USC Basketball: Jio Fontan Out For Season
The injury occurred Tuesday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil, during the third game of the Trojans’ Brazilian exhibition trip.
Last season, Fontan led the Trojans in assists (3.9 APG) and was second in scoring (10.5 PPG), despite being ineligible to play first semester due to transfer rules. The 6-foot guard from Paterson, N.J., transferred to USC from Fordham, and was looking forward to serving as the leader of the Trojans in his senior season.
Fontan will apply for medical redshirt in hopes of returning for a fifth season, in which the Trojans would feature the same core players.
With Nikola Vucevic departing for the NBA, and Alex Stepheson, Marcus Simmons and Donte Smith graduating, the Trojans were projected to have only two returning rotation players from last season – Fontan and sophomore guard Mo Jones. But with Fontan out for the season, Jones will have to shoulder even more of the scoring and leadership role for the Trojans. In fact, although he’s only a sophomore, Jones is now the Trojan’s most experienced player.
"I couldn't feel worse for any player I've coached in my career," said head coach Kevin O'Neill. "Jio is the heart and soul of our team and had become a high-level player. His loss is a huge blow to our team. Our best thoughts go out to Jio and his family during his recovery.”
Moving forward, the Trojans will be faced with the daunting task of replacing Fontan’s scoring (28.5 PPG through the first two games), passing, defense and leadership.
It appears freshman guard Alexis Moore will take over Fontan’s starting spot and play sidekick to Jones. Freshman guard/forward Byron Wesley and junior guard Greg Allen are sure to see their minutes increase as well, as it will take a collective effort for the Trojans to remain competitive.
The only good news for the Trojans this season is that the competition in the Pac-12 isn’t looking too fierce.
While this season’s squad lacks the offensive firepower that last season’s had, it makes up for their lack of star power with a surplus of depth. The Trojans played better with their backs against the wall last season, and one can only hope they will do the same again.
O’Neill remains confident in his team despite the loss of Fontan.
"It changes things a lot," he said. "You need the heart and soul of our team on the floor mixing with the rest of the team."