RouSean Cromwell's college basketball career couldn't have gotten off to a more auspicious start.
The USC forward had 17 points and 12 rebounds against Cal State Northridge in his debut and became a part-time starter for a team that upset nationally ranked North Carolina during a nine-game winning streak.
His fortunes changed in the unlikeliest of places, a layup line before a game against North Carolina A&T; on Dec. 23, 2005. Cromwell stepped on a ball and broke his right foot, essentially derailing the rest of his freshman season.
Then came another setback last summer, when Cromwell underwent surgery to remove inflamed tissue in his left knee. The sophomore was tentative to start this season, afraid to exert too much pressure on the weakened areas of his body.
But if his recent performances are any indication, Cromwell is starting to recapture the potential he showed as a freshman, especially on defense. The 6-foot-11 forward helped neutralize Stanford center Robin Lopez last week during the Trojans' 69-65 victory over the Cardinal, and his playing time is on the rise.
"I would love to go back in time and not have these injuries, but they're a part of me now," said Cromwell, who made his first start in nearly three months against Stanford. "So instead of seeing it as this speed bump or this barrier in front of me, let's use it as more" motivation.
"I can work past this. I'm going to go out there and work just as hard as everyone else and I'm not going to sit down and cry about my feet or my knees. I'm just going to go out there and do the best I can for my team."
Junior guard Gabe Pruitt had to walk up and down stairs at the Galen Center while his teammates practiced Tuesday as punishment for missing a pair of sessions with a tutor. "Obviously, I had problems in the past, so I should be the last person to do it," said Pruitt, who was academically ineligible for the first semester. "I have to take responsibility for it."