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Sticking with Trojans pays off for Stewart

Times Staff Writer

Lodrick Stewart has come a long way since that night in November 2004 when he burst out of a locker room at La Salle’s Gola Arena in Philadelphia, cellphone to ear, future in doubt.

He was practically inconsolable after being benched for much of USC’s 71-62 loss to the Explorers and saw little reason to stick with a program on the decline. Stewart’s identical twin brother, Rodrick, had requested his release from the school earlier in the month, and his relationship with USC coach Henry Bibby had reached a breaking point.

Looking back, Stewart is glad he remained a Trojan. The senior guard heads into his final home game, against California tonight at the Galen Center, with 1,356 points to rank 11th on the school’s all-time scoring list. His 216 three-point baskets are second to Brandon Granville’s 218.

“It’s been hard, but this stuff has all helped me mature as a young man,” Stewart said. “I really matured a lot coming in and dealing with a lot of stuff -- having three different coaches, my brother leaving, a lot of off-the-court stuff with my family.”

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Along the way, Stewart found a more suitable use for a cellphone than grousing about a season gone awry. His father, Bull Stewart, used his phone Thursday night to snap a picture of his son with Denzel Washington in the Trojans’ locker room.

“He said he really liked my game, how I show emotion playing defense, just going hard on both ends,” Lodrick Stewart said of the actor. “I never really thought I would be talking to Denzel Washington.”

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Tonight also could be the final home game for junior swingman Nick Young, who said he would make himself available for the NBA draft if he was projected to be a first-round selection.

“It’s all about where I might go,” said Young, whose 17.4 scoring average ties him with UCLA guard Arron Afflalo for second among Pacific 10 Conference players. “Coach [Tim Floyd] said if I’m first round, he’ll make me leave, so it could be my last game here.”

Young said he would attend the NBA pre-draft camp June 4-8 in Orlando, Fla.

Junior guard Gabe Pruitt said he intended to remain at USC for his senior season because, “I’m having fun right now and it can only get better with the guys we’re bringing in and the guys we have now.”

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Floyd said he orchestrated the pregame pep talk that USC football Coach Pete Carroll delivered before the Trojans’ 69-65 victory over Stanford on Thursday, though Floyd tried to feign surprise when Carroll entered the locker room.

“I just told him, ‘Let’s have some fun with it,’ and the kids loved it,” Floyd said. “I think I’ve created a monster. I talked to Pete [Friday] and he wanted me to put in three new inbounds plays.”

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TODAY

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vs. California, 5, FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- Galen Center.

Radio -- 710.

Records -- USC 20-8 overall, 10-5 Pac-10; California 14-13, 6-9.

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Update -- USC’s Taj Gibson, Abdoulaye N’diaye and Dwight Lewis did not practice Friday to rest nagging injuries, but all are expected to play tonight.

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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