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Trojans Announce 3 Recruits

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 7-foot-2 center originally from South Africa and a former Mr. Basketball in Iowa were among the players who signed letters of intent to play for USC next season, but the Trojans’ biggest find might have been what they landed only miles from the Sports Arena.

Jeff Trepagnier, a 6-4 guard from Compton High, became the final member of the five-player recruiting class that USC announced Thursday. Trepagnier orally committed to USC a month ago, but only became eligible recently.

“Jeff had some problems [academically], but he finished up strong,” USC Coach Henry Bibby said. “We feel we got a steal. He could be one of the most athletically gifted players to come through this program.”

He joins 6-7 Adam Spanich, a forward from Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College, who was named the state’s top player in 1995 and spent a season at Oral Roberts before attending Marshalltown. He averaged 18.7 points and shot 47% from three-point range last season.

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Also signing was 7-2 Philip Von Backstrom, who last season played at Western Nebraska CC, but is originally from Pretoria, South Africa. At 245 pounds, Von Backstrom is thin and Bibby said it is possible he could redshirt next season.

Von Backstrom’s 7-2 twin brother, George, signed with Oregon State. Bibby said he offered both scholarships.

“I would have been happy to have two 7-footers,” Bibby said, “but they wanted to split up and I respect that. We’ve been on Philip for some time, and he was the one we wanted.”

The three players who signed during the spring recruiting period, which ended Thursday, join point guard Kevin Augustine from Santa Ana Mater Dei and forward Greg Lakey from Lynwood. Both committed to USC in the fall.

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