Morning Five: Labor Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 3rd, 2012

  1. What appeared to be a rebirth of basketball at UCLA is quickly turning into a potential nightmare as reports of a potential NCAA investigation into the recruitment of the Bruins top three incoming recruits has surfaced. We have known for a while that the NCAA was investigating the recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, the star of the incoming class, but what is new is that the NCAA is also investigating the recruitment of Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker, both top 20 recruits. Details on the investigation are sketchy at best–it is not even known if this is tied to the Muhammad investigation or if this is a separate case. Whatever it is it is not good news for the Bruins who were hoping to become relevant nationally for the first time since 2008.
  2. UCLA’s crosstown rival USC had its own issues this weekend as the investigation into the Trojans own scandal revealed evidence that implicates former basketball player Davon Jefferson as well as football star Joe McKnight. One of the individuals being investigated reportedly admitted that he gave Jefferson $3,700 in cash. With the other issues the school has had they could be facing a fairly harsh penalty from the NCAA if there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims. If that wasn’t enough bad news, the school also announced yesterday that Maurice Jones, who led the team in scoring, assists, and steals last season, would miss the upcoming season after being declared academically ineligible. While the Trojans should be much improved from last season (read: not absolutely atrocious) this will clearly be a big blow to any NCAA aspirations they may have had.
  3. The Trojans weekend was probably only topped by the one that Billy Gillispie just experienced.  Not only did the Texas Tech coach have to deal with reports of what some have called a “player mutiny” he was also hospitalized for an undisclosed medical condition. The news of the so-called mutiny should not be a shock given Gillispie’s reputation as the alleged injustices involved the hours they were practicing and “mental games” that Gillispie was playing. As for the hospitalization it appears to have been a hypertensive emergency where Gillispie’s blood pressure rose to dangerous levels, but from reports he seems to be doing well at this time. Even with that good news Gillispie has a lot on his plate when he gets out of the hospital.
  4. Wagner got a boost on Friday when the NCAA granted Dwaun Anderson a waiver allowing him to play for the Seahawks at the start of this season instead of January as some expected. Anderson, who was Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, had enrolled at Michigan State last summer before transferring to Wagner, which raised some question as to when he would be eligible. Anderson provides an already solid Wagner team with a level of athleticism that could bring the team, which is led by first-year head coach Bashir Mason, to another level assuming they can integrate him into their current group of players.
  5. If you are not familiar with Kansas forward Justin Wesley you may be hearing a lot about his exploits in the near-future even if it is not on a basketball court (well at least a real one). The Jayhawk junior, who averaged 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game last year, has been selected to portray the legendary Wilt Chamberlain in an upcoming independent film titled “Jayhawkers”, which looks at Chamberlain’s impact on race relations in and around the Kansas campus. There is a chance that this film will not get made due to a legal dispute with the Chamberlain family not to mention some questionable funding issues. Given the nature of the film, which is being made by a Kansas professor, we suspect that the film would not spend too much time on the court where the only part of Wesley’s game that resembles Chamberlain’s is his free throw shooting (49.9% for Wesley and 51.1% for Chamberlain) or the Big Dipper’s prodigious appetite for, uh, extracurricular activities.
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USC Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by AMurawa on July 7th, 2012

As we go to wind down our coverage of the USC basketball program, we head back to Adam Butler of Pachoops for the second straight week for his perspective on the Trojan basketball program. Like me, Adam is pretty optimistic about the Trojans’ chances of a major bounce-back this season, although if anything he’s even hotter on SC than I am. Here’s our brief conversation on the immediate future for this new-look club.

RTC: My god, the Trojans were bad last year. But was there anything that happened that could bode well for the future for this team?

AB: The season ended. That was the best possible thing that could’ve happened to that team. That and time to pass as injuries healed and redshirts expired allowing this roster to almost completely re-emerge as one of the most intriguing teams in the conference. I mean, six win teams really have only one place to go.

Dewayne Dedmon

Seven-footer Dewayne Dedmon Could Be A Game Changer For The Trojans

RTC: Four different players suffered season-ending injuries last season. Three of them – Jio Fontan, Aaron Fuller and Dewayne Dedmon – return this year. Of those three, who is most important to USC’s success this season?

