USC Basketball Team Discusses The Upcoming Basketball Season

Oct. 14, 2008

Quotes from Men's Basketball Press Conference at Heritage Hall Oct. 14, 2008

USC HEAD BASKETBALL COACH Tim Floyd -(on the upcoming season)

Well we are here today as we are about to launch our fourth season. We begin practice on Friday. We are not having Midnight Madness this year because we are going to gear everything towards practice. Given that we have lost our home openers the last three years to CS Northridge, South Carolina and that powerhouse Mercer last year we decided that we were going to focus on stealing every practice we could get.

We really hope to have a terrific season. We really feel comfortable with the group we have this year from the standpoint that we have a minimum of four guys with us that have three years of experience in Keith Wilkinson, Taj Gibson, Dwight Lewis and Daniel Hackett. Guys who have played some significant minutes in big games and NCAA Tournament games and we are hoping to ride that along with the return of three players we were counting on heavily last year but who were unable to play: Mamadou Diarra, who will be a redshirt freshman at 7-foot, 240 (lbs.) and from all indications is much improved from where he was a year ago, Kasey Cunningham who started three games for us in the first six games at Davon Jefferson's position last year before a season-ending ACL injury and Marcus Simmons who got hurt in our first practice and never got healthy. He just went through surgery a few weeks ago and should miss the first two weeks of our season and a guy we had high, high hopes for last year...A guy we thought could even potentially start for us last year as a freshman.

We are adding those newcomers to a class which includes Romeo Miller, Leonard Washington, DeMar DeRozan, Donte Smith and Nikola Vucevic. Nikola is a 6-9 player we added late from Serbia. Leonard Washington was a player we signed two years ago that we felt was the best player in the state of Louisiana, 6-6, 230 and can play the small forward or power forward and should boost our ability to post up. We should be a better interior defensive team than we have been and I think a better rebounding team than we have been in the past. Donte Smith is a point guard that will have three years off eligibility left.

It should be a great league again. Our conference has had the highest percentage of NCAA Tournament teams the last two seasons, six last year and I don't anticipate that changing. You are looking again at 9-10 draft picks out of our league. We hope to try and contend. We haven't said that since we've been here, but that is our goal.

We do feel we are going to be a lot deeper and create competition for positions this year. It might feel like their names are stamped on positions, but I would beg to differ because of some of the newcomers we are bringing in.

(on handicapping the conference)

Arizona State and Washington State are going to be good as long as those coaches stay there. They are hard to play against. They both have good players returning. I think Arizona State has 94 percent of their scoring and rebounding back from last year. Washington State has three starters and Harmeling, who we viewed as a starter and the best recruit they may have signed in 15-20 years in Mychal Thompson's son Clay. They are going to be good. UCLA will be terrific again. They have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. They have had the premiere guard play of any team in this conference and west of the Mississippi River the last three years and that's why they've been in the Final Four the last three years and that isn't going to change with the addition of the three guards they brought in Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson and Jrue Holiday. (Darren) Collison returning is a great lift for them. Michael Roll returning from an injury is a great lift for them and Josh Shipp is an outstanding player, so they have tremendous perimeter players and guys returning inside that have played significant minutes. That's the team everyone is chasing. Some teams that will get overlooked are Washington which is returning the majority of their team and added two outstanding recruits. California has their perimeter back plus Theo Robertson who was injured a year ago, who I thought was one of the best players in our league. They'll be smaller than they have been in the past, but their inside guys are terrific players. Oregon probably lost more than anybody in the league, but may have gained more than anybody in the league with the exception of UCLA. They have a great 6-10 player by the name of (Michael) Dunigan, a McDonald's All-American and added two great wings out of the city of Chicago. So I think it is going to be a league where you look at UCLA and Arizona State and everybody else has got a shot at it.

What you are trying to do is win a league championship. Get your self to the NCAA Tournament and make something happen at a national level on a national stage. This school has never been to three straight NCAA Tournaments, so that is an immediate goal and one I think is realistic for this team.

