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USC's James Blasczyk, Dewayne Dedmon suspended amid fight reports

Basketball players will sit out Pac-12 tournament opener against Utah for violating team rules, coach says. Police in Spokane, Wash., are investigating fight that witnesses say involved USC players.

March 12, 2013|By Gary Klein and Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
  • Dewayne Dedmon, right, has been suspended indefinitely from the USC men's basketball team.
Dewayne Dedmon, right, has been suspended indefinitely from the USC men's… (George Nikitin / Associated…)

USC basketball players James Blasczyk and Dewayne Dedmon have been suspended indefinitely from all team activities for violating team rules and will sit out the Trojans' Pac-12 Conference tournament opener against Utah, interim Coach Bob Cantu said Monday.

Police in Spokane, Wash., are investigating a fight that occurred early Sunday. Witnesses have told police they believed USC players were involved, a police spokesman said Sunday.

Neither Spokane police nor USC has identified any Trojans players.

USC announced the suspensions Monday afternoon, a few hours before practice.

"We're cooperating with the people up in Spokane to get more information and find out about these alleged activities that occurred," Cantu said after practice at the Galen Center. "Right now, our focus is on Utah."

Cantu, who took over as interim coach Jan. 14, said the Trojans had a curfew in Spokane on Saturday night after the team's 76-51 loss to Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Cantu, however, declined to specify the time of the curfew or which rules were violated. He said he was made aware of an alleged incident on Sunday but declined to specify whether he heard about it first from players or other sources.

KREM.com first reported the alleged incident Sunday afternoon.

USC players were not made available to the media after practice.

The 7-foot Dedmon averages 6.7 points and a team-best seven rebounds a game. Blasczyk, 7-1, plays about seven minutes a game and averages 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds.

Asked whether Blasczyk or Dedmon could play at some point in the Pac-12 tournament, Cantu said, "possibly. They're suspended indefinitely. Anything can happen."

A Spokane Police Department spokeswoman said 10 to 12 officers responded to a call about a large fight downtown at 2 a.m. Sunday. She said officers found 20 to 30 people involved in a fight that had apparently begun at one location and continued at another.

She said witnesses told police they believed USC basketball players were involved.

Spokane police released a statement Monday saying detectives were in the preliminary stages of "investigating a series of altercations involving a group or groups in downtown Spokane over the weekend." Two Spokane residents were placed under arrest, the statement said.

USC is scheduled to travel to Las Vegas on Tuesday in advance of its tournament opener at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. USC is seeded seventh, Utah 10th. The winner will play California on Thursday.

This is not the first time an off-the-court incident has affected USC during the postseason.

In 2011, former coach Kevin O'Neill was suspended before a conference tournament semifinal after getting into a verbal altercation with an Arizona fan at the team hotel. Cantu coached the Trojans during a 67-62 loss to Arizona.

"When you're coaching, you're always handling situations every day — that's part of the job," Cantu said Monday. "You're not just a coach, you're a mentor, you're a counselor, you're a big brother, you're everything."

Cantu said 7-2 Omar Oraby and forward Aaron Fuller would play more minutes in Dedmon's and Blasczyk's absence and he was optimistic the Trojans could make a run in the tournament.

"It's time to move forward and move on and see what we can do about winning on Wednesday," he said.

Don MacLean, UCLA's all-time leading scorer, and Ernie Kent, former head coach at Oregon, who will be announcing Pac-12 tournament games on television for the Pac-12 Networks, spoke Monday about how the alleged incident might affect the Trojans.

"They've gone away from being a feel-good story," MacLean said, "to feeling a thud."

Kent said it was not a total surprise to hear about the incident. "It's the last game of a hard year and there's some relief in that," he said. "But the incident will do one of two things, either knock them out of whack mentally or they'll rally around each other and play well."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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