Men's Basketball Opens Season At Home Against UC Irvine

Nov. 18, 2004

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LOS ANGELES -- The USC men's basketball team, two years removed from back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and 20-win seasons but coming off of a 13-15 season in 2004, takes the first step toward returning to the postseason when it opens the 2004-2005 season by hosting UC Irvine on Monday (Nov. 22) at 7:30 p.m. (PST) at the Sports Arena. Under ninth-year Coach Henry Bibby, the Trojans return seven lettermen, including four starters, and welcome a top-10 recruiting class made up of three talented freshmen, plus a junior-college transfer. They meet the Anteaters for the first time since 1997. The game will be telecast live by Fox Sports Net 2.

GAME #1 -- USC vs. UC Irvine on Monday (Nov. 22) at 7:30 p.m. (PST). It will be telecast live by Fox Sports Net 2 and broadcast live on KMPC-AM 1540 in Los Angeles, KSPA 1510 in Ontario/Orange County and XEMM 800 in San Diego. Eighth-year coach Pat Douglass coaches the Anteaters, who open their season on Friday (Nov. 19) by hosting CS Dominguez Hills. They feature a squad that returns four lettermen and three starters from a team that went 11-17 in 2004 and 6-12 (eigth tie) in the Big West Conference. Junior guard Jeff Gloger is the team's leading returning scorer (9.1) and assist-maker (4.2) while junior guard Ross Schraeder averaged 19.5 points over the final four games of last season. Western Michigan was 12-2 at home last year and 5-0 in non-conference play at home. USC is 3-1 against the Anteaters lifetime, with the last meeting a 107-45 Trojan win in 1997.

EXHIBITION RECAPS -- Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart scored a game-high 22 points and chipped in 5 steals to lead the Trojan basketball team to a 90-52 drubbing of Occidental in USC's exhibition opener on Nov. 5 at the Lyon Center. Three other Trojans scored in double figures, including senior center Rory O'Neil (15 points), senior guard Errick Craven (14 points) and freshman guard Gabriel Pruitt (10 points) as USC built a 52-19 halftime lead and never looked back. USC shot 57.1% from the floor to Oxy's 27.1%. The Trojans made 19-of-26 free throws (73.1%).

In game two of the exhibition season, senior forward Jeff McMillan scored a team-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to lead six Trojans in double figures as USC notched a 94-56 win over NAIA The Masters College on Nov. 12 at the Lyon Center. USC's balanced attack also yielded 14 points from guard Errick Craven, 13 points center Rory O'Neil, 12 points apiece from forwards Nick Curtis and Emanuel Willis and 10 points from forward Nick Young, who added a game-high 10 rebounds.

PRESEASON STATUS REPORT -- So far, USC has suffered few of the serious physical mishaps that have plagued the program in recent years. The Trojans opened practice on Oct. 15 and--aside from a surgery to mend the left knee cap of incoming JC guard Dwayne Shackleford--came out of the preseason with just a few minor bumps and bruises (Shackleford is practicing again and should be back in time for USC's first road trip). The focus of the team has been to improve defensively. With six seniors on the roster and an abundance of athleticism, the Trojans appear on track to do just that. The loss of starting sophomore point guard Rodrick Stewart to transfer has opened up that spot to competition between steady senior Derrick Craven and dynamic freshman Gabe Pruitt. At shooting guard, sophmore Lodrick Stewart has made a considerable jump physically and looks like he is ready to improve on a solid freshman season, while senior Errick Craven continues to be an playmaker at both ends of the floor. But it's the front court where USC is the deepest, with four senior big men that have the ability to give the Trojans several different looks. Rory O'Neil had a tremendous offseason and has the most refined inside-outside game; Jeff McMillan is a bruising rebounder with a nice touch down low; Greg Guenther is a good mid-range shooter and the best interior passer of the bunch; and Nick Curtis is a pogo-stick with shot-blocking capabilties to go with some range from 3-point land. Two freshmen look to play right away in the front court, too--slashing swing man Nick Young and explosive forward Emanuel Willis.