(on Leonard Washington)

I love Leonard. I think he's a hard guard for a lot of teams in that he's 6-6, 225-230, can make a 17-footer, can put it on the floor, can post, and is kind of a nasty guy. He was the best defensive end in the state of Louisiana coming out of high school, was recruited by all the SEC schools and offered scholarships in football and basketball. I think he is a guy whose size is almost a benefit for him. He's hard for 6-9, 6-10 guys to guard, prototypical power forwards and he's very difficult for slender, skinny wings to guard if we play him at the three because he can take them in the post. He is a terrific rebounder and I think I guy who is going to have a terrific impact for our team.

(on Dwight Lewis)

Dwight Lewis may have had the best summer of any player we've had here in there years in terms of working. You can look at his body and tell that it has changed. He's versatile in that he can play the 2 or he can play the 3 and he can defend 1's...we've had him defend Collison and that's where he's made his greatest improvement. Consistently is his benchmark this year. Going out there and fighting through tough things which he did a better job of last year and should be even better this year.

(On DeMar DeRozan vs. O.J. Mayo at this point)

I have yet to see DeMar in anything other than a pickup game and pickup games are a real lie. Guys never get back on defense or get into a stance, but he's pretty spectacular in those pick up games. Made me think we might have brought the right player in. They are great talents, I'll start by saying that, both of them are tremendous talents. DeMar may represent to our fans more of what they thought O.J. might be in terms of athleticism. You know, he just looks the part, 6-7, as good an athlete as there is in the United States, but in addition to that he has worked extremely hard on his game. I like his skill level. Certainly there are going to be things we are going to stress that he may not have gotten at Compton High School, but I think he'll respond to that. He's a terrific, terrific person, I know that and a great athlete with great skill. The adjustment that most freshman have to go through is figuring out how hard they have to play, I know Taj experienced that, I know Dwight experienced that, I know Daniel experienced that and O.J. figured that out early in his career. Took it as a challenge that he could defend at this level and those are questions DeMar will have to answer on the court and we won't know about until we start playing some of the great wings in our league. I mentioned earlier on how great this league is, there is not a conference in the country that is going to have four better projected professionals on the wing than the Pac-10 in James Harden and (Chase) Budinger and Drue Holiday at UCLA and DeMar DeRozan. I think our two bigs in Taj Gibson and Jordan Hill (Arizona) are as good as any two bigs in the country. Darren Collison (UCLA) is as good of a point guard as there is in the country. This is going to be a tremendous league and a good test for DeMar

USC JUNIOR FORWARD Taj Gibson -

(on returning to school)

After last year's season, I didn't think it was right for me to leave. I just wanted to come back and represent this university on the right note. We felt we didn't play as well as we should have played (in the tournament). I wanted to come back and get better, and in addition to that, try and win the conference championship.

(on DeMar DeRozan)

He's a team player, very aggressive. He just loves to play the game. That is what coach Floyd is looking for guys who want to come in and play the game and have a fun attitude and not only does he do that, but he makes everybody else better. What more can you ask from a great player like him.

(on the end of last season)

It was kind of rough because the freshman year the bar was set so high your freshman year. You prepare so hard for your sophomore season and it was kind of a letdown. You strive to reach the ultimate goal and we felt we didn't reach our goal. Statistically, everybody thought we would make it, but we let ourselves down and now this year we hope to correct that.

USC FRESHMAN WING DeMar DeRozan -

(on what he thinks he needs to do)

I got a chance to watch O.J. play the position I play last year, so I got to see the things he would do. I just figured I have the ups and understanding the stuff earlier than O.J. because I came to every game and came to practices and watched the team and O.J. I just feel I'm at the point now where I know what I have to work on, getting ready for the season, getting ready to work with the team. I just feel I know exactly what I need to work on and that's one thing I will take into this week's practice. I just want to work on my overall game, everything, from defense to the offensive end and getting my teammates involved. I want to be an overall player, some say I just score. I just want to be an overall player at both ends.

USC JUNIOR GUARD Dwight Lewis -

(on DeRozan)

Like Taj said he is a great player and he loves to play the game. He come in, he works hard and tries to do everything that coach has asked of him in the preseason. He is a spectacular player. .He does some things in the pickup games that make your jaw drop. It is fun to watch him play..

(on the end of last season)

I think going to the Sweet 16 my freshman year and then losing in the first round my sophomore year wasn't how I planned it. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth after the year was over. It made me want to work harder and go deeper into the tournament

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