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USC Opens Post-Raveling Era Tonight : College basketball: Trojans play host to New Mexico State, defending Big West champion, in Preseason NIT opener.


The post-George Raveling era for USC basketball will officially begin tonight when the Trojans play New Mexico State in a first-round Preseason NIT game at the Sports Arena.

Charlie Parker, who was named interim coach for the season after Raveling's retirement Monday, will coach his first game against the defending Big West champion before a national television audience on ESPN at 9.

Not an enviable task for any new coach.

"I'm fortunate in that I've been working with the team since the start of the season," said Parker, who had been an assistant at USC for the last seven years. "It would be more awkward if I had to make the total change today. The adjustment isn't that bad, since I've been acting (as head coach) from the first day."

Parker and assistant Jack Fertig had been working as co-coaches since Raveling was hospitalized after a traffic accident Sept. 25.

"The circumstances that led to this change are very unfortunate, but it's good to know that Coach Raveling had enough confidence to relinquish the job to me," said Parker, who was a head coach for six seasons at Wayne State in Detroit. "Now it's up to me to get the job done."

Athletic Director Mike Garrett said Monday that although Parker is listed as an interim coach, the job is his to lose.

"I don't expect him to win and be dominating right away, but I do hope to see that in the future," Garrett said. "I want to see Charlie's style and how he relates to kids and how they play for him. Also, to see how our fans like our style."

Parker's coaching future is important for USC's recruiting for next season. The early signing period for high school seniors ends today and the Trojans are behind schedule.

Parker and his staff have to play catch-up, now that Raveling--known for his relentless recruiting--no longer is in charge.

"The way things happened, we were hurt with early signings," Parker said. "A positive thing for us, however, is that a good number of talented players are still available because they have not yet committed."

With three scholarships to give for next season, the Trojans already have received a letter of intent from Damion Dawson, a 6-foot-3 point guard from Long Beach Poly, and hope to have a commitment from a top recruit from Tennessee by the end of the day.

And they are still in the picture with the top two players in Southern California, Paul Pierce of Inglewood and Tommy Prince of Compton Dominguez, who plan to make their choices in the spring.

Pierce, a 6-foot-7 guard-forward, is regarded as the West Coast's top player after averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds a game as a junior. He lists USC along with Arizona, California, Nevada Las Vegas, Oregon and UCLA as his top six.

Prince, a 6-5 guard-forward, is a versatile player who averaged 15 points and eight rebounds a game last season. UNLV, Oregon, UCLA and USC are believed to be his final four schools.

"With so many players signing late, it's to our advantage that they are doing that," Parker said. "Hopefully, they'll get a chance to see some exciting basketball and for us to win some games."

Parker's up-tempo style may be the best way for the Trojans to win this season. Aside from two unproven seven-footers in Kirk Homenick and David Crouse, USC will feature a small lineup that already has lost one of its top rebounders, senior Tremayne Anchrum, who is sidelined because of a knee injury.

"We're going to change a few things in picking up the tempo and do more gambling-type things on defense," Parker said. "The changes will be gradual but we'll have a solid base of what Coach Raveling has already done."

Under Raveling, USC traditionally was a slow-starting team that peaked for Pacific 10 Conference play. In years past, however, the Trojans' preseason schedule was dotted with weaker opponents. That will not be the case this season.

Not only does USC play New Mexico State, but the Trojans will also face Temple, Utah, Houston and Southern Methodist before the start of Pac-10 play.

"We're going to have to stick together," senior Lorenzo Orr said. "We'll come out with a more run-and-gun style. You'll see certain players do things they haven't done in the past. We'll have the best of both worlds."

The question is, will they have enough of those worlds?

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