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USC Basketball Practice: Team Readies For Opener At Utah State

Alexander Wowra |
November 6, 2013 | 7:05 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

USC basketball opens the season in just two days. (Alexander Wowra/Neon Tommy)
USC basketball opens the season in just two days. (Alexander Wowra/Neon Tommy)
USC basketball head coach Andy Enfield revealed Tuesday that he and his staff are getting closer to selecting the starting five for the team's season opener at Utah State on Friday.

He said that he is set on starting Omar Oraby at center, whose performance over the last few weeks Enfield deemed "terrific." The 7-foot-2 Egypt native is facing a very different situation from last year, when he was a junior amongst seniors. This year, the system is built to work around him, with Oraby taking a crucial role and being assigned a team captain by Enfield.

"He’s an excellent basketball player, but he’s a little quiet at times and we want him to go more vocal, and also he needs to realize that the team relies on him every time he steps on the court," Enfield explained. 

In addition, the Trojan coach was pleased with the performances of his wing players, J.T. Terrell and Byron Wesley, as well as the team's point guards and power forwards. He pointed out that he hasn't decided on each of the five starters, but acknowledged that "two or three spots are set but there is still some competition." When asked when the final decision will be made, he replied, "Maybe today, maybe tomorrow or on Thursday."

Enfield and the players are looking forward to Friday's game at Utah State. "It’s a great test for our team," Enfield said. "We will find out where we are early on."

"Everyone is excited to start the season on the road and play in the kind of environment that Utah State has, and see the caliber of the team we are," guard Pe'Shon Howard added.

Utah State, coming off a 21-10 season, is known to be a hostile environment to play in with a loud, passionate home crowd cheering the Aggies on. To fend off that home advantage, Howard noted that it would be crucial for the Trojans to stay poised. "I think the biggest thing would be to keep communicating. You know that’s the way when things get loud, you still have to talk, you can’t be quiet. When you’re on the road...you have to set the [tone of the] environment," the 6-foot-3 senior transfer from Maryland asserted. 

Meanwhile, Enfield remains optimistic about the team's progress in adapting his strategic philosophy. Over the last few weeks, he has tried to instill the kind of up-tempo offense that led him and his former Florida Gulf Coast team to a surprisingly deep run in last year's March Madness tournament. One of the core pieces of this playing style is the creation of many turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. "We’ve had a lot of deflections and steals today, I thought our energy on defense was great, so the system’s there," he said following Tuesday's practice.

Howard struck a similar tone, but he still saw room for improvement. "One thing is that we get deflections, but we also got to make sure we come up with the ball," he said.

In the meantime, the team is now fully focused on Friday. "I expect our players, when the tip goes off, to be ready to go and adjust to whatever they throw at us," Enfield said.

Howard's promise: "Up-tempo, a lot of smiles...and expect a team that’s going to give it their all and wear that USC on our chest with pride."

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