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Bryce Jones faced dismissal from USC's basketball team if he didn't transfer

The freshman guard announced last week that he was leaving because of a lack of playing time. People close to and inside the program say incidents on and off the court forced Coach Kevin O'Neill to give him an ultimatum.

January 24, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC Coach Kevin O'Neill talks with guard Bryce Jones during a game against Cal State Fullerton earlier this season.
USC Coach Kevin O'Neill talks with guard Bryce Jones during a game… (Kirby Lee / US Presswire )

In a news release sent out by USC last week, reserve guard Bryce Jones said he left the Trojans' basketball program because he wasn't getting enough playing time. But it appears the situation was far more complicated than that.

People close to and within the USC program said the freshman from Woodland Hills Taft High, the top-ranked player in Coach Kevin O'Neill's 2010 recruiting class, quickly wore out his welcome with his actions on and off the court.

In October, Jones allegedly struck fellow freshman Garrett Jackson in the team locker room, fracturing his nose, teammates who witnessed the incident said. He also had a confrontation with a resident advisor in his dormitory.

Eventually, Jones was given an ultimatum by O'Neill: Transfer or face dismissal from the team.

Jones' stepfather, K.C. Jones, confirmed the argument with the dorm advisor but said he was not aware of a locker room fight. He also denied Jones was threatened with dismissal, saying he left because "It would have been torture for him to play out the year with a coach he wasn't happy with."

Numerous attempts to speak to Bryce Jones at his dormitory and by telephone failed, and he did not return multiple messages left for him by phone and text. Jackson declined to talk about the locker room incident.

K.C. Jones said O'Neill lied during the recruiting process when he "guaranteed" Bryce would play 30 minutes a game.

O'Neill denied making such promises, adding, "I'm sorry I couldn't meet his needs as a coach. I hope his future is a bright one."

K.C. Jones said Bryce was "attacked verbally" by the resident advisor, adding, "When you're attacked verbally, you respond. You don't just stand there and get abused."

Jones started USC's first 10 games, averaging 11.2 points in 28.1 minutes. But after junior guard Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, became eligible, Jones became a reserve.

In his final eight games, Jones played an average of 11.1 minutes, at times letting his frustration show even when O'Neill called on him.

Taft High Coach Derrick Taylor said Jones didn't have problems in high school that went beyond routine scuffles.

"No, nothing out of the ordinary," Taylor said. "He had a run-in or two in a few years, but quite a few kids got into it with each other."

Jones was the City Section's John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award winner his senior season at Taft, when he averaged 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds and led the school to the third round of the Division I state playoffs.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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