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USC Freshmen Vie for Point Guard Job

October 13, 2006|Ben Bolch and Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writers

The USC men's basketball team opens practice tonight with a pair of unconventional freshmen vying for the starting point guard spot.

Daniel Hackett is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who would still be playing for Bellflower St. John Bosco High had he not graduated a year early to join the Trojans. Kevin Galloway has morphed into something resembling a 6-8 power forward after sprouting nearly four inches over the summer.

Hackett and Galloway have been pressed into duty as ballhandlers in the wake of the shooting death of Ryan Francis and the academic ineligibility of Gabe Pruitt for the first semester.

"Both of them have played there at points in their lives for eight to 10 minutes a game," Coach Tim Floyd said Thursday at a news conference featuring Southern California college basketball coaches at the L.A. Athletic Club. "Now they're going to have to do it all the time.... In some ways, it would be equivalent to us moving [USC wide receiver] Dwayne Jarrett to quarterback and orchestrating an offense."

Floyd said the point guards' exceptional size may necessitate the use of a zone defense at times, "which I hate," to combat quicker opposing guards.

Pruitt could return by the middle of December if he can achieve satisfactory grades, though the junior will sit out key games against Kansas and George Washington. Floyd said he might limit Pruitt's role in practice to help the development of Hackett and Galloway.

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UCLA center Lorenzo Mata had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday to remove cartilage fragments that was expected to sideline the junior four to five weeks, according to Coach Ben Howland.

Mata, a 6-8, 235-pounder from South Gate High, sat out 16 games last season because of a concussion and a broken right leg. He had surgery on the same knee last June and Howland said when Mata began intense workouts for this season that the knee swelled again.

"We're not going to rush rehab," Howland said. "When we get him back we want him back for good."

Despite his injury-plagued season, Mata led the Bruins in blocked shots. Only two weeks after returning from his broken leg, Mata had six rebounds in UCLA's NCAA regional championship win over Memphis and had eight rebounds and two blocked shots in a semifinal win over Louisiana State.

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Former Purdue coach Gene Keady was named the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching winner Thursday. Keady was 512-270 in 25 seasons. Keady joins Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Lute Olson, Denny Crum, Roy Williams, Mike Montgomery, Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim as Wooden Award winners. After a falling out with the L.A. Athletic Club last year over rights to using the name "John R. Wooden Award," Wooden decided he would no longer attend the award ceremony, which is scheduled for April 7 at the club.

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USC will honor Francis during halftime of its home opener Nov. 16 against South Carolina, Floyd said. The Trojans will wear a patch bearing Francis' jersey No. 12 this season, and a locker will be left vacant with his jersey hanging in it. The university is also endowing a scholarship in Francis' honor and constructing a bench outside the Galen Center featuring his jersey number.... USC big men RouSean Cromwell and Abdoulaye N'diaye have been cleared to practice after off-season knee surgeries, but freshman forward Kasey Cunningham may be limited for a while as he continues to recover from a torn ligament in his left knee suffered in January.... The Trojans will practice in the North Gymnasium on campus through Sunday before moving into their new practice facility adjacent to the Galen Center on Monday. The new practice courts feature what Floyd described as a "leg-friendly" playing surface that has more give than traditional courts.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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