USC Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam ButlerPosted 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.
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?
AB: It’s a very good group. I’m no historian but I have to imagine that four D-I transfers in one year has got to be up there in terms of most for a single season. That said the Trojans were an abysmal scoring team last season so they’re certainly adding all the right pieces. In their respective last seasons of play, these four newcomers averaged a combined 39 PPG – or roughly 75% of last year’s team per game output (52 PPG). But rehashing is just insult to injury. As far as biggest roles go, I’m interested to see how Eric Wise and Aaron Fuller can compliment one another. They project to be very similar players, which can prove both good and bad. Can they serve as a twin medium-towers? Or will they cost one another playing time? Additionally, J.T. Terrell will provide a scoring spark, but is he going to need the ball to do such? I don’t see the ball coming out of Fontan’s hands to watch someone else fill the tin so Terrell’s going to have to make some adjustments.
RTC: Any coach coming off a 6-26 year has to be somewhat concerned about the safety of their job. What does Kevin O’Neill need to do to gain back the confidence of Trojan fans and ensure that he’ll be on the sidelines in 2013-14?
AB: There was definitely hot seat speculation toward the close of last season but I really appreciated Patrick Haden standing by his man and acknowledging that this was a trying year for a lot of people in the Galen Center. Of course patience at a wealthy school with a high upside can only last so long. Toss in the fact that transfers aren’t always a sustainable success model and there’s going to be some pressure on KO. Has he just put a band-aid on this bad situation? Nine of the Trojans fifteen rostered players did not start their careers in Watts. The six who did? Four of them are incoming freshman or walk-ons. What’s nice is that this season’s mass of incoming talent can go a long way in garnering excitement around the program and should the Trojans capitalize on both their talented roster and the new-found excitement, the program could find itself with some momentum and O’Neill perhaps with an extension.
RTC: Between the players returning from injury, the newcomers, and the returnees who earned a lot of experience last season, this USC team has way more depth and arguably more talent than any Trojan team in the O’Neill era. Assuming USC stays relatively healthy, just how good can this team be?
AB: Pretty darned good. My favorite college basketball player is the senior guard and the Trojans will be rolling out a good and hungry one in Fontan. But what gets me most excited about this squad is that I think they really embody their coach. This band of castoffs – be it for behavioral issues, legal problems, not being the right successor or otherwise – can come together and play that hard-nosed, chip-on-your-shoulder, competitive style befitting a group no one else wanted to deal with. It’s hard to say just how talented they are, but I think as collective fortitude goes, this group will surprise some people. If the question was passively framed as a prediction question, I’m going to say fourth. Boom.