Pac-12 Basketball Media Day: If Jones gets hurt, USC is doomed, Kevin O'Neill says
Maurice Jones stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 155 pounds, according to the USC men's basketball media guide. But truthfully, the sophomore guard is closer to 5-5 and 135, maybe 140.
Regardless, he's a little guy and he's going to have to carry a considerable weight for his team on those little shoulders after USC junior guard Jio Fontan sustained a season-ending injury this summer.
"I told Mo last night on the phone, I called him and said, 'Here's the deal: We need you to go back to high school, play like you're in high school and average 30 and 10 and be an attack guy all the time," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said Friday at the Pacific 12 Conference media day at L.A. Live.
Jones is one of only two Trojans players who scored a basket last season, when he averaged 9.9 points and began the season playing nearly every minute of USC's first four games.
But he wore down late in the season and O'Neill began splitting point-guard duties between he and Fontan, which worked well. Don't expect that this season.
"He is playing 40 minutes a game this year," O'Neill said of Jones. "I'm informing him of that right now, because he's going to have to."
How does the soft-spoken sophomore from Saginaw, Mich., become more of a leader?
"I've just got to be more vocal," he said. "Last year was my freshman year. I was just trying to get my feet wet. This year [coach] told me to be more aggressive, but still keep that point guard mentality in mind and create for my teammates.
"It's going to be a long season. We have a lot of inexperienced guys and there are going to be some ups and downs, but at the end of the day I think we're going to be all right as a team."
USC is reeling from several injuries already, as listed in my notebook Thursday, including that forward Evan Smith will be out six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury, as O'Neill said Friday.
Jones is among the hurt. He's been struggling with an ankle injury, which isn't so serious that he will have to miss any games. If he is too hurt to play ...
"If he's in trouble and gets hurt, we're in real trouble," O'Neill said.
"Don't come to the games. It will be ugly. Don't show up."
-- Baxter Holmes
Photo: USC's Maurice Jones. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press