Forward Derrick Dowell, who was suspended Wednesday from USC's basketball team by Coach Stan Morrison, said Thursday that the incident leading to his suspension has been "blown out of proportion."
Dowell was suspended for the remaining three games of the season when he told an assistant coach that he didn't want to start the second half of Monday night's game against California at the Sports Arena.
"I told the assistant coach that I didn't want to start the second half because I was in foul trouble," Dowell said. "Perhaps that was a mistake. I probably should have told Coach Morrison myself because the tone of his (the assistant's) voice, or the way he said it to Morrison, was completely different than the way I said it to him.
"The assistant coach said, 'Derrick, I can tell you're hurting.' And I told him I was. I was upset because I had three fouls, and there is a trend that as soon as I get into the game in the second half, I'll get a quick fourth foul and I'm sitting on the bench until the final six minutes.
"I really think the whole situation has been blown out of proportion, and it's a shame. It's a communication problem between the two of us. "
Morrison said that he didn't believe Dowell was ready to play. He didn't put Dowell back in the game, which USC lost, 65-63.
The USC coach disputes the notion that there has been a communications problem with Dowell, citing numerous meetings with the player, including a lengthy session that involved Morrison's staff last week.
Dowell met with Morrison Thursday night after failing to appear for a meeting in the coach's office Wednesday morning.
Dowell then released a prepared statement:
"I apologize to the team, coaching staff, the unviersity and the Trojan fans for the misunderstanding which has occurred. I especially apologize to the coaches because they thought I didn't care about the team. Anyone who knows Derrick Dowell knows that isn't true. Those who have followed me know I'm a fighter and I hate to lose. That's why this season (USC is 10-15 overall, 4-11 in the Pacific 10) has been frustrating for me. Hopefully, the adversity I'm going through will strengthen me for later life.
"Some things are being ironed out now between coach and me, and I'm feeling better about the situation. It won't be totally ironed out until next Monday morning, though, when I have another meeting with Coach Morrison."
Morrison said: "I felt giant strides were made in helping Derrick return to the business of being a student and an athlete. When you deal with gifted people, you have high expectations. I certainly have high expectations for Derrick and hope that he likewise will continue to share in those expectations. We'll know more about that after our Monday morning meeting."
Dowell, the Trojans' top rebounder and No. 2 leading scorer, didn't start five games this season because of unexcused missed practice time, mainly tardiness.
"A lot of people have been late, but since I'm in the spotlight, so to speak, Coach Morrison has to handle me differently," Dowell said. "If it was a player who doesn't get much playing time, it doesn't make that much difference. I think he felt he has to make an example out of me because of my position on the team.
"I think I've been late more than anybody else, but to say no one else has been late is wrong."
Asked to describe his relationship with Morrison, Dowell said: "We've had some problems that could have been worked out and have worked out. That's only normal. We didn't always see eye to eye. But there was a relationship where we could talk. Lately, though, we haven't been able to communicate as close as we have over the years."