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USC's Garrett Jackson expected to get more playing time

With the departure of guard Bryce Jones, Coach Kevin O'Neill says he expects freshman to rise to occasion, and praises his interior passing and unselfish play.

January 20, 2011|By Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times

Freshman guard Bryce Jones called his USC basketball career a wrap Monday after only 18 games, citing a lack of playing time.

The Trojans (10-8, 2-3 in Pacific 10 Conference) already had a shallow lineup before he decided to transfer, so the 11.2 minutes he averaged over his final eight games probably will go to another freshman: Garrett Jackson.

A 6-foot-7, 215-pound Portland native, Jackson is averaging 3.4 points in 9.9 minutes entering Thursday night's game at the Galen Center against Stanford (10-6, 3-2).

That figure should be bumped up to 18 to 20 minutes, USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said Wednesday, which will expedite Jackson's freshman learning curve, because USC has no other choice with just a seven-man rotation.

"Now, he's in a situation where he's going to have to play even if he plays bad," O'Neill said, adding that he is confident in Jackson because of his versatility and unusual basketball maturity.

"He's an excellent interior passer, very unselfish," O'Neill said. "He's always going to do the right thing."

One needs only to examine Jackson's field-goal percentage (72%) to verify that. He takes few bad shots and he uses his surprising athleticism to attack the basket.

Jackson still has to improve on defense, in which he, like the rest of USC's freshmen, struggles. But with his newfound playing time, which he said he's happy to have and doesn't feel pressure to play well under, he plans only to play as hard as he can.

"That's the No. 1 thing me and [O'Neill] talk about," Jackson said. "Just follow the game plan, don't blow defensive assignments, focus on the defensive end and offense will come."

O'Neill said he may also give seven or eight minutes a game to freshman forward Curtis Washington, a raw, 6-foot-10 Kentucky native who played just two seasons of high school basketball.

Washington has appeared in only two games this season for a total of seven minutes.

"I just want to get in there and be a defensive force," Washington said.

As for Jones, though his departure from USC was attributed largely to a lack of playing time, there are indications that other factors played roles.

Jones' playing time shrank from 28.1 minutes in his first 10 games to 12.2 in the next five after junior guard Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, became eligible Dec. 18.

But Jones' playing time didn't plummet until after USC's win over Lehigh on Dec. 23.

In that game, Jones was called for a technical foul for apparently shoving a Lehigh player with 2:34 left, to which O'Neill said, after the game, "Technical fouls are not going to be tolerated."

Jones averaged just seven minutes from that point through his final five games at USC.

O'Neill declined to comment on whether additional actions led to Jones' transfer but made it clear after last season, when he dismissed disgruntled forward Leonard Washington, that he has a strict policy for his players.

Etc.

USC is 9-1 when holding its opponent to under 40% shooting from the field.… Junior forward Nikola Vucevic has recorded double-doubles in five of his last six games and leads the Pac-10 with 11 this season.… The last season USC began with a 10-8 record was 1998-99. That team finished 15-13, advancing to the NIT.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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