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Byron Wesley is a bright spot in a dim USC basketball season

Freshman guard is getting an opportunity to play because of injuries to other players and is more than holding his own.

February 08, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • USC guard Byron Wesley and Nebraska guard Dylan Talley chase after a loose ball during the first half of a nonconference game earlier this season.
USC guard Byron Wesley and Nebraska guard Dylan Talley chase after a loose… (Bret Hartman / Associated…)

USC's struggles and injuries have put the Trojans on track for one of their worst men's basketball seasons in school history.

But there has been an upside.

Freshman Byron Wesley is quickly gaining more experience than either he or Coach Kevin O'Neill could have hoped for when Wesley arrived from Etiwanda High.

Wesley, a 6-foot-5 guard, is averaging 34 minutes per game for the 6-18 Trojans, who play host to California on Thursday night and Stanford on Sunday at the Galen Center.

Wesley is averaging 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds for a team that fell to 1-10 in the Pac-12 Conference after losses last week at Washington State and Washington.

"It's been tough, but I'm just blessed to get this opportunity to be playing at this high level and getting this many minutes every game," Wesley said. "So you just have to look at it not from the negative, but from the positive."

In the wake of season-ending injuries suffered by five players, Wesley and sophomore forward Garrett Jackson have been recent bright spots.

Wesley had 12 points and five rebounds in the Trojans' 60-53 loss to Washington State and also in the team's 69-41 defeat by Washington.

O'Neill said Jackson, who scored 15 points in both games, and Wesley "have really started to make some strides."

With only two players taller than 6-7, the Trojans are launching shots from the perimeter with abandon. They made nine of 25 three-point shots against Washington State, but only one of 16 against Washington.

"We're telling guys, 'If you get open, shoot the ball,' " O'Neill said. "We're not running anything for anyone inside other than Byron."

Wesley is confident that the experience he has gained will help next season when the Trojans will be back to full strength.

Meantime, he is preparing for the final seven regular-season games and the Pac-12 tournament.

The Trojans lost at Cal, 53-49, and at Stanford, 51-43, in the first half of conference play.

"We took Cal to the wire last time, so we think we can play with them," Wesley said. "We played with Stanford the whole game.

"We're still confident that we can get some wins."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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