When redshirt sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon and junior center James Blasczyk graduated from high school in 2008, each had a better shot at knocking down a blindfolded full-court heave than knowing what the future had in store for them on the basketball court.
Dedmon was headed to Antelope Valley College to go to school part-time, while simultaneously honing the basketball skills he’d just discovered playing organized basketball for the first time his senior year.
Blasczyk, on the other hand, was ranked as a top-50 prospect in the state of Texas by Texashoops.com, and had decided to attend Texas A&M.
Three-and-a-half years and several transfers later, the two 7-foot centers have joined forces, hoping to serve as a formidable front court duo for the USC men’s basketball team this season.
“That’s a big matchup problem, because you’ve got two seven-footers that can rebound the ball,” Dedmon said. “If the other team has just one predominant big man, then the little guy is going to have to guard the other seven-footer on the team, so it’ll be a mismatch down low with that, and we’ll have openings.”
After averaging 6.6 points and 7.8 rebounds for Antelope Valley College, Dedmon transferred to USC in 2010, sitting out all of last season in order to preserve three years of eligibility. Despite Dedmon’s inexperience, USC coach Kevin O’Neill insists Dedmon will be a future NBA draft selection — if he were to leave — come June.
“There’s no question [Dedmon is] a first-round pick,” O’Neill told ESPN.com last summer. “And he’ll average a double-double in his first year [at USC].”
Even still, Dedmon isn’t daunted by his pending Division-I debut.
“It adds pressure, but at the same time, you’ve just got to keep playing your game,” Dedmon said.
“Playing your game” is a bit tougher when wearing a cast, as Dedmon recently discovered. After breaking his right hand during a team practice Oct. 11, the 7-foot, 255-pound big man decided to turn his misfortune into inspiration by developing his naturally dominant, but little-used, left hand.
“I’m actually left-handed, I just play with my right hand,” Dedmon said. “If I had a choice to go left or right, I would always go right. But now that this is forcing me to go left every time, I’m a lot more confident in it. I’ll definitely use both hands [in games].”
The cast, however, was removed during the Trojans’ closed scrimmage Saturday against Air Force, and Dedmon is expected to be back in the lineup when the season begins Friday against CSU Northridge.
According to Dedmon, a stronger left hand has helped him develop.
“I feel like I’ve improved in every way,” Dedmon said.
Blasczyk, a 7-foot-1, 260-pound bruiser with a soft shooting touch, is anxious to return to the hardwood after transferring twice that took him from Texas A&M to Lee College before eventually finding the right fit at USC.
“I’ve pretty much been sitting out three years, so I’m ready to play,” Blasczyk said. “I redshirted twice, and I sat out at A&M.”
Blasczyk’s interest in the Trojans stems from the warm, family vibe he feels from O’Neill and the rest of his staff.
“I can walk into [Coach O’Neill’s] office any time I want,” Blasczyk said. “At A&M I had to schedule three weeks ahead of time to talk to [coach Mark] Turgeon. Even when I wanted to transfer, I had to schedule an appointment to tell them I wanted to transfer.”
Now that Blasczyk has finally found his comfort zone at USC, he hopes to continue to progress in skills specific to his position.
Dedmon is projected to be the Trojans’ starting center, but Blasczyk will play an important role coming off the bench and should log major minutes.
In some instances, O’Neill might opt to send his two big men into the fray at the same time.
“It gives us NBA-type size on the floor,” O’Neill said. “We’re experimenting a lot … with Dewayne at the three spot because he’s agile enough to do that, and a good enough shooter. We’re just trying to figure [who are] going to be our best five guys to have on the floor.”
As for Dedmon’s anticipated responsibilities on the team, he has a number of goals in mind to assist the Trojans.
“That’s why I’m here — to rebound, make shots and help us win,” Dedmon said.
Blasczyk, on the other hand, identified one trait in particular he and Dedmon are determined to emulate all season long.
“Toughness,” Blasczyk said.