USC basketball: Kevin O'Neill, teammates react to guard Bryce Jones' decision to transfer
For USC basketball fans, Tuesday's news that freshman guard Bryce Jones will transfer because of a lack of playing time makes an already tough season worse.
USC (10-8, 2-3 in Pacific 10 Conference play) had just been swept by Oregon and Oregon State, two teams not exactly considered the upper echelon of Pac-10 competition -- and those defeats came after USC had won six of eight, including beating rival UCLA for the fourth straight time.
But things now look much worse after Jones, a promising young talent from Woodland Hills Taft High who was considered the top-ranked player in USC's 2010 recruiting class, announced he's leaving USC, a team already short on depth.
"Although my time at USC didn't go exactly how I had hoped in terms of playing time," Jones said in a statement, "I appreciate the experience I was offered and wish my teammates nothing but the best in the future."
Jones started USC's first 10 games, averaging 11.2 points in 28.1 minutes. But he came off the bench exclusively after Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, became eligible before the Trojans' game against Kansas on Dec. 18.
In his first five games as a reserve, Jones averaged only 3.2 points in 12.2 minutes. Overall, he averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 20.6 minutes and was second on the team in three-pointers made (20) and steals (20).
Here are some quotes from USC Coach Kevin O'Neill following Tuesday's practice:
"Sometimes situations don’t work out the way the player hopes they will. I was aware that Bryce may not be happy with some of his playing time and shots and things like that. The last thing I want to do is have a guy in a situation where he’s not happy. It’ll work out for him and he’ll do well."
(On what USC will do now)
"We’ll have to play somebody else in the eighth spot. I don’t know who it will be. Garrett [Jackson] is obviously going to get more minutes. Donte [Smith]is going to get his minutes anyway. We’re basically a rotation of seven now instead of eight, unless someone starts to come along a little bit. And the only person that fits into that spot really, because all the rest are walk-ons, is [Curtis Washington]. Curt has made a lot of strides the last couple weeks. I’m not sure if he’s ready to play yet. But it is what it is."
(On if he has any regrets in dealing with Jones)
"My only regret is I couldn’t meet his needs as a player. I’m going to play the guys that I think could help us win games and help play the best for us. I always do that. You hate to lose any player, especially a guy that’s a good guy and potentially has a chance to be a very good player. But I respect his decision. I respect the fact he wants to go somewhere else. I hope he does great."
(On if he ever tried to talk Jones out of transferring)
"We’ve had several conversations and it got to a point where it was just the way it was. We had a conversation right around Christmas and for a long period of time and it just was headed in that direction for a while."
(On why Jones played only four minutes against Oregon State)
"I’m not getting into that. There’s a reason for that, but I’m not getting into that. That’s between him and I and the team. Normally, I envisioned him playing anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes a game the way our rotation is set up right now."
(On if Jones was a building block for USC)
"No question. I think Bryce is a really fine player. He needs to develop his skill. He’s a good athlete...I think young players in general, top to bottom, aren’t very patient. It’s very seldom you have a guy like Mo [Maurice Jones] who can play 38 minutes a game. The thing I try to tell young players all the time is, it’s a privilege to play early in your career. You look at the best teams in the country, except for the super-phenom guys, the freshmen aren’t playing a lot of minutes."
(On if losing Jones is a considerable loss)
"Anybody we would lose, last year to this year, and maybe even next year, would be considered a considerable loss. We don’t have a deep roster.”
And here's a quote from his roommate, Maurice Jones:
(On if he knew Bryce wasn't happy)
"It wasn't that he really wasn't happy. He felt he wasn't doing enough or that he could do more. It wasn't about the team.... He's still my roommate, still my friend. He's got to do what's best for him.... He's got to take his talents somewhere else and hopefully be successful somewhere else."
And, lastly, here's Fontan, who, it's worth noting, left Fordham because he didn't like his situation there, namely that he wasn't winning.
(On Jones transferring)
"Sometimes things just don't work out. At the end of the day, knowing the situation I went through and the feeling you have when you're not happy, I don't wish that on nobody. If he feels that's here, it's unfortunate because I definitely wanted to play with Bryce."
-- Baxter Holmes