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June 14, 2014
Returning guards starting new legacy
USC's backcourt was an issue at times last season but don't expect that to be the case this year. While the Trojans are expected to improve because of Jordan McLaughlin and Katin Reinhardt, the other returners in the backcourt could be a great help.
It wasn't fair to expect last season's backcourt to hold up for an entire game but with those two new additions, the Trojans seem deep at guard now. Guys like Julian Jacobs, Kahlil Dukes and Chass Bryan have all shown flashes of brilliance at times. Less responsibility could be just what they needed and some new additions will help.
"We're trying to prepare for great season," Jacobs said. "We have some new faces and they're all likable guys. They're young and hard working. As far as what we're trying to improve on, it's the fundamentals. Skill work and getting in shape is the bulk of our practices now."
All that work is necessary since this team lost a lot of veteran leadership. But they're just trying to come together and improve on last season's record.
"We're just trying to improve individually and come together as a team," Dukes said. "We have some new faces so we're trying to be better than we were last year."
Even though this team is young, an improvement could happen. The Trojans will definitely try to bring a winning attitude to the court this season.
"I think we have different attitudes than last year," Dukes said. "We all want to come together and win. No one is trying to do everything by themselves, we're all sticking together."
Players young and old are finally working towards one common goal this year. A goal to win.
"We have a great attitude this season," Bryan said. "Everyone has been working hard. We have a couple of people coming back from injury so that's good. We've just been building some commorodory and working step by step. By the season, we'll be ready to go. From that first practice, it'll be full steam ahead. It's great getting new guys acclimated and seeing some of the older veterans step up. I think we have a great attitude this year and that the season will be great."
Having such a young team will only help their common bond.
"We're all really young," Jacobs said. "We don't have any seniors and that'll all be in our favor next year. As far as our energy and charisma we bring to the court. We also have a lot of different personalities so hopefully they mix well."
If they don't mix well, it could be a problem. USC doesn't have a Byron Wesley type scorer to single handily make them competitive this season. They need help from everyone.
"Everyone is going to contribute this year," Bryan said. "I don't know if we're going to have one feature player or a lot of guys that give into one team concept. It's great to be a part of something bigger than yourself. I'm just looking to do what I can, everyone is going to do the same and then we're just going to push to try to get to March."
But that problem could actually help USC. Last year, not having a team leader hurt but this season, the Trojans will be prepared.
"Last year one of our issues was that we lacked a true leader," Jacobs said. "That's part of what hindered us. I think that this year there's a lot of guys taking accountability for themselves first. We'll see where that goes and if it leads to a head hauncho. We might not even have one."
Guys are being more accountable because they want to win and therefore, need to shoulder more responsibility.
"Our attitude has improved," Bryan said. "Everyone is positive, up-beat. We know we'll have a great year. We just have to have that confidence in ourselves that well go out and win every game, no matter who the opponent. But our positive attitude has definitely stood out so far."
Before, the Trojans looked disinterested at times on their way to an eleven-win season. Bu now, they're starving to be relevant.
"We're just trying to do all we can to win." Bryan said. "This is my Junior year and we've had two seasons where we didn't win much. I want to win and help the younger guys. I haven't been to the tournament yet so that's the biggest goal."
Bryan and his teammates don't believe that the tournament is out of reach. Last season's problems were about more than talent and the Trojans all have the same goal now.
"I feel like the sum of the parts is going to be greater," Bryan said. "We're all going to work together. It was hard last year. We had a couple of transfers, new guys and a new coach. It's tough that first year out but everyone os going to be on the same page this year. We have a couple of captains leading us. We'll be ready to go. Everyone is going to be on the same page, with the same mindset, striving for one common goal."
And they want to make the tournament playing that high flying style everyone has been waiting to see.
"I'm really looking forward to this year," Jacobs said. "It's going to be exciting to see how this team molds and we're excited for what's going to happen. Hopefully we bring Lob City this year. It started last year but we're going to be a really high energy team this year."