THE RETURNERS -- Senior guard Errick Craven is USC's co-leading returning scorer after posting a scoring clip of 11.1 points ... He led USC in assists (3.0) and steals (2.6) for the second-consecutive season ... He started 21 times and became the first player since Gary Payton to lead the Pac-10 in steals three consecutive sasons ... Senior forward Jeff McMillan was the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year last year and is the co-leading returning scorer at 11.1 ppg. ... He also led the team in rebounds (8.6) ... He was the only Trojan to start all 28 games ... Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart started just four games last year, but was fourth on the squad in scoring at 8.7 ppg. ... He also was second with 43 steals ... Senior center Rory O'Neil averaged 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds while starting 19 games ... He had a team-best 43 blocks (fourth in the Pac-10) and led the team in 3-point field goal percentage--the only player in the Pac-10 to lead his team in both those categories ... Senior guard Derrick Craven, identical twin of Errick, started 11 games, averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 assists ... Senior forward Gregg Guenther Jr., became a boon to Bibby last year in his second season switching from football to basketball ... He's full-time with basketball now ... Averaged 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds last season in five starts ... Senior forward Nick Curtis was slowed by injuries but still started three games and averaged 3 points and 2.5 rebounds.

THE NEW FACES - Guard Dwayne Shackleford, a 5-10 junior college transfer, joins USC as a junior, while 6-4 guard Gabe Pruitt, 6-6 guard/forward Nick Young and 6-8 forward Emanuel Willis join the Trojans as freshmen in 2005. Shackleford was a NJCAA All-American while averaging 21.4 ppg. for Allegany College in Cumberland, Md.; Pruitt was a Parade All-American fourth-team selection while averaging 22 points and 6 assists for Westchester (Calif.) High; Young was an L.A. All-City selection while averaging 27.2 points and 10.8 rebounds for Cleveland High in Reseda, Calif.; and Willis attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. last season, but averaged 21 points and 14 rebounds as a 2003 senior for Mendenhall (Miss.) High. This highly-regarded class--which briefly included 2004 NBA first-round pick Robert Swift--landed as high as seventh in the national recruiting rankings.

USC AGAINST THE PRESEASON TOP 25 - USC is scheduled to play four schools that opened in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason Top 25. The four ranked schools looming on the schedule are No. 3 North Carolina, No. 11 Arizona, No. 24 Washington and No. 25 Stanford.

USC PICKED TO FINISH SIXTH IN MEDIA POLL -- USC was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 media poll on Nov. 4. Arizona was picked first with 19 first-place votes and 253 points. Washington (seven first-place votes and 237 points) was second and Stanford was third (194 points). Oregon was fourth (167), followed by UCLA (156), USC (116), California (87), Oregon State (86), Washington State (73) and Arizona State (64).

OPENING REMARKS -- USC is 68-30 all-time in its season openers and have won 12 of its last 16 such games. Under ninth-year Coach Henry Bibby, USC has gone 6-2 with wins over Long Beach State (1997), San Diego State (1999), Cal State Northrdige (2000), Bradley (2001), Wyoming (2002) and UC Riverside. The Trojans have also won their last eight home openers.

THE TROJANS VS. RANKED TEAMS RECENTLY -- USC was 1-4 against ranked teams in 2003-2004, falling to No. 16 Arizona in the Pac-10 tourney, at No. 15 Arizona on the road, at No. 1 Stanford at home and No. 2 Stanford on the road. USC's lone win was against No. 7 Arizona at home. In 2002-2003, USC was 3-6 against ranked teams in 2002-03, falling to No. 15 Missouri at the Wooden Classic, to No. 2 Arizona at home, at No. 25 California, at No. 1 Arizona, vs. No. 21 Stanford and vs. No. 18 California, but beating No. 19 Oregon at home and No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 California in the Pac-10 Tournament. The Trojans are 13-20 against ranked teams in the past four years combined and 15-25 in the last five years. USC was 6-4 against ranked teams in 2002, defeating No. 11 UCLA on Jan. 10, losing at No. 15 Arizona on Jan. 17, defeating No. 14 Stanford on Jan. 26, losing at No. 15 UCLA, defeating No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 16, beating No. 10 Stanford on Feb. 21, losing to No. 13 Oregon on Feb. 28, beating No. 16 Stanford on March 7, downing No. 9 Oregon on March 8 and falling to No. 14 Arizona on March 9.

