Basketball Practice Set To Start
Oct. 17, 2003
Los Angeles - The USC men's basketball team, one year removed from back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and 20-win seasons but coming off of 13-17 season in 2003, begins its quest to return to the postseason when it begins practice for the 2004 season on Saturday (Oct. 18). Under eighth-year Coach Henry Bibby, the Trojans return eight lettermen, including five starters, and welcome three talented freshmen and an eligible transfer. With a more experienced core of players and four newcomers who all figure to contribute, Bibby believes the 2004 Trojans' goal to return to the NCAA Tournament will be met in March. 'I'm encouraged about the attitude of the guys,' Bibby said. 'The kids coming back are really excited. They're a year older. They feel they have a chance to go some place this year. The team has bonded as well as any we've had here through individual work outs and conditioning. They've come together and are focused and have put forth the effort and that's half the battle right there. The kids last year turned the corner. If we stay injury free this year, we can do some damage.'
USC senior Desmon Farmer is USC's leading returning scorer. His 18.7 scoring average was fourth best in the Pac-10 last year and good enough to earn 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors. He was also selected to the Pac-10 All-Tournament team after he averaged 22.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in the conference tourney. He scored in double figures 27 times and had at least 20 points 14 times and became USC's 28th player with at least 1,000 career points ... Junior guard Errick Craven is USC's second-leading returning scorer after posting a scoring clip of 13.0 points. He started 26 times and became the first Trojan ever to lead USC in rebounds (5.3), assists (2.6) and steals (2.5) in the same season. His 73 steals were the most in the Pac-10 and second-most ever at USC in a season (behind Jeff Trepagnier's 94) ... Junior center Rory O'Neil rounds out USC's trio of returning scorers in double figures (10.1). He led the team in blocked shots (1.3, fifth in the Pac-10) and was fourth in rebounding (4.9). He averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in the Pac-10 Tournament, earning All-Tournament honors ... Senior guard Roydell Smiley is a sharpshooting swingman who averaged 8.6 points in 2003 despite battling nagging knee injuries for most of the season. He made the second-most three-pointers on the team (40) and shot a team-high 84.4% from the free throw line (38-of-45). He suffered a broken leg in USC's final game of the season, but is close to 100% ... Junior guard Derrick Craven, identical twin of Errick, returns after starting for most of last season at the point. He averaged 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds last year and was one of only two Trojans to play in every game (along with Farmer). His 40 steals and 70 assists were both the second-highest totals on the team ... Junior forward Nick Curtis, who had a strong start in 2003 derailed by nagging foot injuries, is ready to make an impact for the Trojans. He averaged 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds (tied for team high) in 21.0 minutes, posting three double-doubles and starting 15 times ... Senior center Jonathan Oliver joins Farmer and Smiley as the three seniors on the team. Oliver saw limited action last year as a reserve and will miss most of the preseason this year while concentrating on his academics. When he becomes available, Bibby hopes he can contribute to the Trojans' front line ... Junior forward Gregg Guenther Jr., a two-sport player at USC, became a boon to Bibby last year in his second season switching from football to basketball. A starter at tight end for football as a junior, he will join the basketball team at the completion of football season. Guenther averaged 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 18.6 minutes, starting nine of 19 games and showed marked improvement in his second year with the team. His overall rebound average was third on the team and his 6.1 boards per game in Pac-10 play was eighth in the conference ... Jeff McMillan, who transferred from Fordham last year and spent the year as a redshirt, will bolster the Trojans frontcourt in 2004. A beefy forward whose build mirrors the 2002 Pac-10 Player of the Year Sam Clancy, his inside scoring and knack for rebounding will be a welcome addition.
THE NEW FACES
Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, 6-foot-4 guards from Rainier Beach High in Seattle and 6-foot point guard Quinton Day from Paseo Academy in Kansas City, Mo., join the Trojans as freshmen in 2004. Rodrick Stewart earned Parade All-American third team, McDonald's Preseason All-American, All-State first team and Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team honors and was named 3-A State Player of the Year as a 2003 senior, averaging 18.8 points, 8.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 steals. His brother Lodrick earned McDonald's Preseason All-American alternate, Students Sports All-American special selection and Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team honors, averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 assists. Day earned All-State first team honors and was named the Kansas City Star's All-Metro boys' Player of the Year as a senior in 2003, averaging 20.2 points, 5.0 assists, 6.0 steals and 3.2 rebounds.
USC opens its exhibition season on Nov. 7 against the L.A. City All-Stars at 7 p.m. and plays its other exhibition game on Nov. 16 against the Long Island All-Stars at 6 p.m. Both games will be held at the Lyon Center on USC's campus.
SOMETHING IS IN THE WATER
Thank heavens for uniform numbers. This year, USC will feature two sets of identical twins. Trojan fans and the Pac-10 have grown familiar with Errick and Derrick Craven, twin 6-foot-2 guards from Carson, Calif., who enter 2004 as juniors. Now as freshmen come USC's second set of mirror image players, Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, 6-foot-4 guards from Seattle. Surprisingly, this is not the first time two pairs of twins have been on the same Division I team at the same time. Valparaiso, in the 1994-95 season, featured two sets of twins - Bill and Bob Jenkins were freshmen and Jeff and Brian Smith were juniors. In other athletic twin news, Alabama-Birmingham currently has one set of twins on its basketball team, but its football and track teams both feature two sets of twins each.
PETE NEWELL CAMP
Rory O'Neil and Nick Curtis both attended Pete Newell's Big Man Camp over the summer. For O'Neil it was his second consecutive time at the camp while Curtis participated for the first time. Both received strong reviews from the mentor of the program.
OFF THE TOP OF OUR HEAD NOTES
The Trojan team Desmon Farmer joined in 2001 featured five players who would eventually settle into the top 18 of the school's all-time top scorers and four of the top 12. They included Sam Clancy (third), Brian Scalabrine (seventh), Brandon Granville (eighth), David Bluthenthal (12th) and Jeff Trepagnier (18th). Farmer is already 26th on the list with 1,062 points and has a good chance at cracking the top 5 as a senior ... Coach Henry Bibby and Farmer are the last connections remaining from USC's breakthrough 2001 Elite Eight team that reached the NCAA Regional final before falling to eventual national champion Duke. As a freshman , Farmer played 26 minutes in three games off the bench in USC's NCAA run ... Bibby has coached nine of USC's 28 players who have scored at least 1,000 points. Errick Craven is poised to become No. 10, beginning his junior campaign with 753 points. After Craven, Rory O'Neil seems the next best bet to crack the 1,000-point threshold, but he is still more than 500 points off and is likely another year away.
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