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USC BASKETBALL

Freshman guard Bryce Jones will transfer from USC

He got his wish to play immediately, but has seen his minutes evaporate after the more experienced Jio Fontan became eligible. It leaves the team already struggling with depth even shorter.

January 18, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC guard Bryce Jones slam dunks in the first half against UC Irvine at the Galen Center.
USC guard Bryce Jones slam dunks in the first half against UC Irvine at the… (Christina House / For The…)

One of the main reasons Bryce Jones signed to play basketball at USC was the chance to play immediately.

The freshman guard was granted that wish, and shined at times, showing flashes of the potential USC Coach Kevin O'Neill raved about last summer.

But when a more experienced and talented guard became eligible in December, Jones, a former Woodland Hills Taft standout, saw his minutes evaporate.

He started coming off the bench. And he grew frustrated.

"He just didn't understand what happened," Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said Tuesday.

On Monday, Jones told O'Neill he would transfer, a decision USC announced Tuesday, leaving the Trojans (10-8, 2-3 in Pacific 10 Conference play) struggling to fix a lineup already short on depth.

"Although my time at USC didn't go exactly how I hoped in terms of playing time," Jones said in a statement, "I appreciate the experience I was offered and I wish my teammates nothing but the best in the future."

O'Neill echoed that sentiment following Tuesday's practice, which Jones did not attend.

"I respect the fact that he wants to go somewhere else," O'Neill said. "I hope he does great."

Recruiting services ranked Jones, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound shooting guard, as the top player in USC's 2010 class. The 18-year-old started his first 10 games, averaging 11.2 points in 28.1 minutes.

But after junior guard Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, became eligible before USC played at Kansas on Dec. 18, Jones became a reserve, and averaged only 3.2 points in 12.2 minutes in his next five games.

Overall, Jones averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 20.6 minutes and was second on the team in three-point jumpers made (20) and steals (20).

"It's unfortunate because I definitely wanted to play with Bryce," Fontan said. "He's one of the reasons I came" to USC.

Jones will stay at USC until the end of this semester. If he chooses to transfer to another Pac-10 school, he will have to sit out two seasons. If he chooses a school outside the league, he will have to sit out one season before becoming eligible before the 2012-13 season.

It is not clear where Jones might transfer, but Taylor said Jones is compiling a list. It's also unclear why Jones made his decision to not play before the season ended.

Jones did not return requests for comment.

Jones did play only 10 minutes at Oregon on Thursday and four minutes at Oregon State on Saturday. O'Neill did not explain Jones' limited playing time. "There's a reason for that, but I'm not getting into that," O'Neill said.

When asked whether he tried to talk Jones out of transferring, O'Neill said the two had several conversations "and it got to a point where it was just the way it was."

O'Neill said he only regrets that "I couldn't meet his needs as a player."

USC will now have two available scholarships next season, and O'Neill said, "We've explored options just in the last couple days."

O'Neill said Jones was a building block for USC's team, which is recovering from sanctions relating to allegations of NCAA violations.

USC had an eight-deep rotation before Jones left. O'Neill said freshman forward Curtis Washington will probably help fill that eighth spot.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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