USC: 2011-12 Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 13th, 2012
What Went Wrong
Everything. Almost literally. The Trojans lost their senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL on their summer trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw forward Curtis Washington go down with a shoulder injury from which he would not return. Later injuries ended the seasons for sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon and junior forward Aaron Fuller, leaving a skeleton crew on the court for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And he, in turn, handed over the keys to the car to sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who started off the season as a bomber sans conscience (two-for 13 in their season opening win over Cal State Northridge) and went out much the same (two-for-eight in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA). While you have to give credit to Jones for bringing his lunch pail to work every day (he played in every game, only once played less than 30 minutes and 12 times played 40 or more on his way to playing 94.7% of his team’s minutes), there just came a time when you wished that lunchpail didn’t always include something like a four-for-14 sandwich. But, given the dearth of offensive weapons for the offense and O’Neill’s insistence that Jones keep bombing away, it’s hard to blame him for trying.
What Went Right
Well. The season did end. Eventually. After a school-worst 6-26 record that included one win in the final 20 games.
As teammates fell by the wayside around him, freshman wing Byron Wesley stepped up his game scoring in double figures in 11 of the final 13 games and averaging 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds over that stretch while establishing himself as one of the best defenders on the team. And, like Jones, he was an ironman for the team, playing in 85.8% of his team’s minutes.
Only little-used guard Eric Stangis graduates, but three different Trojans have announced their intentions to transfer: freshman guard Alexis Moore, junior forward Garrett Jackson, and Washington. While none of losses are critical, of the three Moore had the most potential. He came into school with a reputation as a scorer with a nice jumper, but never found his shot, hitting just 28.3% of his three-point attempts in his Trojan career on his way to an effective field goal percentage that even Jones could look down upon.
Players Coming In
Aside from getting guys like Fontan, Fuller and Dedmon back from injury, O’Neill also welcomes a pair of Division I transfers from Wake Forest: Ari Stewart and J.T. Terrell. Terrell averaged 11.1 inefficient points per game for the Demon Deacons in 2010-11, but then withdrew from school after a DWI arrest and spent last season as a junior college in Washington. Terrell is a scorer with three-point range, something the Trojans need, but it would help if he could tighten up his shot selection a bit. Stewart, the second Wake transfer, is a 6’7” slasher with a similar love for shooting the ball. Stewart put up 106 three-pointers his last year in Winston-Salem, hitting just 29, but he has proven his ability to get hot. Then there are a couple of under-the-radar freshmen recruits that O’Neill nabbed: 6’8” combo forward Strahinja Gavrilovic and 6’2” combo guard Brendyn Taylor. Gavrilovic is a smart, fundamental, European big who could provide a fundamental understanding of offensive basketball that the Trojans desperately need, while Taylor will provide depth in the backcourt with an eye toward future contributions.
Reason for Hope
There is plenty, starting with the fact that this team should look completely different on game day next year. Fontan is a real ball player that should provide the Trojans a legitimate number one offensive option (meaning Jones is not going to have to – or be able to – shoot 14 times a game), Fuller returning with give the team an efficient offensive threat up front, while the two Wake transfers will be able to provide tertiary options. Throw in the potential for Dedmon to make a big leap as he gets used to the game of basketball and the upside of Gavrilovic and SC could be an NCAA sleeper next year, because you know, one way of the other, O’Neill is going to have his team defend like mad.
Reason For Concern
There were an awful lot of problems with the Trojans of 2011-12, but their 42.6 eFG% (better than exactly eight teams in the nation) was one of the biggest ones. Adding guys like Stewart and Terrell, who aren’t exactly known for their ability to distinguish between good and bad shots, and Fontan who can be a volume shooter in his own right, does nothing to clear up how O’Neill is going to solve this team’s offensive problems. Throw in the head coach’s inability this past season to manufacture any type of coherent offense and despite the influx of talent, this is a team with a lot to prove.
F. I thought for a second about easing up on these guys and giving them a D- in the spirit of not piling on, but then I remembered the horror of watching some of their games. Shudder.