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USC basketball: Omar Oraby, home from Egypt and ready to run

September 27, 2013|By Diane Pucin
  • At 7-foot-2, center Omar Oraby, center, is the tallest player on USC's team this season.
At 7-foot-2, center Omar Oraby, center, is the tallest player on USC's… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Last year USC had three players 7 feet or taller. Now it's just Omar Oraby left among the big three.

Dewayne Dedmon, 7-0, left with a year of eligibility and signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Golden State Warriors. James Blasczyk, 7-1, finished his eligibility. Oraby, who transferrred from Rice, is 7-2, and in his second year at USC he is under this third coach. Last year Oraby played for Kevin O'Neill, who was fired midseason, and Bob Cantu, who was let go after the season.

New coach Andy Enfield is excited to have a man as large as Oraby to patrol the post, get rebounds and, yes, run the floor.

"I'm in the best shape of my life," Oraby said Friday after his first official practice under Enfield, who prefers that players shoot within six seconds of getting the ball and running on offense and defense. "I might not look like it," Oraby said, "but I can keep up."

In fact, senior guard J.T. Terrell said Oraby was holding his own in running drills with the guards Friday at Galen Center. "He's keeping up," Terrell said.

Enfield is impressed with Oraby's good footwork and sure hands. His only worry about his only true big man is foul trouble. "It's up to Omar," Enfield said. "He has to stay straight up and down. No reaching."

Terrell said that after just one practice it was clear that there would be times when the lineup would be Oraby and four guards. "That's the way we're going to play," Terrell said. "Omar's our height. But we'll all run."

Oraby went home this summer to Egypt, which has been plagued with internal political fighting. "My family is fine and safe," Oraby said, "and I was able to keep up my workouts." And he just smiled when asked if any European teams might have approached him about skipping his final year of college.

"No way," he said. "My parents want me to get a degree no matter what," Oraby said.

And, Oraby said, he's been eager to play ever since USC's final game. Though the Trojans lost by three points to Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament to finish a disappointing 14-18 season, Oraby had his best game of the year, playing a season-high 35 minutes with team highs in points (18), rebounds (10), and blocked shots (two).

"That made me want to get right back at it," Oraby said. "I'm ready to go."

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