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October 4, 2013
Haley: The Other 7-Footer
D.J. Haley had to sit out the first six official practices with a sprained neck but that hasn't ruined his positive outlook. He transferred from Virginia Commonwealth to USC this season because of opportunity. He'll now play basketball closer to home, against top competition, while getting a Master's degree in applied psychology.
"It was good to come to USC because it was so close to home," Haley said. "It's good to have family right down the street so it was a big factor for me along with academics. They have a great program here."
When Haley graduated from Palmdale High in 2010, he didn't have the option to stay close to home.
"When it came down to it and I was narrowing my choices, I was getting recruited mostly by east coast schools. Most of the options back in high school were based on the East coast."
He went to Virginia Commonwealth for an opportunity that was similar to how he describes his opportunity at USC.
"VCU has a great basketball program with excellent academics. It's a great all around school. My initial decision to go there was based on doing something a little bit different while getting the best of both worlds academically and athletically."
Moving into a dorm across the country was appealing all those years ago, but he feels a bit differently today
"I really wanted to get away from home back in high school, but now that I'm a little older it feels great to be back. It's been a journey, and I'm happy I ended up here because I still have a passion for basketball and a passion for school."
He feels like he'll fit in right away because of the similarities between Shaka Smart and Andy Enfield's systems. Like Enfield, Smart runs a system that's about scoring fast and playing pressure defense.
"I can definitely see some similarities between what USC does and what we did at VCU," Haley said. "There are a lot of differences, too, but I know that the style they play on both offense and defense will fit to how I play."
Haley averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds last season, so having an increased role was also appealing. The fact that USC only has one other true center on the roster means that he'll have a chance to prove himself.
"They needed a center and it was definitely appealing. When I talked to coach Enfield he told me about the situation here and it was attractive to me. When they talked to me about my role on this team and how I fit in, I was excited for the opportunity."