USC COACH Henry BibbyHenry Bibby, a coach with 22 years of college and professional experience and the only person to ever play for an NCAA, NBA and CBA championship team, is in his ninth full season in 2004-2005 as the head coach of the USC men's basketball program. He is just two years removed from guiding the Trojans to only their second back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2001 and 2002 and only their third back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.• USC finished 13-15 in 2004, 8-10 in the Pac-10 (sixth place). Highlighting the year was USC's second consecutive sweep of crosstown rival UCLA, a first in more than 60 years, as well as its fifth home win over Arizona in the last eight years. The Trojans showed signs of brilliance during the season, playing top-ranked Stanford down to the wire twice before falling and coming within a possession of beating Arizona for a second time in a memorable Pac-10 Tournament first-round game that ended the Trojans' string of Pac-10 Tournament final appearances at two.• Bibby and the Trojans underwent a rebuilding season in 2003 as USC finished 13-17 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-10 (tied for sixth). Two big bright spots, however, created major optimism for 2004. First of all, USC, despite fielding a team made up predominantly of underclassmen, held second-half leads in almost every game (though it had trouble closing them out). Secondly, the Trojans made their second consecutive run to the Pac-10 Tournament championship game, showing a maturation Bibby hopes carries over to 2004.• In 2002, he led USC to a 22-10 record that included a 12-6 finish in the Pac-10 (tied for second), a finals appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 20 wins gave USC back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1939-40. USC enjoyed its fifth winning season and fourth postseason berth (three NCAA, one NIT) under his watch. Bibby was named 2002 NABC District 15 Co-Coach of the Year.• In 2001, Bibby led USC to perhaps its greatest season ever, piloting the Trojans to their first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance under the tournament's current format. In their second NCAA Tournament appearance under Bibby, the No. 6-seeded Trojans reached the East Regional Final before losing to Duke. USC's three NCAA Tournament wins (against No. 11 seed Oklahoma State, No. 2 seed Boston College and No. 3 seed Kentucky) were its most ever in one tourney and the Trojans' final record of 24-10 matched the most wins ever in one season at USC. The Trojans finished 11-7 in the Pac-10 (tied for fourth place).• The Trojans' landmark team that Bibby guided featured a trio of NBA draft picks in forward/center Brian Scalabrine, guard Jeff Trepagnier and forward Sam Clancy. Scalabrine and Trepagnier were taken back-to-back in the second round of the 2001 draft; Scalabrine going to New Jersey with the 35th pick while Trepagnier went 36th to Cleveland. Clancy went in the second round of the 2002 draft to Philadelphia with the 45th pick. Clancy was the fourth Trojan taken in the NBA Draft since Bibby has been at USC (the first was Rodrick Rhodes in 1997). Elias Ayuso became the fifth Trojan under Bibby to sign with an NBA team when he inked a deal with the San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 2003.• In his eight years as head coach, Bibby has been instrumental in player development and has guided eight players to a combined 13 All-Pac-10 honors and five players to All-Pac-10 Freshman honors. Under Bibby, Sam Clancy became a Pac-10 Player of the Year, three Trojans (Rhodes, Scalabrine and Jeff McMillan) have earned the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year award and another (Ayuso) earned Pac-10 All-Newcomer first team notice. Seven of USC's top 20 scorers of all time, and nine of its 28 1,000-point scorers have played under Bibby.