Super Bowl win

WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan to announce retirement

Nine best and worst players from 2015 NFL playoffs

Rodman wants Phil Jackson to know he’s ready to coach Knicks

Wade Phillips trolls Cam Newton with dabbing tweet

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker