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USC basketball: 7-foot junior college center becomes eligible to join Trojans in practice Thursday

December 15, 2010 |  6:27 pm

USC receives a big boost Saturday when transfer guard Jio Fontan, a junior, will be eligible to play in his first game at No. 3 Kansas.  

The Trojans receive a smaller but still important boost Thursday when 7-foot junior college center Dewayne Dedmon becomes eligible to practice with the team. 

Dedmon, who comes from Antelope Valley College, enrolled at USC in January and isn’t eligible to play for the Trojans until next season.

He’ll be a sophomore then with three seasons of eligibility remaining and is expected to fill the hole left by the graduation of 6-foot-10 senior forward Alex Stepheson.

But for now, USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said just having Dedmon in practice improves the team this season because his presence poses problems for both Stepheson and fellow 6-foot-10 forward Nikola Vucevic.  

“He’ll really help out the pace of our practices,” O’Neill said. “It helps size-wise, but he plays hard, and it’s going to force Nik and AL to play harder to get the job done in practice every day.”

USC is a shorter team with only 6-foot-10 freshman forward Curtis Washington as a plausible backup for Stepheson and Vucevic. 

O’Neill described Dedmon as “really athletic, shoots the ball from three-point range, excellent shot-blocker, excellent nose for the ball, good rebounder, and just a hard-playing guy.”

Dedmon was recruited out of Antelope Valley by Texas, LSU, California, Nevada Las Vegas and USC, said USC assistant Dieter Horton, who coached Dedmon during his one season there before resigning to take a job at USC in April.

Dedmon, a Lancaster native, committed to USC last November and said he did so because he wanted to stay close to home and he liked the opportunity to play early.

--Baxter Holmes