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USC basketball: Trojans search for replacement for Nikola Vucevic

Lh5v75nc USC Coach Kevin O'Neill has spent many days on the road recruiting players to help fill the shoes of junior forward Nikola Vucevic, who recently declared early for the NBA draft and signed with an agent.

So far, O'Neill said USC has been evaluating numerous junior college and high school players, including college players who may transfer because of an upcoming coaching change. 

"The one thing we're not going to do is take a guy just to take him," O'Neill said. 

The spring signing period starts April 13. Despite the fact that USC lost a 6-foot-10 player in Vucevic, O'Neill said there is also no preference to recruit another big man. 

"If we could get a big guy that's good enough to help us next season, I'd be interested," he said. "We're very comfortable with the three big guys we have."

The three O'Neill referred to are transfers James Blasczyk (7 feet 1), Dewayne Dedmon (7-0) and Aaron Fuller (6-6).  

Blasczyk is a center who spent two seasons at Texas A&M and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Dedmon, from Antelope Valley College, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. He signed with USC last April

Fuller, from Iowa, is a former All-Big Ten honorable mention player who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. 

Dedmon and Fuller have been practicing with the team since December. Both are athletic and run well.

"To me," O'Neill said, "you can only run as much as your bigs can." 

So, O'Neill said, USC should be able to run more next season. 

"We're going to be more athletic, we're going to be deeper, so I would hope we're going to be more effective in transition," O'Neill said. 

USC averaged 66.2 points last season, ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference, after averaging 59.6 the season before, which was last in conference play. 

"I would hope we can make another jump next year," O'Neill said. 

People close to the program said one player USC is recruiting is former Wake Forest sophomore forward Ari Stewart, who was recently granted his release from the program.

Stewart, a 6-7, 205-pound native of Marietta, Ga, was fifth on the Deacons in scoring (8.5 points per game) and second (4.4) in rebounding in 30 games last season. He led Atlantic Coast Conference freshmen in three-point shooting his freshmen season, hitting 43 of 116 (37.1%).

If Stewart comes to USC, he would have to sit out next season, the 2011-12 season, and would have two seasons of eligibility beginning in the 2012-13 season.

ALSO:

UCLA's Malcolm Lee to declare for NBA draft

Former North Carolina guard Larry Drew II joins Bruins

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Former USCTrojan forward Nikola Vucevic. Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US Presswire

 
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