AB: I’m a big Jio Fontan fan, particularly on a Kevin O’Neill team. Fontan is a dynamic ball handler and all of that ball control offense that KO runs lends itself to needing a solid point. Look at what Maurice Jones was asked to do last season. Fontan is going to do that but at a higher level. I’m tempted to call him a darkhorse POY candidate and won’t be surprised to at least see him on the conference First Team. But of course any time you can run out a seven-foot athlete, it’s hard not to pay some attention to him. Dewayne Dedmon is probably the game changer for this team – as quality bigs tend to be. The combination of sound PG play and an improved Dedmon is going to make a trip to LA not a lot of fun.

RTC: Along with the players the Trojans get back from injury, they welcome four Division I transfers: J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart from Wake Forest, Eric Wise from UC Irvine and Renaldo Woolridge from Tennessee. How good is that group of transfers and which of those four will play the biggest role for USC?

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USC Week: One-On-One With Kevin O’Neill

Posted by AMurawa on July 5th, 2012

Kevin O’Neill took over the USC program in the wake of Tim Floyd’s abrupt resignation in June 2009.The instability within the program caused USC to lose much of its 2009 recruiting class, but O’Neill helped that team – playing without the hope of a postseason berth due to fallout from the Floyd era – keep it’s head above water, finishing with a 16-14 record. The following season, the Trojans were able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, claiming a spot in the initial First Four, but last season the team was torn apart by injuries and recorded a program-worst 6-26 record. This year reinforcements arrive and folks around the USC program think they could be due for a big bounce-back season. As part of our week-long look at the Trojan basketball program, we had a chance last week to talk to O’Neill as he looks forward to 2012-13.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

In Three Seasons At USC, Kevin O’Neill Has Established A Tough Defensive Personality For His Trojan Team

Andrew Murawa: Obviously last year was one of those Murphy’s Law kind of years. Despite all of the bad luck and losses, are you able to find any silver lining in an otherwise bad year?

Kevin O’Neill: You know, once Jio (Fontan) got hurt in Brazil it all sort of fell apart. You kind of have to go back a couple of years. When we took over the program, there were no freshmen or sophomores – we lost two classes completely and we were able to piece it together with six guys per year for the first two years. And we knew we had to avoid injury for the third year. And then everyone got hurt. And once everybody got hurt, we didn’t have enough talent or enough players or enough depth. We had played without depth for two years and had been fortunate to avoid injuries, but it just caught up with up with us last year. But, it will make us appreciate this year a whole lot more.

AM: You did get some guys plenty of experience last year. Maurice Jones, for one, was forced into a pretty extreme role last year, playing a ton of minutes, having the ball in his hands a lot and probably taking more shots than he ever expected to take in his college career. With all the firepower you are getting back this year, is he looking forward to getting back to more of a normal role?

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USC Week: Reinforcements Arrive Among Seven Newcomers

Posted by AMurawa on July 4th, 2012

Coupled with the three players that the Trojans get back from season-ending injuries last season, Kevin O’Neill welcomes in four newly-eligible Division I transfers, two scholarship freshmen, and a walk-on freshman. This means that the USC team that finished off last season with an opening-round Pac-12 tourney loss to UCLA will bear almost no resemblance to the team that tips off the 2012-13 season in November. Below, we’ll introduce you to each of those seven newcomers, roughly in the order of impact that they’ll have on their new team.

  • J.T. Terrell, Junior, Guard, 6’3” 185 lbs, Wake Forest – Terrell played his freshman season as Wake Forest, scoring 11.1 points per game and finishing second on the team in scoring. But, two months before his sophomore season was to begin, he got busted for a DWI and decided to leave the school. He attended Peninsula College in Washington last season and averaged 24.4 points per game on his way towards earning the rating of the best junior college player in America (according to Swannys Roundball Review). In his single season with the Demon Deacons, Terrell showed a great fondness for shooting the ball, taking nearly 30% of his team’s field goal attempts while he was on the floor, but hitting only 38.8% of those. He showed improvement last season at the JuCo level, making 48% of his attempts from the field, but with this Trojan team featuring plenty of capable scorers, Terrell needs to show that he can be an effective offensive player even when not getting all the looks he wants.
J.T. Terrell, USC

