This season, the USC men's basketball team is mimicking Oregon's conditioning model.
For football, that is.
The Trojans underwent grueling conditioning sessions four or five days a week in the off-season to prepare for the new up-tempo style Coach Kevin O'Neill wants in games and practices, where players often sprint from one drill to the next.
But USC's mission is different than the Ducks' football team, which has a similar structure.
Instead of wearing teams down with a break-neck, point-a-minute offense, as Oregon does, the Trojans are trying to prepare players for the heavy load of playing time they'll face this season.
"Our whole goal is to get these guys in long-term condition," O'Neill said, adding that they didn't specifically study Oregon's model.
Why? Because USC's thin roster means key players like freshman point guard Maurice Jones will play nearly 40 minutes every game, as he did Monday in an 86-73 win against Santa Clara.
Jones said his conditioning wasn't where it needed to be this off-season.
"When we first started, I'd win the first five [team sprints], then the next two or three, I'd be in the middle, I'd get my breath again and get back to the front," said Jones, who scored 29 points against the Broncos.
Jones has played 40 minutes in his first two games and said while he's sore, he feels ready to play as much as needed.
Jackson catches up
Freshman forward Garrett Jackson felt behind recently after missing 10 practices because of a fractured nose suffered in practice.
He felt even more behind because coaches, working with a shallow lineup, were trying to teach him both the small forward and power forward positions.
But in the tight second half against the Broncos and with senior guards Donte Smith and Marcus Simmons each in foul trouble, the coaches called on Jackson to provide energy.
He responded by making his only shot, grabbing four rebounds and taking a charge in 14 minutes.
"He was a big part of us winning the game," O'Neill said.
Jackson, who is now just learning the small forward position, said those minutes "made me feel like I could play." More than that, he said, is that he proved to the coaches that he can.
Alex Stepheson wore a hard cast placed on his fractured left hand, which he said he'll wear for two to three weeks. … Former Westchester High standout and current St. John's freshman forward Dwayne Polee Jr., a one-time USC commit, scored a team-high 16 points Tuesday on six-for-16 shooting in the Red Storm's season-opening 76-71 loss at St. Mary's.