USC Opens 2007-08 Season This Weekend
Nov. 7, 2007
USC opens season on the 2007-08 campaign this weekend. The Women of Troy, coming off a 17-13 season that saw USC reach the Pac-10 Semifinals for the third straight year, are lined up for their season opener on the road against UC Santa Barbara. The Trojans head to Santa Barbara for a 2 p.m. game on Sunday (Nov. 11). Two days later, USC will take part in a glitzy exhibition matchup against the U.S. National Team for the Trojans' first game of the year at the Galen Center. The game brings home USC great Lisa Leslie, a mainstay on the U.S. National Team and the WNBA circuit ever since finishing her stellar career at Troy in 1994. Leslie anchors the U.S. National Team on their 2007 College Tour, in which another Los Angeles-area native -- Chino Hills' own Diana Taurasi -- will hit the court decked in red, white and blue. USC host the U.S. National Team at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 13) at the Galen Center. Gametracker will be available for both games through the USC schedule page at www.usctrojans.com, and Sunday's game will be featured on Trojan All-Access with live audio and video as well as Gametracker stats.
IN THE NATION
USC has received votes in the USA Today/ESPN and Associate Press preseason polls.
SCOUTING UC SANTA BARBARA
The Gauchos are coming off a 2006-07 season in which they finished second in the Big West Conference and reached the WNIT Second Round, finishing 19-14 overall and 10-4 in conference. UCSB returns 11 letterwinners from that team, including four starters, and has added three newcomers to its roster. The Gauchos have played two exhibition games so far this season: a 94-77 win over Vanguard and a 79-55 win over Westmont. UCSB's first official game of the year will be Friday (Nov. 9) against BYU. Senior center Jenna Green is the Gauchos' top returning scorer, having averaged 16.6 points per game last season as a junior. Head coach Mark French is in his 21st season at UCSB. USC is 10-12 all-time against UC Santa Barbara. The teams last faced in 2003-04, when the Trojans posted a 76-61 win over the Gauchos in Los Angeles.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
The first thing fans and followers will notice about this season's pack of Women of Troy is a group of faces who haven't quite been on the forefront of the Trojan lineup in a while. Three players who redshirted last season due to injuries et al are back in the mix. Standout point guard Camille LeNoir has healed up following hip surgery; Markisha Lea steps back in as a senior with cartilage intact in her knee; Brynn Cameron sustained her second hip surgery and gave birth to her first child on her way back to the court. Further balancing out the departure of five 2007 graduates are a pair of seniors who have extended their Trojan careers in unique ways. Kate Henderson and Allison Jaskowiak were freshmen together in 2003-04. Henderson wound up transferring after that season, but has since returned to USC and has worked her way back into the picture. Jaskowiak was granted a medical redshirt for that freshman season and has thus received another season of eligibility that allows her to return for her final year on the Trojan roster. With LeNoir, Cameron and Jaskowiak alone back on the court, USC taps back into the talent pool that helped spark the Women of Troy's resurgence to the NCAA Tournament scene with back-to-back postseason runs in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
INJURY BUG BITES BACK
It seemed to be the storyline of the 2006-07 season, but the injury bug hasn't seemed to shake loose of the Women of Troy yet. USC will have two players sidelined this season with torn ACLs. For redshirt freshman Jacki Gemelos -- considered the best player in the country coming out of high school in 2006 -- it is an all-too-familiar situation. Gemelos tore her ACL in her final high school game before coming to USC, redshirting her first season. She then reinjured the same knee in the offseason, bringing up a second surgery and pushing the highly anticipated guard's return to the floor back further. True freshman Stefanie Gilbreath endured the same injury just before the 2007 McDonald's All-American Game, leaving the Trojans short another outstanding newcomer for the 2007-08 season.
Lined up to add a depth charge to the backcourt is transfer Heather 'Ollie' Oliver, a member of the Australian Under-21 National Team, which won silver at the U-21 Women's World Championships this summer. She brings a smooth outside shot as well as stifling defensive abilities to the Trojan roster.
USC boasts a couple of different looks to the point this season, as 5-6 junior floor general Camille LeNoir returns to action after a year out to heal from hip surgery. She's complimented by 6-2 sophomore Hailey Dunham. Despite the height difference, the pair combine forces well in running the Trojans offense, each bringing their own spark to the offense to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
The Women of Troy welcome three new members to the Trojan family this season. Assistant coach Jody Wynn recently gave birth to her second daughter, Kaeli, in October 2007, and junior Brynn Cameron has her son, Cole, fresh off his first birthday. And senior Allison Jaskowiak added a new name to her roster page when she married former USC baseball star Ian Kennedy in October.
MOVING ON UP
There's no pricetag you can put on experience, but USC returners Nadia Parker, Morghan Medlock and Aarika Hughes are aiming to at least rack up a hefty amount of points for the Women of Troy this season. Now a junior, Parker is charged with the go-to role in the paint after having backed up 2007 grad Chloe Kerr for the past two seasons. Medlock and Hughes boast a versatility that can go unmatched and are primed for success as they get back on court as sophomores following strong freshman seasons. Medlock earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention last season.
With her true freshman counterpart redshirting the season, center Kari LaPlante carries the torch as the lone freshman on the court for the Trojans this year. Freshman guard Stefanie Gilbreath will redshirt following offseason knee surgery. LaPlante towers as the tallest Trojan on the roster, setting up the 6-5 freshman to see significant time in the paint this year.
RANK AND FILE
USC has four scheduled opponents that are ranked in the national AP and USA Today/ESPN preseason polls. Three of those are Pac-10 foes whom USC sees at least twice this season. The Trojans were 2-7 against ranked teams in 2005-06. The first top-25 team on tap for USC -- which received votes in the preseason polls -- is No. 9/10 Georgia, which the Trojans could well meet on the second day of the Women of Troy Basketball Classic on Nov. 24. The Trojans' next three ranked opponents are Pac-10 teams: No. 7/8 Stanford, No. 12/12 Arizona State and No. 13/14 California. All told, the USC schedule contains seven teams that reached the 2007 NCAA Tournament (Georgia, Prairie View A&M, Nebraska, Arizona State, California, Stanford and Washington) and three teams that ended the year ranked in the top-25 (No. 13/13 Georgia, No. 8/10 Arizona State and No. 16/5 Stanford).
The Women of Troy have been slotted at No. 4 in the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Coaches Poll and the Media Poll. The Trojans received 56 points in the coaches poll to come in behind top pick and defending conference champ Stanford (79 points), No. 2 Arizona State (71) and No. 3 pick California (68). Sitting below the Trojans in fifth is UCLA with 44 points.
USC used nine different players in its starting lineup rotations last year. Six players who saw time as starters return for 2007-08 -- sophomores Hailey Dunham, Aarika Hughes and Morghan Medlock and seniors Nicole Berberet, Allison Jaskowiak and Simone Jelks.