On Thursday night, USC held a grueling three hour practice in preparation for the Maui Invitational, which tips off on November 19. The tournament will host eleventh ranked North Carolina, mid major powers Butler and Marquette, an always talented Texas team, and others. USC’s first game is against the experienced, and potentially dangerous, Illinois Fighting Illini (9:00 P.M. PST, ESPN 2). Head coach Kevin O’Neill was kind enough to talk about his practice, the Illinois game, and to update us on injuries and potential starters.
Practice before leaving for Maui: “We concentrated totally on ourselves today. We’ll start thinking about Illinois a little bit tomorrow, but our whole thing is to try to get better today and try to work on our defense. It’s a back to basics type day. That’s what we did today, and we had a pretty good practice.”
When he’ll have an idea of who’s starting: “I’ll probably have an idea by Saturday or Sunday.”
Injury update: “As of today, nobody’s hurt.”
Illinois scouting report: “...They’re a veteran team, a great three point shooting team, and they play with energy. I think they’re going to be very competitive in the Big 10. This group of guys, minus one guy, at one point last year was 14-3. They’re a team that’s experienced and high powered offensively. I think they’re a good team.”
Guys who could see time in the rotation: “...Ari Stewart played better the second game and took advantage of his minutes. The bottom line is we’re such a deep team that everybody has to be competitive all the time. The thing I like is that James Blasczyk only played five minutes, but he played a great five minutes. He was in a 12-2 run. He did three great things defensively that led to baskets at the other end, so we’ll see guys keep contributing anytime they get on the court.”
Idea Behind Three Hour Practice: “We were off yesterday, so they did nothing. We’ll go hard today and tomorrow, a little bit hard on Saturday, light on Sunday, then we have to play three games in a row. We go practice hard.”