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Farmer Growing Into Leadership Role

Times Staff Writer

Hindsight being 20/20, it’s no surprise that Desmon Farmer struggled in his pseudo-homecoming game in USC’s loss at Western Michigan last week.

What was somewhat surprising was Farmer’s playing the part of team leader on an off night, rather than pulling a pouting act.

The emotional senior guard, in his first college game in his home state, was playing in front of about 150 friends and family members who made the two-hour drive from Flint to Kalamazoo. Among them was Farmer’s father, Earle, who had never seen his son play and has been handicapped since 1984 because of an accidental gunshot wound to the head.

“Desmon was just too excited with everyone there,” Trojan Coach Henry Bibby said.

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Farmer, the Trojans’ leading scorer last season with an 18.7 average, had two points in the first half and finished with 12 points on three-for-10 shooting, including two for seven from three-point territory.

Being excited by playing at home is one thing. Being too excited by the start of a season is another, as Farmer traditionally has struggled with his shooting in season-opening games.

In four openers, Farmer has shot a combined 29.7% from the field, compared to 42.6% in all other games. His three-point shooting in the first game of a season has also been down, though only slightly -- 33.3%, compared to 34.1% the rest of the season.

“I’m just going to take my time with it,” Farmer said. “I know I’m going to pick it up, I ain’t got no choice. They’re looking for me to be a leader, and I’ve got to show it in a positive way.”

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Apparently, it has worked with Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart, the highly regarded twin freshman guards who turned their hard work in practice into starting positions for the season opener.

“We ain’t going to bow down to no one,” Rodrick proclaimed.

“We’ve been in winning programs since we were little,” Lodrick said.

“This year, Desmon Farmer is our leader,” Rodrick added.

“We’re trying to get him to the league,” Lodrick echoed, referring to the NBA.

The Stewarts, a breath of fresh air, seem to be in Farmer’s league as far as histrionics. But even they, both Bibby and Farmer said, have a bit to learn about taking their All-American high school games to the Division I college level.

At Western Michigan, the Stewarts didn’t see a shot they didn’t like, especially when the Broncos were reeling off a 17-1 late run.

“When you get to this level, everyone can jump as high as you do, everyone is as quick as you are,” Bibby said.

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“They were playing basketball and we don’t just play basketball. We play organized basketball.”

Said Farmer: “The thing I like ... is they listen. Their ego is not out there. They listen to what you’ve got to say, so I think the performance is going to be better.”

Farmer has also talked with junior shooting guard Errick Craven, who last week vented his displeasure regarding Bibby’s demands of him.

“I’m in his ear, keeping it positive to him and trying to motivate him,” Farmer said. “I’m trying to do it before it gets out of hand and goes too far and hurts our season.”

Farmer, the formerly fragile emotional sparkplug, is now the Trojans’ voice of reason?

“I’ve just been trying to motivate guys to bring it,” he said with a shrug. “It’s my last year and I want to go out the right way, so I’m trying to be the motivator.

“That’s what a leader does, I guess.”

TODAY

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Cal State Northridge at USC

Noon, Fox Sports Net 2

Site -- Sports Arena.

Radio -- KMPC (1540), KSPA (1510), XEMM (800).

Records -- USC 0-1, Cal State Northridge 1-1.

Update -- USC has never lost to Northridge, having defeated the Matadors in three meetings. The Matadors are led by junior forward Chris Davis (18 ppg).


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