J.T. Terrell Headlines A List of Four Newly Eligible Division I Transfers At USC (Chuck Burton/AP Photo)

  • Ari Stewart, Junior, Small Forward, 6’7” 205 lbs, Wake Forest – Stewart’s freshman season at Wake Forest came a year prior to Terrell’s, but they were remarkably similar. Like Terrell, Stewart took almost 30% of his team’s shots while on the floor (albeit in fewer minutes) and made just 37.5% of those. His sophomore season showed some signs of improvement as he became more judicious with his attempts and as a result shot a higher percentage, but for a guy who shoots a ton of threes, his percentage from behind the arc dipped from a solid 37.1% to a woeful 27.4%. Still, Stewart showed a new side to his game as a sophomore, taking on more of a ball-handling role and actually dishing out some assists; unfortunately, a big bump up in turnovers accompanied that change. At USC, he likely won’t be needed to do a whole lot of handling, but he will be asked to knock down the three from the corner and from the wing. He’ll at least need to bounce back to his freshman year efficiency to live up to expectations. Read the rest of this entry »
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USC Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted 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.
Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Played A Huge Role For USC Last Year, Playing 94.7% Of His Possible Minutes (Brandon Hui/Daily Trojan)

  • 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.
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USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

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USC: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted 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.

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Was A Constant For The Trojans, But Was Typically Inefficient (Brendan Hui, Daily Trojan)

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.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 16th, 2012

  1. Larry Scott has made quite a splash in his two-plus years in his current job. Aside from being partially responsible for making the Pac-10 obsolete and ushering in the era of the Pac-12, he helped the conference ink a huge new television deal with ESPN and Fox that made presidents, trustees and other administrators all up and down the conference very happy. That television deal begins next year, and as part of it, the conference will be unveiling a Pac-12 Network, and we got some more details on Wednesday about how that will look when the conference held the groundbreaking ceremony for the network’s future studios. There will be one national channel and six regional channels, and together they will air approximately 850 live events next year, including every football game and every men’s basketball game that does not appear on other national networks (i.e., ESPN or Fox). Additionally, all of those games will be available on mobile devices. Now, we just need to get some recruits into these schools so we’ll have some significantly more watchable games.
  2. Case in point: I write about Pac-12 basketball, I live in Los Angeles, I love college basketball rivalry games and I may or may not have had a rooting interest in the UCLA/USC basketball game on Wednesday night. But rather than being excited about watching the game, I took a look at it from time to time, merely out of a sense of duty. And the fact that I put my precious eyes in the precarious position of having to watch that mess should show just how dedicated I am. UCLA led the whole way, building its lead as high as 23 points in the second half, before fading back into a 10-point win. Still, despite the lopsidedness of the game, head coach Ben Howland never really called off the dogs, playing just seven players the whole way. The Bruins dominated on the glass (41.2% OR, 88.2% DR) and were led by the Wear twins, who combined for 30 points and 24 rebounds, each registering a double-double. And, Maurice Jones is still gunning away: 3-for-11 tonight.
  3. As we head down the stretch, we start saying goodbye to seniors, little by little. For Washington’s Darnell Gant, his final homestand of his career comes this weekend, as the Huskies finish the season with three straight road games. Gant has been in Seattle for five years now, after taking a redshirt his first year under Lorenzo Romar. But after an inauspicious beginning, Gant has the opportunity to become the first player in Washington history to go to four NCAA Tournaments. While he came into college dreaming of an NBA future, those plans are a longshot now. However, Gant already has a diploma in his pocket, earning a performing arts degree last June and could have another type of entertainment career ahead of him.
  4. Just like the Huskies, every other team in the top five of the conference standings have two home games and three road games remaining on their schedule. And fans of each team are probably all coming up with some sort of formula that will not only put that team in NCAA Tournament contention, but also give them a chance to take down the regular season title. For Colorado, that formula begins with a win at Utah on Saturday. While the Buffaloes have struggled on the road this year, that is a very winnable must-win game. For there, CU returns home, where they are 7-0 in conference, to host California and Stanford. Beating the Golden Bears will be tough no matter where they play, but the Buffs will need to extend their home record to 9-0. To this point, all of this is very reasonable; where Tad Boyle’s club will need to break form is in the final week of the season, when they’ll have to travel to the Oregon schools to wrap up the year. Winning at a lower division team like Oregon State in the final game of the season is very doable, leaving the game on March 1 at Oregon as the lone game where the Buffs would need to significantly overachieve to get the job done.
  5. Lastly, while Arizona is by no means giving up on the rest of the season, they are already making plans for the offseason: namely, the Bahamas. Schools are allowed to take an exhibition tour once every four years, and Sean Miller is planning to take his Wildcats on a short trip to the Bahamas in August. While the team will only play a handful of games there, the major bonus for the squad is the additional practices and extra time together than the team will get to experience. With a group of four talented freshmen coming in next season and needing to be merged with a team that will be missing three senior contributors on this year’s team, the offseason trip should make the Wildcats that much more difficult to handle next year.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2012

