USC will receive a big boost Saturday when transfer guard Jio Fontan, a junior, will be eligible to play in his first game when the Trojans face No. 3 Kansas.
It receives a smaller but still important boost Thursday when 7-foot junior college transfer Dewayne Dedmon becomes eligible to practice with the team.
Dedmon, from Antelope Valley College, enrolled at USC in January and isn't eligible to play for the Trojans until next season.
He'll be a sophomore then with three seasons of eligibility remaining and is expected to fill the hole left by the departure of 6-foot-10 forward Alex Stepheson, a senior this season.
But for now, USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said just having Dedmon in practice improves the team because his presence poses a challenge for Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic.
"He'll really help out the pace of our practices," O'Neill said. "It helps size-wise, but he plays hard, and it's going to force Nik and Al to play harder to get the job done in practice every day."
USC is a relatively short team, with only 6-foot-10 freshman forward Curtis Washington as a plausible backup for Stepheson and Vucevic.
O'Neill described Dedmon as "really athletic, shoots the ball from three-point range, excellent shot-blocker, excellent nose for the ball, good rebounder, and just a hard-playing guy."
Dedmon was recruited by Texas, Louisiana State, California, Nevada Las Vegas and USC, said USC assistant Dieter Horton, who coached Dedmon at Antelope Valley before resigning to take a job at USC in April.
Dedmon, a Lancaster native, verbally committed to USC last November and said he did so because he wanted to stay close to home and he liked the opportunity to play early.
Stepheson said that X-rays Tuesday showed the fracture in his left hand, which occurred in USC's season-opening win against UC Irvine on Nov. 13, is healing on schedule and he should be free of his brace in about two weeks.
In his last five games, Stepheson is averaging 11.8 points and 10.6 rebounds while shooting 64.4% (29 for 45).
The Trojans plan to attend the women's volleyball national semifinal match Thursday night between USC and California in Kansas City. If USC wins, it will face either Texas or Penn State in the national championship Saturday.