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April 10, 2013

Hoops . . . in a hurry

Just back from the Final Four and in his cardinal and gold warmups for his first workout, Andy Enfield was about to put his stamp on the USC basketball program Tuesday afternoon as the clock above the court ticked down to 0:00.

In the first of two closed 45-minute sessions, Enfield quietly walked up to shake hands with a couple of student managers 90 seconds before the scheduled 3:15 start on the Galen Center basketball practice court as Byron Wesley, Chass Bryan, Ari Stewart and Brendyn Taylor, among others, were loosening up.

Dewayne Dedmon, Omar Oraby and J.T. Terrell would be in the second group at 4. And just as they got underway, AD Pat Haden and Sr. Associate AD Steve Lopes, the team that hired Enfield, came by to catch the moment.

Later Enfield would talk about all that has to be done right now. "Recruiting starts Thursday," he said of the open period with "the AAU tournaments the end of the week where you can see a lot of players at one time," so no time off after the season. And there are coaches to be hired. Maybe two of them. Maybe right away.

"We're working on it," Enfield said. "Maybe by tomorrow [Wednesday] . . . or Thursday."

Maybe, indeed. From the time that he said it until Wednesday afternoon, USC and Enfield did get their men with the revelations that Tony Bland, from San Diego State, and former NBA'er Jason Hart, from Pepperdine, two LA guys, will be coming on board.

The highly respected Bland, a top West Coast recruiter, is the big get, signing on as associate head coach for a multi-year deal at $300,000 a year.

Which fits in perfectly with what Enfield says is his top job, right now -- just to get out "and do some evaluating." Although it wouldn't be a surprise if there were some unofficial visitors to campus this weekend from players who live nearby. Without naming names, Enfield is looking everywhere there might be players.

"Transfers, junior college, freshmen," he says. No limitations right now. That's because until some of his potential returnees like big men Dedmon and Oraby make their call on returning, he really won't know how many scholarships he'll have or where the need will be.

And there's no certainty there although Wesley said he thinks the 7-foot-2 Oraby, coming of fhis 18-point, 12-rebound game in the Pac-12 tournament, "is coming back, he said."

Dedmon, facing charges for his part in an alleged brawl in Spokane after the final regular season game at Washington State, isn't so sure. But he said the outcome of that case will have no effect on his decision. "None," he said.

After the workout that Dedmon said he "really liked" with "a lot of skill development, dribbling, shooting, screen and roll stuff," he was no closer to a decision about whether he'll return for his senior season or turn pro. "I don't know."

He's got "a couple of weeks, until April 28, I think," Dedmon said. Right now, he's "writing down the pros and cons in his head."

Enfield said he did get one break in this last whirlwind week. He got to sit down Monday night and watch the NCAA championship game as a fan, after returning from Atlanta, and just enjoy it.

It made him proud, Enfield said, to be a college coach the way Louisville and Michigan played, how hard they went for 40 minutes and how many great plays they made under the ultimate in pressure.

And how well they, to use one of Enfield's favorite words, "finished plays" by putting the ball in the basket. Play after play after play in an 82-76 thriller ESPN's Jay Bilas said college basketball "really needed" after too often resembling soccer with its team defense emphasis and body-on-body contact.

"We're going to do our best to do that," Enfield said of his open court, attacking, try-to-score-in-the-first-seven-seconds Florida Gulf Coast University team that scored 81 and 78 points in its first two games on the way to the NCAA's Sweet 16 and racked up the most points Georgetown had allowed all season. "I like to score the ball."

And he likes to help players "finish." Because that's what it's all about. No flinging it off the flange in a desperate attempt you've never really worked on.

"You have to teach them different ways to finish up," Enfield says -- or throw down. "Maybe seven or eight ways" to do that with either hand. "You're going to get resistance. You have to be able to adjust."

Wesley can identify there. "We were so defensive and team-oriented," he said, "we knew if we missed a shot (certainly under fired head coach Kevin O'Neill, "chances are we'd be coming out. Now it's defend, get a turnover and get it up the floor. It's way more uptempo, more about every individual player -- I definitely like where he's going."

Just one little touch, Wesley said from Tuesday, was the way they worked "on the Euro step," he said, that quick step one direction then the other to throw a defender off. No big deal. But an individual touch that helps free a player to make a play.

"He's really focused on teaching individual skills," Bryan said. "You can tell how knowledgeable he is about what he's doing."

And he left them with this thought, Bryan said: "Continue to work hard," he told them, "and have fun."

Which is exactly what Zach Banner was doing as the 6-foot-9, 335-pound football-basketball player rode by on his bike at 6:40 after football practice headed to Galen for the basketball banquet.

"I'd stop to talk," he said with a big grin as he kept peddling, "but I've got to get over to basketball."

And in a hurry.

Not a surprise. From Enfield on down, there's no other way to go right now.

Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at weber@uscfootball.com.


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