To help the players bond during last year's NCAA tournament,
coach Henry Bibby asked each Trojan to sacrifice something he
enjoyed. Power forward Sam Clancy gave up video games. Point
guard Brandon Granville swore off orange juice. Shooting guard
Jeff Trepagnier eschewed junk food. However, Bibby himself
declined to give up what is apparently one of his favorite
things--finding fault with his team.
USC made a surprising trip to the East Regional final last March,
losing to eventual champion Duke and impressing everyone but the
curmudgeonly Bibby in the process. He's likely to be just as
difficult to please this season, which is exactly the way his
players want it. "If he was constantly pumping us up and telling
us nothing but how great we are, he wouldn't be Coach Bibby,"
says Granville, "and we wouldn't be as good."
Bibby lamented the Trojans' supposed lack of toughness to anyone
who would listen last year, even as they went 21-9 in the regular
season and advanced through the first three rounds of the NCAAs.
His postgame assessments of his squad, even after wins, were
unfailingly harsh. "I don't have anybody on this team who will
grab us by the scruff of our necks and won't let us lose," he
said after USC had reached the Sweet 16 by knocking off
third-seeded Boston College. "I have to be that person."
He may not have to be that person this season, because Southern
Cal will start a trio of seniors--Granville, Clancy and small
forward David Bluthenthal--who seem ready to grab the scruff of
whatever necks might need it. They have been toughened not only
by last season's tournament run but also by the physical and
emotional rigor of Bibby's practices. "Coach puts the pressure on
you," says Clancy. "He runs you, then he points out all the
things you're doing wrong, then he runs you some more. Once
you've handled that, the games seem easy."
Even Bibby admits that USC has the talent to put together
another lengthy postseason. "The expectations are high, and they
should be," he says. "The players are here. They just need to be
motivated and pushed. That's my job."
The Trojans will miss the acrobatic Trepagnier, who left early to
go to the NBA, but they have several alley-oop-loving young
players, including 6'2" twin freshman guards Errick and Derrick
Craven and 6'7" junior college transfer Jerry Dupree, to lessen
the impact of his departure. Clancy, 6'7" and 240 pounds, also
declared himself eligible for the draft last spring but withdrew
his name and returns to give USC a powerful inside force. "Sam's
big and strong," Bibby says, "which is good because we're going
to ride him." The Trojans are hoping Clancy will get help inside
from 6'11", 250-pound Kostas Charissis, a steadily improving
junior center from Greece who played sparingly last season.
The Trojans will also need consistency at the point guard
position from Granville, who is talented but streaky. If they get
that consistency, an extended stay in the tournament won't be
nearly as much of a surprise as it was last March. "We can stand
up to any team in the country," says Granville. "We've been
through the fire."
GRADUATION RATE: 50%
AVERAGE NUMBER OF WINS: 16.1
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD: 4-3
MCDONALD'S ALL-AMERICANS: 2
PLAYERS IN NBA: 2
COMMENT: Assistant coach David Miller was twice the subject of
Pac-10 investigations, first for alleged irregularities in the
recruiting of forward Sam Clancy in 1998 and last year in the
recruiting of forward Jerry Dupree, but he was cleared of any
wrongdoing. He has since left the program and is out of coaching.
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF David Bluthenthal 6'7" Sr. 13.5 ppg[#]
PF Sam Clancy 6'7" Sr. 17.3 ppg[#]
C Rory O'Neil 6'11" Fr. 25.1 ppg*
SG Desmon Farmer 6'4" So. 6.4 ppg
PG Brandon Granville 5'9" Sr. 6.1 apg[#]
2000-01 record: 24-10
Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 14
*As high school senior