USC basketball team looks to turn around season in Hawaii
By Joey Kaufman
LOS ANGELES — The course of USC’s highly anticipated basketball season has dramatically shifted over seven weeks.
After a practice in November, four days before it tipped off, Chimezie Metu discussed his decision to return to school for a junior season, foregoing the NBA Draft. The athletic 6-foot-11 forward noted it as “a great opportunity for us to win a national championship.”
Keep in mind: USC has never won an NCAA title in men’s basketball, nor been to the Final Four in more than a half-century, but the oozing optimism didn’t sound far-fetched. The team was then No. 10 in the Associated Press poll and returned every significant contributor from a group that fell short of the Sweet 16 the previous March.
The mood looked zapped earlier this week.
Late Tuesday, when Metu arrived at a post-game news conference following an overtime loss to Princeton, he wore a “#FREEDMELT” t-shirt in support of De’Anthony Melton, underscoring the ongoing subplot to the Trojans’ season. Melton, a versatile sophomore guard, had not played in the first 10 games amid a school investigation into his eligibility in connection with an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball. It was the third straight game that Metu emerged from the locker room sporting the t-shirt as a sort of mini protest.
“It’s not fair to him that he’s not playing,” Metu said after the loss. “It’s about time. He did nothing wrong. And we need him back on the court.”
According to Melton’s attorney, USC has for the first time declared Melton ineligible to travel with the team to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, a holiday tournament it begins Friday against Akron.
Melton’s continued absence has drawn much of the focus during what once looked like a potential banner season for the resurgent program under Coach Andy Enfield.
After a […]