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There was little reason to expect better. Three USC starters went pro in April, and coach Tim Floyd quit in June amid allegations that he had given $1,000 to a rep of former Trojans star O.J. Mayo. With NCAA sanctions looming, most of the recruiting class vanished. O'Neill, the new coach, was left with a motley collection of players, only one of whom was a true point guard, and he had never heard of Gerrity.
Like O'Neill, who is on his eighth head-coaching gig, Gerrity had bounced around. After a WCC freshman-of-the-year season at Pepperdine in 2005--06, he left when coach Paul Westphal was fired. He thought he had found a good fit at Charlotte, but after averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 assists in 26 games during the 2007--08 season, he transferred again. "I just didn't feel I was ever going to play to my potential there," he says. When he learned that he couldn't transfer to even a D-II school without sitting out another year and that a handful of exhibition games in Canada that summer had cost him yet another year of eligibility, Gerrity considered the NAIA. But then he got a call from Floyd. Gerrity had just one semester of eligibility left. Would he like to spend it at a Pac-10 school near his hometown of Yorba Linda? "It was a no-brainer," he says.
Gerrity arrived in January 2009 and began his second year of NCAA penance, paying his own way for a semester and grinding through the 48 credits he'd need to become eligible. ("Every time you transfer, you lose units," he says.) When the Mayo crisis hit in the summer, he was hurt but unfazed. "It was just one more thing to deal with," he says.
The Trojans went 4--4 before Gerrity finally suited up on Dec. 19. Playing in his first game in 21 months, he scored 12 points and had 10 assists as the Trojans upset ninth-ranked Tennessee 77--55. "We lose that game by 25 if he's not playing," says O'Neill. "He's impossible to pressure." Gerrity's calm leadership helped the Trojans to six straight wins.
Then, another blow: On Jan. 3 USC announced it was sanctioning itself as a result of the Mayo mess, and the measures included a ban on postseason play. Gerrity was crushed to learn he'd have just 16 more games to play. But he remains positive: After a lot of false starts he is finally realizing his potential. "I couldn't be happier," Gerrity says. "On my last try I found the right opportunity."
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