Nick Of Time

Feb. 13, 2003

By Nick SchenckSports Information Student Assistant

The USC men's basketball team entered this season with a huge rebounding void left by All-American and Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year Sam Clancy and Pac-10 Honorable Mention All-Conference player David Bluthenthal. Together, they grabbed almost half of the Trojans' total rebounds last year.

Nick Curtis is ready to fill that need. Although he hasn't garnered the same accolades as Clancy or Bluthenthal quite yet, his impact this season cannot be understated. As a seldom-used freshman, who only played in 22 games and averaged more than five minutes a game last year, not too many people took notice of his abilities. By already surpassing in 2003 his freshman season totals in almost every statistical category, people are now starting to recognize his skills.

'We lost two great players in [Sam] Clancy and [David] Bluthenthal,' said Curtis. 'I just want to pick up where they left off. I don't really care if anyone knows anything about me. I don't need the attention.'

At 6'8' and 220 pounds, Nick is surprisingly unassuming off the court, and on the court you won't see him flashing too many Desmon Farmer-esque scowls. Make no mistake, though, his game is full of fight and passion.

'Nick Curtis is unbelievably dominating,' said head coach Henry Bibby. 'He can be a great shot blocker and inside presence. He's still so young, but he's starting to fill out his frame.'

Currently, he averages 7.0 rebounds per game, which leads the Trojans and ranks him seventh in the Pac-10 conference. He is second in the Pac-10 in offensive rebounds with 3.78 per game. In the Trojans' win at UCLA this year, he grabbed a career-high and USC season-high 15 rebounds.

'I always know I can grab rebounds,' he said. 'I just go out there and try to grab every rebound. That is what the team needs me to do, hit the boards. I don't need to score.'In addition to grabbing rebounds, Curtis has shown more confidence shooting from outside the paint. This season he has attempted 16 three-point field goals, already 14 more than he attempted all of last season. He is the Trojans' fourth-leading scorer, with 8.5 points per game. That is 7.5 points more than his average last year.

'I have played the three-man [small forward] position before in AAU ball and in high school, so I am used to playing outside,' said Curtis. 'I just try and contribute in the framework of the offense. I improved a lot this summer. Every day I would shoot with Rory [O'Neil], Desmon [Farmer], Jerry [Dupree], Errick [Craven] and Derrick [Craven] and some other players during summer school here [at USC].'

Coach Bibby has even thought about playing Curtis outside a little more to take advantage of his athletic ability.

'We've thought about using Nick at the small forward because he's so agile, but we'll probably use him at both small forward and power forward,' said Bibby.

Curtis came to USC after a decorated basketball career at Oxnard (Calif.) High School, where he was a three-year starter. He led the Yellowjackets to an undefeated league record during his three years there and he left the school as its all-time leader in points (1,215), rebounds (1,003), and blocks (244). Despite his success, he received relatively little recognition compared to other basketball recruits in Southern California.

'I was a sleeper in high school,' said Curtis. 'But I didn't really care about the publicity that other recruits were getting.'

When the time came to decide which college he wanted to attend, USC and California topped his list. The positive direction of the USC basketball program made the difference in his final decision. It also did not hurt that Curtis' AAU teammate, Rory O'Neil, was headed to USC.

'That helped [my decision] because I have known Rory since my sophomore year in high school,' said Curtis. 'We played on the L.A. Rockfish together. I also liked Coach Bibby's up-and-down style of play and full-court, pressure defense. [USC] is also close to home. My mom comes to every home game.'

With only two seniors on this season's roster, the Trojans have a bright future ahead of them. The void left by last year's seniors is quickly disappearing. Troy's top six leading scorers and top four leading rebounders are returning next year. Add Nick Curtis' increasing presence inside the paint and from the three-point line, and Trojan basketball fans have a lot to look forward to.

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