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.