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All’s Not Quiet at USC: Derrick Dowell Must Rebound in Classroom

Times Staff Writer

Despite the recent coaching change, a pattern of uncertainty and unrest continues with the USC basketball team.

In the latest development, junior forward Derrick Dowell has dropped his classes for the spring semester and will lose his eligibility for next season unless he successfully completes a summer school session.

Moreover, the possibility continues that some or all of USC’s four highly regarded freshman players--Tom Lewis, Rich Grande, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers--may transfer to other schools.

Dowell, USC’s leading rebounder and No. 2 scorer last season, made the Pacific 10 coaches’ all-conference team, even though he missed the final three games after being suspended by former coach Stan Morrison.

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It isn’t uncommon for an athlete to drop out of school for a semester and then regain his eligibility in summer school, and that’s what Dowell intends to do.

“Because of the mental strain from the past season, I just want time off to concentrate and get myself back together mentally and physically,” Dowell said Wednesday.

“I plan to take 12 units in summer classes to regain my eligibility, and I’ll pay for those out of my own pocket. I met with Coach (George) Raveling today and our talk was encouraging about next season.”

It isn’t known whether Dowell will take those classes at USC, or another school, given the high tuition at USC.

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Although Dowell apparently plans to return to the team, some of his young teammates from last season may not join him.

Tom Lewis, USC’s leading scorer, who made the All-Pac 10 freshman team last season, said he is still undecided.

“I intend to finish school this year and go from there,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t know if anybody is definitely coming back next year. Nobody on the team is saying much. They’re just waiting to see what happens. So I don’t know who’s coming back or who isn’t or who Coach Raveling is bringing in.”

Lewis said he has met with Raveling, Morrison’s successor.

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“He didn’t say much about my future. He just wondered whether I was staying or leaving. I said, ‘I don’t really know right now. I’m just waiting to see what happens.’ ”

What concerns him and the other freshmen, Lewis said, is that Raveling is recruiting extensively, although he is technically out of scholarships after reportedly signing 6-9 forward Chris Munk of Riordan High in San Francisco to a letter of intent Wednesday night.

Scholarships will not open for Raveling unless some of the current players relinquish their grants in aid. A scholarship can’t be taken from a player unless there is justifiable cause, such as not meeting university academic standards, missing practices, or other violations of team or school regulations.

It appears to be a standoff right now. More scholarships could be become available, though, because junior center Charlie Simpson is reportedly having academic difficulty and sophomore forward Ron Young presumably will get a medical release. Young didn’t play last year because of an injured back.

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Raveling said that he wants all the freshmen to return, but that the decision is theirs. When Morrison resigned under pressure to become an associate athletic director at the school, the freshmen met with Athletic Director Mike McGee and said they would prefer to play for a local coach and would consider transferring if a coach from another region was hired.

Raveling doesn’t quite fit this mold because he was Washington State’s coach for 11 years before becoming Iowa’s coach.

“We told Mr. McGee that we’re all sticking together,” Lewis said last month. “If one of us doesn’t like the new coach and says he’s going, I think all of us would follow him.”

It was believed at the time, though, that the freshmen made their stand in the emotional environment of losing their coach, Morrison, and that time would temper their outlook on the situation.

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That may not be the case.

Lewis said that there have been a lot of recruits on campus and that Raveling’s assistants have introduced the players to some of them.

It has also been reported that BYU forward Allen Pollard and Iowa guard Roy Marble plan to transfer to USC.

Although Raveling doesn’t have the necessary scholarships now to accommodate the players he is recruiting, he said he’s in the process of defensive recruiting, presumably meaning that he’ll have players available if there is a mass defection.

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A school is allowed 15 basketball scholarships at the start of the school year in the fall.

It has been learned that some of the freshmen don’t believe that Raveling cares whether they stay or go and that his active recruiting is evidence of that.

Lewis said that Grande, his roommate on campus, was told by Raveling that he wants to convert him to an off-guard, although he played point guard through high school and while alternating with Larry Friend last season.

Raveling confirmed that he has asked Grande to play the point guard position, adding: “That’s a coaching decision and I don’t think it does anybody any good to make any public disclosures of how I’m trying to put a team together. There is nothing definite now.”

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It is believed that Kimble, a member of the All-Pac 10 freshman team, and Gathers, who were recruited from Philadelphia, are seriously considering transferring. Sources say that Raveling has met with Gathers only briefly and has yet to meet with Kimble, although he has said his door is open if any player wants to see him.


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