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USC basketball: News and notes from Pacific 10 Conference media day

October 28, 2010 |  5:54 pm

It's a short walk to the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live for USC Coach Kevin O'Neill since he lives only a few blocks from there, so arriving at the stage for the Pacific 10 Conference's men's basketball media day Thursday wasn't much trouble.

With O'Neill was junior forward Nikola Vucevic, the Pac-10's most improved player last season, and here are some Trojan-related tidbits they and others provided:

-- O'Neill said of his team, "We really lost 10 starters in a year and a half. We lost three guys to the pros, we lost a whole recruiting class that's starting other places, and then we lost three starters from last year and I dismissed Leonard Washington. So we're trying to piece this back together."

-- The coach said that of all the new players, the one aspect that surprised him the most was that freshman forward Curtis Washington is a "way better rebounder and shot blocker than I thought he was going to be as a freshman." O'Neill added of Washington, "I don't know when it will be, but he's going to be a really good player. He's got size. He's already put on 15 pounds since he got here. He competes hard, he plays hard. It's just a matter of time with him. It would be a great situation with him if you had a loaded frontcourt of veterans where he wouldn't have to be counted on right off the bat."

--  O'Neill said of being picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 by a preseason media poll: "Well, we're going to finish sixth then?" He then added, "I have no idea where we'll finish." 

-- Vucevic said he learned a lot from playing on the Montenegro national team during the summer, specifically from Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Nikola Pekovic. Chief among his improvements, Vucevic said, was his conditioning. "I got in a lot better shape, and with the help of the new strength coach [Shaun Brown], I'll be able to play more minutes," he said.

-- Freshman forward Garrett Jackson will undergo surgery on his nose Friday to have it reset after he suffered a slight fracture when hit with an errant elbow during practice last week. He should be back at practice three to four days after that, O'Neill said.

-- Until the end of this season, the Trojans will be down one scholarship (to 12) because of the self-imposed sanctions the university levied against the program in January.

-- Oregon State guard Calvin Haynes on USC freshman guard Bryce Jones, who, like Haynes, went to Taft High in Los Angeles: "I think he's pretty good. We should've had him. I heard he's really athletic, can put it on the floor, make plays. I think he'll be good for the Trojan program."

-- Baxter Holmes