  1. This weekend, for once in the Pac-12, all of the upper echelon teams still competing for a conference title took care of the lower-tier teams. The only losses among the top five teams in the conference came against other top five teams – Colorado’s loss to Arizona and Washington’s loss at Oregon, both on Thursday night. But now, with five games left on everyone’s conference schedule, we’ve got five teams all within a game of first place. California earned its spot at the top of the standings by building up a 17-point second half lead against UCLA and then withstanding a late charge, earning its 20th win of the year. With the win, head coach Mike Montgomery became the first Cal coach to win 20 or more games in three of his first four years at the school, while the Golden Bears also completed a regular season sweep of the Los Angeles schools for the first time since 1959. UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith got off to a strong start in that loss against Cal, scoring five points on his first three possessions and racking up two fouls on Cal freshman forward David Kravish and another on senior Harper Kamp. But, over the next 35 minutes he managed just five more points and was frustrated by Golden Bear double teams and his own conditioning issues. While it isn’t exactly breaking news that Smith is overweight and in poor physical condition, leave it to Bill Plaschke to get Smith on record as saying he “didn’t do anything” to prepare for this year over the offseason. Smith claims that he’ll be putting in the work this offseason in preparation for his junior year, but we’ll have to wait and see just how well that goes.
  2. Washington got back on track and maintained its own hold on a piece of first place with a 75-72 win at Oregon State last night. The game was sloppy on both ends, but was intensely competed and the Huskies had to hit 10 of 15 free throws down the stretch to hold on to the lead. Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten led the scoring for the Huskies with 50 points between them, but they all struggled from the field, hitting just 15 of their 44 field goal attempts (37.5% eFG) on the night. Jared Cunningham led all scorers with 23 points, be he too was inefficient, needing 20 shots to get his points. While the Huskies are technically tied with Cal for first place, the Golden Bears beat U-Dub earlier in the year, and that game will not be returned due to the unbalanced schedule in the Pac-12, meaning Cal holds the tiebreaker.
  3. Arizona pulled out a win on Saturday over Utah, but it was in no way a win that left Sean Miller feeling pleased with his team. The Wildcats trailed the 5-20 Utes for the first 27 minutes of the game, and didn’t claim the lead for good until a Nick Johnson three with 1:24 remaining put Zona up 64-61. Six free throws down the stretch provided a final margin of nine points, but UA was definitely fortunate to come away with the win. The Wildcats’ problems began well before tipoff, as senior guard Kyle Fogg was late for a pregame walk-through and was removed from the starting lineup as a result. As for the game itself, Miller described his team’s play as “alarming,” “disappointing,” and “pathetic” and mentioned that at least half of his seven-man rotation was not playing with maximum possible energy. The Wildcats travel to the Washington schools next week, so they’ll need to put out a much better effort to extend their four-game winning streak.
  4. The other two teams sitting a game back of the leaders also took care of business on Saturday, as Colorado earned its second road win of the conference season by taking care of Arizona State, and Oregon completed a sweep of the Washington schools by outlasting Washington State. E.J. Singler led the way for the Ducks with 23 points and four threes and also had a major hand in limiting the Cougs’ leading scorer, Brock Motum, to just 15 points, and just one point in the final 15 minutes. In Tempe, it was freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie leading the way for the Buffaloes with 15 points, five rebounds and three threes. The Buffs will pick back up next week on the road again, with a trip to Salt Lake City to face Utah scheduled for Saturday. After that, however, the final four games of the season will go a long way towards determining CU’s fate: they host Cal and Stanford before traveling to the Oregon schools the last week of the regular season.
  5. Lastly, Stanford won for just the second time in seven games on Sunday when they took apart a struggling USC team, 59-47. The Cardinal dominated on the glass, grabbing 97% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 41.3% of the rebounds on the offensive end, and they held the Trojans to just 35.4% eFG. But, with Stanford now out of the race for the conference title, the highlight of the game had to be junior forward Andy Brownhe of the three knee surgeries – scoring the first field goal of his Stanford career. Brown played eight minutes on Sunday, and has now played 21 minutes on the season, but his battle back despite injuries could be something to build on for the Cardinal going forward. Quickly, on the USC front, after a solid 8-for-13 performance Thursday night, sophomore guard Maurice Jones returned to form, hoisting 14 shots and hitting only two against the Cardinal. He’s now shooting just a 41.3% eFG on the season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2012

