USC’s trip to Mexico is no vacation

Times Staff Writer

MAZATLAN, Mexico -- The extent of most USC basketball players’ Spanish is limited.

Freshman guard O.J. Mayo knows como estás (how are you?). Freshman forward Davon Jefferson can say callate (shut up) “and a couple of other words that are not appropriate.”

By the end of their whirlwind three-day trip to this seaside resort, the Trojans hope they won’t add pesadilla (nightmare) to their vocabulary.

Recent developments aren’t encouraging. The players originally were supposed to land here today in the midafternoon, relax at their hotel for a couple of hours, then head to a nearby university arena for a doubleheader against two teams from Mexico’s Professional National Basketball League.


But because floodwaters from Hurricane Dean damaged the only passable gym in Mazatlan, the Trojans must endure a two-hour bus ride north to Culiacan, home of Mexico’s most notorious drug traffickers. Then they’ll play in games against Caballeros de Sinaloa and Lobo Grises de Durango before boarding buses back to their hotel and arriving sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

USC is also supposed to play a doubleheader Sunday, but the commute could be enough of a problem that those games might be canceled unless repairs can be made to the Mazatlan gym in time, allowing the Trojans to play closer to their hotel.

“It’s not going to allow us as much time in Mazatlan as we would like,” Coach Tim Floyd said. “There’s not going to be a lot of recreation and relaxation.”

Floyd said he planned to distribute the playing time evenly among his players, meaning the experience could be as meaningful for walk-ons Ryan Wetherell and James Dunleavy as the more highly touted Mayo and Jefferson.


Also, sophomore guard Daniel Hackett will not make the trip because Floyd is letting him rest after playing recently with the under-20 Italian national team.

“More than the games, I think it’s going to be a bonding experience, helping us with cohesion,” redshirt freshman forward Kasey Cunningham said. “When we start practice in October, we will have already played together.”

The Trojans also might have added to their foreign-language skills, though Floyd said some of his players might be more fluent than they’re letting on.

“Sometimes I think when they’re talking to me,” he said, “they’re talking in a foreign language.”