A Pair Of Defections In Los Angeles: No Major Surprise?Posted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2013
In the wake of a pair of new hires in Los Angeles – each met with varying degrees of approval – both USC and UCLA saw their first bit of player-personnel defections under their new regimes Wednesday. But in each of these cases, the headline – player leaves program – may sound worse than the actual impact on the teams. The biggest news came from the Trojans’ camp, as junior forward DeWayne Dedmon announced that he would skip his final year of eligibility in order to “chase” the NBA dream. But Steve Alford and company also got some bad news this week, as 2013 recruit Allerik Freeman announced that he would be asking for a release from his letter of intent and would be exploring other options for college.
Dedmon’s story got the most attention, and most of that attention was negative, as some saw the announcement as a poor decision by a kid unlikely to earn the first-round status that former SC head coach Kevin O’Neill once forecast. But there was likely much more to the decision than just simply looking for an NBA contract. Dedmon, who didn’t begin playing basketball until age 18, is a seven-footer with great athleticism and upside but extremely raw skills and little innate basketball IQ. While he has improved quite a bit in his time at USC, he’s still a guy who is a long way from being able to contribute to an NBA team. But there are other issues: He’ll be 24 by the time the next basketball season kicks off, he’s wading through the consequences of a bar brawl following the Trojans’ final regular season game, and there were indications that USC wasn’t exactly falling all over itself in an effort to encourage Dedmon to return. Sure, if Dedmon set aside his immaturity and bought into new head coach Andy Enfield’s dunktastic new system, maybe he could have improved his stock and helped the Trojans to a few more wins next year. But with a roster lacking in talent, Dedmon’s attitude issues could just as easily have been the kiss of death for a young coach and a young team. In other words, the separation at this point may make a lot of sense, and probably shouldn’t be considered much of a surprise.
As for his NBA career, yeah, there is probably no chance that he winds up a first round pick, but he’s got plenty of qualities that are intriguing. Remember, this is a player who has been playing basketball for just five years. He’s seven feet tall, runs the floor like a gazelle (when he wants to, at least), is a natural shot-blocker, has good hands and feet, and has made progress with his jumper. He’s definitely got a long way to go, and his immaturity and lack of history with the game of basketball could be roadblocks to further development, but the fact is that Dedmon is just barely beginning to scratch the surface of his talent ceiling. If somebody is able to be patient and get through to him, he’s got many characteristics that would play well in the NBA. Compare him to centers like DeAndre Jordan and Javale McGee, for example. On the plus side, those two are big and athletic; their negatives include low basketball IQ, some immaturity and limited offensive games outside of the dunk. Sounds a lot like Dedmon. And, in case you forgot, McGee just inked a contract last summer for $44 million over four years, a contract very similar to Jordan’s. Of course, those guys have done more to prove themselves over the course of their short NBA careers, but if Dedmon can adopt a more professional attitude, that type of future is within his grasp.
Across town there’s the issue of Freeman’s decision to back out of his commitment to UCLA. He had reiterated his commitment to the Bruins after Alford was announced as head coach a few weeks ago, but now will consider other options, perhaps including teams like Duke, Kansas, Villanova and Ohio State. Per usual, some are panicking. But, the fact is that Freeman was likely going to be penciled in at no better than fourth on the depth chart at the wing, with returnees Jordan Adams and Norman Powell, along with incoming freshman Zach LaVine likely further up the line, and Bryce Alford in the mix too. Basically, immediate minutes were likely to be in short supply for Freeman, so he’ll move on before getting stuck in a logjam – not a big deal for the immediate health of the UCLA program.