A year ago, heralded USC freshman O.J. Mayo scored 32 points, took 27 shots and had seven rebounds and four assists in his first college game. He also had eight turnovers, and the Trojans were upset, 96-81, by Mercer.
This season's freshman star, DeMar DeRozan, wasn't as spectacular in good ways or bad. He had 14 points and took 11 shots. He had three rebounds, two steals, two turnovers and one assist. And USC won its opener, 78-55 over UC Irvine.
"You have all these tremendous expectations placed on you," Coach Tim Floyd said, "and it would be more natural than not to come out and try and show people 'I'm the man.'
"He's never been that way. DeMar is very unselfish and today he took what was given to him. He knew when to, and when not to, try and score. He had a penetration open late in the second half, UC Irvine filled the lane and closed it down, and DeMar kicked the ball to Dwight Lewis for an open three in front of our bench. A guy with an ego would have gone into the lane and tried to do too much."
DeRozan said he purposely tried to be calm.
"I didn't want to rush things," DeRozan said. "I really tried to let the game come to me.
"Of course I wanted to show the fans a little something, but we have Taj [Gibson], we have Daniel [Hackett] for a little showtime. My time will come."
Alex Stepheson, a transfer from North Carolina, was in street clothes on the USC bench. Stepheson, from Harvard-Westlake High, is still waiting to hear whether the NCAA will grant him a hardship waiver.
Stepheson, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior forward, has said he transferred to be close to his father, who is ill.
The NCAA may grant Stepheson a waiver of its rule of sitting out a season after transferring.
Floyd said he hopes to have a decision in time to allow Stepheson to travel with the team to San Juan for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament Nov. 20-23.
"All we know is that the process is in North Carolina's hands," Floyd said. "It's a new part of the transfer waiver policy. The school a player is leaving from now has a voice in whether or not to grant a waiver.
"The information, I think, was sent to North Carolina last Thursday and they have 10 days to respond. Hopefully, they'll give us a response by Monday, certainly before we go to San Juan.
"We don't want to leave him here, but if we get the waiver later we'll fly him in later. I think he's probably worth buying a late plane ticket for."