USC Week: Running Down The ReturneesPosted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012
The Trojans return six contributors from last season’s team, along with point guard Jio Fontan, who comes back after losing last year to a torn ACL. The returnees range from players whose seasons were cut short, to underclassmen who got big time minutes in the absence of their injured teammates, to role players whose minutes could dwindle in the presence of USC’s newly stocked roster. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.
- Maurice Jones, Junior, Guard (13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG) – Jones’ season last year was one of the most extreme seasons I can remember from a player. He played 94.7% of the possible minutes, logging 24 games in which he played 37 minutes or more, including a 49-minute epic in a double overtime loss to Nebraska. And those weren’t passive minutes either, as he used 26% of the team’s possessions and took 27% of their shots – only four times all season did he attempt fewer than 10 field goals in a game. Unfortunately, many times those double-digit field goal attempts were accompanied by tiny numbers in the field goals made column – he posted a paltry 39.8% eFG and an offensive efficiency rating of 85.4. We could go on for several more sentences ripping apart Jones’ 2011-12 season, but the fact is, he did more or less what head coach Kevin O’Neill asked of him, taking on a huge offensive role in the absence of other more polished offensive players. And, in some areas, Jones shone, specifically with assists on 23.9% of his teammates hoops (the pessimist could point out that was because he always had the ball in his hands), compared with turnovers on just 15% of his team’s possessions (a number even the pessimists would have to admit is pretty impressive for a guy that handled it as much as Jones). With reinforcements arriving this season, Jones’ role should return to some form of normalcy, and you can expect his efficiency to increase as well. Still, at 5’7”, he’s always going to be something of a liability on defense, so it will be interesting to see just how large of a role he plays this year.
- Aaron Fuller, Senior, Forward (10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Fuller was the Trojans’ best offensive player last season, his first year of eligibility after transferring from Iowa. He was the one guy on the team who could get the ball in the post or at the elbow and either make a move or knock down a jumper. And, better still, he excelled on the glass, especially on the offensive end where he could get the Trojans easy buckets. His one major weakness, however, is something that isn’t going to change: He’s a 6’6” power forward. Sure, he can out-hustle and out-scrap a lot of guys, but there is a ceiling to just how good he can be.
- Jio Fontan, Senior, Point Guard (10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG in 2010-11) – Fontan played 23 games for the Trojans in 2010-11 after transferring over from Fordham, leading the team to a 13-10 record over that span. His USC career got off to a strong start as he scored in double figures in the first four games, but lulled a bit in the meat of conference. At Fordham, he was expected to be the primary offensive force, while the Trojans want him to be more of a pure point, so the last time we saw him play, his game was still a work in progress. But, he’s now had two offseasons to work on his game and he got the blessing-in-a-seriously-good-disguise of being able to watch a season from the sidelines. He’s got the ability to score at a big-time level, but if he can balance his scoring with the ability to create for his teammates, he’ll live up to the high expectations that O’Neill has for him.
- Byron Wesley, Sophomore, Shooting Guard (9.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG) – Most freshmen come into college needing at least a year to work on their body and develop a commitment on the defensive end. Not so for Wesley. He arrived on campus with a body ready-made for the wing in the Pac-12 and a defensive intensity that any coach would love. Those attributes combined with all the injuries around him led to the freshman getting a ton of minutes, playing 30+ minutes in 28 of the team’s 32 games. But, while his body and defensive effort may not have needed a whole lot of work, his offensive game was definitely lacking when he first arrived on campus. However, in the middle of conference play, just when normal freshmen were hitting the wall, Wesley’s offensive game came alive. In the Trojans’ last 13 games, he scored in double figures 11 times, averaging 13.9 points per game over that stretch. It’s likely that Wesley’s offensive role will take a step back this season, but if he continues to shore up his ability to put the ball in the hoop, he may have an NBA future.
- Dewayne Dedmon, Junior, Center (7.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG) – Last summer, O’Neill predicted that Dedmon would be an eventual NBA lottery pick, quite the bombshell to drop about a guy who didn’t play organized basketball until his senior year of high school. After a year at a junior college, last season Dedmon made his debut with the Trojans and looked very much like a guy who had only been playing basketball for three years. He was foul prone, and worse yet, grew petulant with the officials when he was called for even the most obvious fouls. In an effort to stay out of foul trouble, he’d often shy away from making any sort of defensive play on the ball. Offensively, he showed flashes of the great potential that O’Neill alluded to, then he’d disappear for an entire four-minute stretch. But, the fact is, this is a seven-foot athlete who runs the floor like a deer, can jump out of the gym, has a soft touch on his jumper, and shows a nice instinct at times for passing the ball. He’s got a long ways to go, and after three injuries last season he needs to show he can avoid getting hurt, but if you watch closely, you can definitely see the potential. He’ll be worth watching early, just to see how far he’s progressed in the offseason.
- Greg Allen, Senior, Shooting Guard (4.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG) – Even with the roster racked by injuries last season, this junior college transfer saw his minutes fluctuate through the early part of the schedule until he hit his stride late and averaged 28.7 minutes per game over the final 13 games. Known primarily for his jump shot, Allen was second on the team in three-pointers made, but made just 29.3% of his 99 attempts. Unless that jumper becomes more reliable, his minutes are liable to be eaten up by the team’s newfound depth.
- James Blasczyk, Senior, Center (3.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG) – A transfer from Texas A&M, Blasczyk got just under 20 minutes a game in his first season with the Trojans last year, chipping in limited numbers. Still, at 7’1”, he’s a good tool to have in the back of the shed. He has a big body, a decent face-up game for a big man, and can patrol the paint a bit. But, expectations should remain limited for the big man: He scored four or fewer points in 24 of the team’s 32 games, despite his solid minutes.