It’s all business at first practice

Times Staff Writer

Behind-the-back passes and three-point shots filling the air.

Fastbreaks that ended with flying dunks, drawing “oohs” from the crowd.

Pretty much none of that occurred at USC’s first official practice of the 2008-09 basketball season at the Galen Center on Friday night.


With Coach Tim Floyd deciding against a “Midnight Madness” exhibition for fans, the Trojans traded glitz for grit, running through various drills and listening to coaches bark about technique in an upstairs practice gym with the doors closed to visitors.

“Go straight to work,” junior guard Daniel Hackett said. “I think it was good for us.”

The Trojans were looking for a change-up after losing their opening game the last three seasons. “This year we do things different,” Hackett said.

Floyd spent the practice restlessly circling the court, stopping the action on a regular basis to explain elements of footwork and the finer points of keeping a low center of gravity on defense.

“Your parents are out there working eight-hour days,” he told the team. “We’re asking you to come in here and work two and a half.”

Big men practiced keeping their pivot feet down. Guards worked on passing. Everyone ran sprints.

Looking for excitement? Donte Smith scrambled to his right on a defensive drill, taking a hard charge from fellow guard Hackett. At the other end of the court, forwards Taj Gibson and Keith Wilkinson banged under the boards, both players landing on the court.

“It was real intense. Fast. Physical,” freshman DeMar DeRozan said. “I learned a lot.”

Alex Stepheson, the North Carolina transfer still awaiting an NCAA decision on his eligibility, looked strong in the post. Gibson had his knee wrapped after a collision with freshman Leonard Washington but does not expect to miss any practice.

DeRozan and another high-profile freshman, Percy Miller, had the best-looking shoes.

Beyond that, it was hard to tell much from one workout.

The outside world will get a chance to see for itself when USC plays its first exhibition at the Galen Center on Oct. 26.