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COLLEGE BASKETBALL DAILY REPORT / USC

Youth Movement Pays Off

November 12, 1998|DAVID WHARTON

The way USC players tell it, practices have been a love fest this season.

Senior guard Elias Ayuso says everyone is willing to accept one another. Coach Henry Bibby calls this the most close-knit college team he has ever coached.

"They have a feeling for their teammates," Bibby said. "They're in study hall together. They're in classes together. When they go back home, they're together."

Junior forward Jarvis Turner has two theories to explain all the bonding.

"The last couple of years, there was a big age difference," he said. "We had guys who were 22 or 23 and then there were young guys."

This season, only three players on the roster are older than 20. And 10 of the 16 players are from California.

"We're all West Coast kids," Turner said. "We all know each other from playing in high school and seeing each other around."

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The Trojans shot 65% from the free-throw line in their exhibition game last Saturday. That's a 1% improvement over their average last season--not nearly good enough for Bibby.

The Trojans finished ninth in the Pacific 10 in free-throw shooting, leaving the coach with yet another thing to worry about as he tries to bounce back from a 9-19 season.

"This year we're going to put a lot more emphasis on that." Bibby said. "We need people who can shoot free throws."

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