Off-season losses keep piling up for Trojans
Marcus Johnson played only 16 games for USC’s basketball team, averaging 3.6 points during one injury-marred season -- and even he is turning pro.
“Kansas has two players who would have been NBA lottery picks, Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, and they are returning to school,” USC Coach Tim Floyd said late Monday night, only hours after hearing about Johnson. “Good for them.
“Our guys get an offer from Islamabad and they’re gone.”
Where the Trojans go from here is unknown. With the NCAA investigating USC for allegations involving former star O.J. Mayo, Floyd won’t comment about his own future, which has been a topic for speculation on Internet blogs and chat rooms, and he has been reluctant to talk about the team to the media.
But during a booster event in Pasadena, he offered his most extensive public comments in a month.
“We have lost eight players early, more than any other program in recent seasons,” Floyd said. “I think Florida has lost five. Florida won back-to-back national titles and hasn’t been back to the NCAA tournament since. It catches up with you.”
Before Johnson, starters Daniel Hackett, DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson all declared for the NBA draft on the same day. Even Donte Smith, a seldom-used reserve, decided to transfer, though USC coaches are trying to coax him back.
Recruits balked as well. Solomon Hill and Renardo Sidney, teammates at Los Angeles Fairfax High, signed with Arizona and Mississippi State, respectively, after committing to USC.
Floyd said of Sidney that the “university would not bring him in.” A spokesman for the Sidney family has said the decision was by “mutual agreement.”
Noel Johnson, another top recruit, did sign with USC -- but later was granted his release.
And more defections could be brewing. Recruits Lamont Jones, a point guard from Mouth of Wilson’s Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, and Derrick Williams, a forward from La Mirada High, are watching and waiting.
“I haven’t seen Lamont since graduation, but I know he is concerned about the NCAA investigation,” Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he asked out.”
Williams contacted Floyd on Monday, seeking information on whether the program faced hard times.
Floyd said the loss of Hackett at point guard may be the most difficult to absorb. Mike Gerrity, a transfer from North Carolina Charlotte who won’t be eligible until conference play, is one option. Jones would be another.
“We sign our players in November and when you don’t find out you need a point guard until March it can cripple your program,” Floyd said.
Other issues may cripple it more. The NCAA investigation doesn’t appear to be close to completion, but concerns about sanctions have players on edge.
Santa Ana Mater Dei High guard Gary Franklin, who has a year of high school left, said he remained committed to USC, but added, “My dad is monitoring all the NCAA stuff. If USC is made ineligible for the NCAA tournament, I’m probably going to think about it.”
Williams still intends to play for the Trojans, but, “we’re sitting here waiting to see if anything else falls out of the basket,” said La Mirada Athletic Director Kim Brooks, who is close to the player.
Brooks added, “Derrick has a scholarship in his pocket and USC was his first choice. This kid has worked so hard and his dream has come true. Before any decision is made, he is going to find out more definitive information.”
But, “If they fire Floyd, it’ll be, ‘Olly olly oxen free.’ ”