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James Blasczyk tries to fill a tall order at USC

Injuries are forcing the 7-foot-1 center, the only active player on the roster over 6-7, to pick up the slack with the Trojans even though he is dealing with a bone bruise and a sprained foot.

February 01, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • USC center James Blasczyk, left, puts up a shot as Colorado center Shane Harris-Tunks defends during the first half of the Trojans' loss on Thursday. Blasczyk has seen his role with the team increase in recent games.
USC center James Blasczyk, left, puts up a shot as Colorado center Shane… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

James Blasczyk is not the last man standing for injury-riddled USC, but he's the only one taller than 6 feet 7.

So with Dewayne Dedmon sidelined the rest of the season because of a knee injury, the 7-foot-1 Blasczyk will start at center again Thursday night when the Trojans play at Washington State.

Blasczyk scored four points and had four rebounds in USC's 62-45 victory over Utah on Saturday, a win that ended a losing streak at nine games and improved the Trojans to 6-16 overall and 1-8 in Pac-12 Conference play.

Blascyzk's most impressive feat was playing 29 minutes -- not bad for a player who has not practiced since mid-November because of a bone bruise and sprained right foot.

While teammates run the court, scrimmage and shoot free throws during workouts, Blasczyk is mostly confined to a stationary bike and core work that does not tax his lower body.

"It's not too fun," he said of not being able to participate fully in practice.

Once a game begins, it takes the Texas native awhile to get up to speed.

"I feel kind of rusty," he said. "The first five minutes of every game is kind of rough. But I get my initial wind back and legs back and then I feel pretty good."

Blasczyk said he was best suited to play about 20 minutes per game. But he is ready to go as long as Coach Kevin O'Neill asks him to.

"If he needs me to go 30 or 35, I can conserve myself," Blasczyk said. "I know when it's time to go hard."

USC needs Blasczyk on the court for as long as possible against Washington State. The Trojans have an opportunity to win consecutive games, a feat achieved only once this season, in late November.

Greg Allen steps up

Junior guard Greg Allen spent extra time after practice last week working on his shooting with assistant Dieter Horton.

The work paid off against Utah, with Allen coming off the bench to make three of four three-point shots, including two that keyed the Trojans' first-half surge.

"I'm finally getting my confidence back," said Allen, who averaged 11 points and shot nearly 40% from three-point range last season at Navarro College in Texas. "I haven't been able to really get in a good rhythm."

Allen started four consecutive games -- against Nevada Las Vegas, South Carolina, UC Riverside and Minnesota -- but made only six of 21 shots. As one of only six scholarship players available, Allen's minutes off the bench will increase in the nine remaining regular-season games.

"He's a guy that hopefully does continue to knock down shots and take advantage of" this opportunity, O'Neill said.

"I can shoot the ball a lot better," Allen said. "And I will."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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