Rodrick Stewart, who, along with his twin brother Lodrick, were USC's most coveted basketball recruits last year, has asked for and received a release from his scholarship, the school announced Friday.
Stewart, a point guard who started 17 games last season, had already been declared academically ineligible for the fall semester and would have sat out at least the first six games of the season.
On Thursday afternoon, Coach Henry Bibby said he had spoken with Stewart about possibly sitting out the season as a redshirt, thereby saving the player a full year of eligibility.
Bibby also said that he wanted the the 6-foot-4 sophomore back in the Trojan program. However, about the same time Bibby was saying this, the player was telling a reporter that the decision had already been made and that he was leaving.
Lodrick Stewart, though, said he intends to stay at USC and play without his brother for the first time in his life.
"My brother took it hard, but it's best for both of us, we can mature on our own now," Rodrick said Friday night. "Last year, we were always worrying about each other if one of us wasn't playing."
Said Lodrick: "I shed a few tears but he's got to do what's best for him. We're grown now. We're still twins, we'll just be at different schools. I want him to go to a big school like Kansas or Gonzaga where they put out pro point guards. I don't want him in the Pac-10, that would be too hard."
Rodrick said that he had not decided yet on where to transfer, but added that he would stay at USC through the fall semester.
"There was no real final thing, I've just been thinking about it since the end of last season when we lost to Arizona," he said. "It just hit me now."
It's apparent that USC, at least at one time, believed Rodrick would be a key member of the Trojan basketball team. In its literature promoting its soon-to-be-built Galen Center basketball arena, which is scheduled to open in two years, his image is superimposed on the scoreboard above the court.
Getting the highly recruited Stewarts was seen as a coup for USC and Bibby after the Seattle-area brothers had initially said they were staying home to attend Washington.
But their first seasons were marked by a feud with the Trojans' other twins, Derrick and Errick Craven, and by run-ins with Bibby caused by their glib candor with reporters. For most of last season, the coach deemed both Stewarts off limits to reporters.
Rodrick played in 27 games and averaged 4.4 points and 2.1 assists, but he shot only 10% (three of 30) from three-point territory. Lodrick came on strong off the bench at the end of the year, finishing with an 8.7 scoring average while shooting 42.3%.
"I always want the kids to be happy," said Bibby, who is in the next-to-last year of his contract. "It was a good family decision. They thought the kids needed to split to grow. I've kind of seen that. It might be a good thing for them."
Lodrick Stewart led USC with 22 points and five steals in the Trojans' 90-52 defeat of Occidental College in an exhibition in front of 743 at the Lyon Center.
Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt came off the bench to add 10 points with five assists and five steals in 24 minutes and senior center Rory O'Neil had 15 points.
Occidental was led by sophomore forward Ivan Kostic's 22 points.
Shawn Hawkins scored 21 points and Louis Darby had 19 points, including eight from the free-throw line, to lead Long Beach State to a 78-43 victory over UC San Diego in an exhibition game at the Pyramid.