USC forward Nikola Vucevic, left, and Coach Kevin O'Neill share a… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )
USC's rebuilding basketball program on Friday was shaken at its foundation. Nikola Vucevic, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, announced he would sign with an agent and make himself available for the NBA draft a year early.
"It's the second year in a row that we've lost four of our top six [players] and 70% of our scoring during sanctions," Coach Kevin O'Neill said. "My job is to make sure we're better. Whether we can do that or not, I don't know."
Vucevic averaged 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and was first-team all-Pacific 10 Conference. He said he signed with BDA Sports Management to show he was making a firm commitment to the draft rather than just "testing the waters."
It's unknown how high Vucevic might be drafted; O'Neill, an NBA coaching veteran, said opinions he's received have varied.
"I just think this is the right time for me to leave," Vucevic said.
Not for USC. The Trojans, who finished 19-15 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, now have two scholarships with plans to sign at least one player soon.
"We've been preparing for this day," said O'Neill, adding that he fully supported Vucevic's decision.
Associate head coach Bob Cantu, USC's lead recruiter, said the Trojans are looking at junior college players and players who are signed but may soon leave because of a coaching change.
USC will use transfers James Blasczyk (7 feet 1), Dewayne Dedmon (7-0), and Aaron Fuller (6-6) to replace Vucevic and 6-10 senior Alex Stepheson.