  1. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it is still disappointing; Faisal Aden’s career at Washington State is now over, after an MRI on the knee he injured against Arizona on Thursday night showed a torn ACL. In the end, this goes down as a story interrupted in the middle with no satisfactory ending. Just as Aden was playing his best basketball of his career, and doing so in a manner far different than the wild, erratic style he had cultivated in his first year and a half in Pullman. Now we don’t get to see the final act, to see if the changes were just a temporary flash in the pan, or a sign of a change that would bring the player’s redemption. The basketball gods can be cruel at times.
  2. While Aden’s year ends early, David Foster’s season never had a chance to really get underway. Utah’s 7’3” center broke a bone in his foot just six minutes into the Utes’ opening exhibition game, and he’s still in a walking boot three months later. There had been some talk earlier in the year that head coach Larry Krystkowiak might not want Foster to return to the program next year, in part because he has been notoriously injury prone over his career, but also because it would free up another scholarship for the program to rebuild with. And Foster himself considered leaving his basketball career behind. But both Foster and Krystkowiak decided that both the program and the player would be better served by his attempted return next year. Krystkowiak, in particular, notes that he wants “to do right by the kids in the program” and to keep from “kicking anybody to the curb.” You hear a lot about coaches making harsh personnel decisions in which the interests of the program supercede the interests of the player, but in this case it is good to hear a story about a coach taking the best interests of a player into consideration. Now let’s just hope Foster can stay healthy for a full year.
  3. California sophomore guard Allen Crabbe missed practice on Tuesday and was seen wearing a protective boot on his right foot. Mike Montgomery declined to give any comment about the injury, so prior to the Bears’ meeting with Arizona in Berkeley on Thursday night, Crabbe’s status has to be in question. Crabbe is Cal’s leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game and hitting 43.6% of his three-point attempts. Last season he missed all or part of three different games with a concussion; the Golden Bears lost all three of those games.
  4. Nobody likes injuries in sports, but I’m pretty sure if USC head coach Kevin O’Neill could read the above three stories, sit back in his chair and say, “that’s nothing.” You see, O’Neill has had five players have their seasons ended prematurely due to injury. In fact, of the five players the Trojans started in their first exhibition game during their summer trip to Brazil, only sophomore guard Maurice Jones remains standing (and shooting – always shooting). If USC had been able to sneak through this season in relative health, they probably would be in the top half of the conference; instead, they just earned their first conference win last weekend against a lowly Utah team. Still, all of those players should be back next season, along with a trio of incoming transfers (Eric Wise from UC Irvine and J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart from Wake Forest), meaning the Trojans should be a vastly different team in 2012-13.
  5. Lastly, keeping with the injury theme, Arizona State junior wing Trent Lockett has missed the last four games with a right ankle sprain, and there is a good chance he will miss two more this weekend. But, if there is good news about that story, the Sun Devils have seen point guard Chris Colvin take up the reigns in recent games and play his best basketball of his short career in Tempe. Given that Colvin has already been suspended twice by head coach Herb Sendek, it’s good to see him make some positive changes.
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