Key Losses: G Derrick Craven (4.1 ppg, 2.3 apg), G Errick Craven (6.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg), F Gregg Guenther (6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), F Jeff McMillan (9.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), C Rory O’Neil (9.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
New Providence, Bahamas/Houston Westbury Christian
Memphis, TN/IMG (FL) Academy
San Diego, CA/College of Southern Idaho
Pasadena, CA/Redshirt 2004-05
Baton Rouge, LA/Glen Oaks
Dakar, Senegal/College of Southern Idaho
Skokie, IL/Illinois Niles West
Diamond Bar, CA/Diamond Bar
Mission Viejo, CA/Capistrano Valley
All of the big guys will have to play. Ndiaye might even start at center, where his defensive mindset and athleticism could be significant factors. Barr, the heavyweight of the group, will be asked to throw his weight around underneath. In the backcourt, Davis, who played with Ndiaye in junior college, should get some minutes at the point, while freshmen Francis, Odzic and Robinson are all talented enough to fight for playing time.
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Tim Floyd is about to begin a new era in USC basketball, and if you ask him, the future is so bright, he will need a pair of those stylish, movie-star-cool shades you always see in L.A.
"There is a wealth of talent to recruit in the Los Angeles area," Floyd says. "And with USC's tremendous national reputation, the pieces are in place to be successful at the national level."
The problem, of course, is that before Floyd can concentrate on the future, he has to deal with the present. The Trojans finished last in the Pac-10 a year ago and return only four scholarship players.
Floyd, with his NBA and major-college experience, did produce a solid recruiting class, especially when you consider the problems generated by Rick Majerus' coaching flip-flop, first taking the Trojans job, then walking away from it a few days later.
With some promising newcomers and the new, state-of-the-art, on-campus Galen Center scheduled to open before the 2006-07 season, things are looking up for USC basketball.
The Trojans, who lost their top three rebounders to graduation, have some issues on the frontline. Floyd must depend on a trio of newcomers and flashy sophomore Nick Young, who was third on the team in scoring and fourth in rebounding a year ago. Young can play guard or forward. Considering the team's lack of experience up front, he'll probably be penciled in at small forward.
Meanwhile, freshmen Jeremy Barr and RouSean Cromwell and junior college transfer Abdoulaye Ndiaye will all be factors. The 265-pound Barr will be counted on to provide whatever inside muscle the Trojans can muster.
"Jeremy has only played the game for three years," Floyd says. "Unlike most freshmen, he won't have to get much stronger."
Ndiaye, a native of Dakar, Senegal, will be asked to provide a defensive presence in the paint, while Cromwell is an active inside player who can operate at three positions. Keith Wilkinson, another freshman, figures to be the primary perimeter shooter in the group.
This is where the Trojans can compete with almost anybody in the conference. Gabe Pruitt earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honors and was named the Trojans' co-MVP in his first season on campus. He averaged 12.3 points, shot 48.6 percent from the field, including 45.0 percent from three, and had a team-high 56 steals.
"The sky's the limit for Gabe," Floyd says. "He has prototypical size and skills for a point guard. His experience in tough games as a freshman will help him in his sophomore year."
So will the presence of backcourt mates Lodrick Stewart and Dwayne Shackleford. Stewart was the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points, and he set a school sophomore record with 70 3-pointers. Shackleford, who was limited by a knee injury last season, will provide some much-needed senior leadership.
Some of Floyd's top recruits will be asked to step in right away, with junior college transfer Shaun Davis and freshmen Ryan Francis, Sead Odzic and Collin Robinson providing some heated competition in practice.
More than anything in his first season, Floyd will be trying to establish an identity -- "We are going to try to be aggressive at both ends of the court," he says -- and crush the myth that USC cannot field a consistent winner in basketball. "It's a bunch of malarkey to say you can't be great in both basketball and football. We have watched it happen at Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan and others through the years. It will happen here."
Maybe, but it won't be happening this season.
Floyd's goal has been clearly established down the road. In his first season, the challenge will be to take the first strong steps in the proper direction.