Johnson is cleared to play this week


USC’s chances in next week’s Pacific 10 Conference tournament could receive a boost with the return of forward Marcus Johnson, who has missed the last seven games because of a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Johnson was cleared medically to play the last two games of the regular season. He has been more active in practice the last two days, though he still mostly uses his left hand.

“He’s been away for four weeks,” Coach Tim Floyd said. “It’s one thing to be out here; it’s another to be ready to play. We need him to remember who we are and what we do, and get his wind back.”


Floyd said he hoped to get Johnson in a game this week. USC plays host to Oregon on Thursday and Oregon State on Saturday.

“If we can do that, it will help him in the conference tournament [next week],” Floyd said.

Johnson, a senior transfer from Connecticut, says he still feels some pain in the shoulder when he plays. “It’s just a random thing when I try to do random things,” Johnson said.

The Trojans have withered, losing six of seven games, in part because of a lack of depth. Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis, Taj Gibson and DeMar DeRozan are all averaging more than 33 minutes a game. Johnson was averaging 8.0 points off the bench in the four games before the injury.

Not-so-free throws

The Trojans made only 25 of 49 free throws in losses to California and Stanford last week.

“I’m sure fatigue had something to do with it, but it’s up to us to be out here early or stay after practice to work on it,” Hackett said.

Players have been out before practice working on free throws the last two days.

Floyd said he was baffled by the poor showing, saying, “We had the guys who can shoot free throws on the line.”