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Inside College Basketball | USC REPORT

Pruitt shows his value at point

February 14, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

He's not averaging as many points or making as many three-point shots as a season ago.

So why is Gabe Pruitt more valuable than ever?

The USC junior guard has become indispensable because of his successful transition to running the point, a position he is expected to play at the pro level.

Since Pruitt returned from academic ineligibility and moved into the starting lineup against Washington on Dec. 28, the Trojans have averaged 12.3 turnovers a game. In their first 13 games, they averaged 19.1 turnovers.

"People understand from the past couple of years that I've played that I'm able to score," said Pruitt, a converted shooting guard whose scoring average is down from 16.9 points last season to 10.4 this year.

"Now it's there for me to show that I'm able to run a team and distribute the ball to different players and run an offense as well as defend my position."

Pruitt has more assists (50) than turnovers (30), but his most impressive play of late may have come on defense, where he's helped contain such players as Oregon guard Aaron Brooks.

"We had no chance to win early in the year because we couldn't stay between point guards and the basket, and he didn't do it very well early because it was an adjustment for him guarding a different position," Coach Tim Floyd said of Pruitt.

"But he's done a better job of that. I've been real pleased with him."

Pruitt has two other distinctions that make him attractive to NBA scouts: At 6 feet 4, he's taller than most point guards, and he is a renowned three-point shooter.

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Senior guard Lodrick Stewart sat out practice Tuesday because of a sore throat but said he expected to return today.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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