Two USC centers, senior James Blasczyk and junior Dewayne Dedmon, have been suspended indefinitely from all team activities for violating a team rule, USC interim head coach Bob Cantu announced Monday in a written statement.
The announcement came after local media outlet KREM.com reported that Spokane police were investigating a brawl in downtown Spokane, Wash., early Sunday morning that witnesses said might have involved USC basketball players.
Blasczyk and Dedmon are rumored to be the two USC players involved in the incident, which police responded to around 2 a.m. Sunday morning. USC has not confirmed any link between the incident in Spokane and the suspensions. It is not yet determined if other USC basketball players were present at the scene of the fight, which sent four people to the hospital. One person reportedly suffered a broken nose, while another sustained a broken jaw. The team was spending Saturday night in Spokane after losing 76-51 at Washington State that afternoon.
“Detectives are in the preliminary stages of their investigation and are still gathering facts and conducting witness interviews,” said Spokane police in a statement. The city’s police department also reported that two Spokane residents have been arrested in association with the weekend incidents, and that updates are not expected to be released Monday.
Cantu addressed the status of the incident in a statement today, saying, “Separately, we are aware of the Spokane investigation into an alleged incident involving those players and we are cooperating with the authorities to determine the facts. Until we learn all the facts, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The duration of the suspensions remains unknown, but Cantu insisted that both Blasczyk and Dedmon would not play on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.
“They will miss the first game for sure on Wednesday,” Cantu said. “[Beyond Wednesday], possibly. They’re suspended indefinitely, and anything could happen, for sure.”
The 7-foot Dedmon has started in 29 of USC’s 31 games this season, leading the Trojans with 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Dedmon is also averaging 6.7 points per game on 50 percent shooting, and had a season-high 18 points in the Trojans’ loss to Washington on Wednesday before being limited to four points on Saturday.
The 7-foot-1 Blasczyk has played in 21 games this year as USC’s third center. He was averaging 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 7.0 minutes per game. The senior played four minutes against Washington State, missing two shots and picking up a foul.
“They understand. They were cooperative and they were great,” Cantu said. “We just had a great practice with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It’s time to move forward and see what we can do about winning on Wednesday.”
USC practiced at the Galen Center on Monday and will be in Las Vegas on Tuesday before taking on Utah on Wednesday. USC defeated the Utes 76-59 in their only meeting this season, which turned out to be former head coach Kevin O’Neill’s final game before being fired.
With the pair unavailable for Wednesday, 7-foot-2 junior center Omar Oraby and 6-foot-6 senior forward Aaron Fuller are likely to receive the increase in minutes during the Pac-12 Tournament. Averaging just 5.3 minutes this season, 6-foot-9 senior forward Renaldo Woolridge could also see additional time to fill a potential lack of size Dedmon and Blasczyk’s absence.
“The luxury you have is that you can go small and you can play Renaldo or [junior forward] Ari Stewart at the four spot,” Cantu said. “All in all, with Omar, it’ll be a good opportunity for him to play more minutes. The thing he has to do is not get into foul trouble early, and he’s got to keep his wind and not get tired.”
USC players were unavailable for comment after Monday’s practice, but Cantu was confident his team would remain focused in preparation for Wednesday’s game.
“The message is, ‘let’s move forward and let’s win.’ This is the game plan for Utah, this is what we need to do,” Cantu said. “I was actually very impressed with the enthusiasm we just had at practice. Guys were very enthusiastic, very focused and looked like they’re ready to play.”