Errick Craven had an inkling that he would not start USC's season opener at Western Michigan last Friday -- the junior shooting guard and his brother Derrick were 20 minutes late to a 6 a.m. practice just before the trip -- but he was still miffed at being relegated to the bench for the opening tip.
Especially with the reasoning behind Coach Henry Bibby's decision.
Bibby, who did not take lightly Craven's preseason comment that he was "bored" with practices, said he had been disappointed with Craven's seeming lack of effort in practice and as such, Craven, who'd started 54 of the 61 games he played as a freshman and sophomore, was replaced by freshman Lodrick Stewart in the Trojans' 83-65 loss to the Broncos. A distracted Craven fouled out in 16 minutes, making one of five shots.
"He says he wants more," Craven said of Bibby. "I don't know if he wants me to be Superman or what. But I'm going to try.
"I'm not a loser. I don't think I'm selfish. I think I just go out there and try to win. If he doesn't play me, he doesn't play me. If he feels that the Stewarts [should] start and they help the team, then, hey, he's been around longer than I have. But I'd prefer to start, like anybody would."
Bibby started three newcomers at Western Michigan in Stewart, his brother Rodrick, for Derrick Craven at the point, and power forward Jeff McMillan.
"The Cravens have not gone as hard as I would like them to go at this time to deserve their spots," Bibby said. "So it's a wake-up call for those guys, and it's going to make us a better team down the road."
Errick Craven took umbrage with Bibby's assertion that he wasn't working hard in practice.
"It's all relative, the eyes of the beholder," Craven said. "Sometimes I think I'm playing hard and Bibby says, 'Hey, you're not playing hard,' and I'm like, 'What do you want me to do?'
"He tries to push you to your absolute limit, and there's respect there because he's trying to make us better. We just need to get on the right page."
Craven said he knew the competition for playing time would be more fierce with the arrival of the Stewarts.
"Of course it was going to be competitive with his style of coaching," Craven said. "But I never thought I'd get 16 minutes, like I did in my freshman year. It's regressing instead of progressing."
Bibby said he still hoped to regain senior guard Roy Smiley (left ankle) by January.... Lisa Leslie, a three-time All-American at USC, has been hired by Fox Sports Net as an analyst for Trojan men's games. ... Bibby has named Derrick Craven and McMillan as team captains.