In USC's season-opening 66-59 win Friday night over the Cal State Northridge Matadors, it lived up to the hype. Or lack thereof.
But lodged around the key, there remained one bright sight in sophomore DeWayne Dedmon. Dedmon, who scored 16 points for the Trojans Friday--more than his entire high school career--could prove to be USC's most potent weapon this season.
The 7-0, 255-pound forward enrolled at USC in January from Antelope Valley Junior College. He had been practicing with the Trojans for 11 months, but had no idea what it would be like stepping onto the floor of the Galen Center for a real game.
"It's like night and day. Junior college is a level up from high school," Dedmon said. "We didn't have a student section at [Antelope]. We didn't have none of that [there]. I like to feed off the energy of the crowd."
Dedmon must have been hungry, because his energy was palpable on both sides of the ball. While his excitement contributed to two early fouls (a total of four on the night), it also helped him grab eight rebounds, three blocks and an assist.
"I want to be an all around player, do everything to help my team win," he said.
That mentality was visible when the game got tight. While USC led for almost the game's entirety, CSUN took a brief 52-50 lead with five minutes to play after an offensive spark from Matadors guard Vinnie McGhee. But Dedmon helped the Trojans stay close. A quick putback, coupled with a jumper from point guard Maurice Jones, tied the game at 54.
While still raw, Dedmon's athleticism isn't debatable. With 19 seconds left and the score within three, Dedmon punched the ball toward the backcourt on a CSUN possession to help the Trojans regain control.
And he's a fighter.. Dedmon suffered cramping in the third quarter, admittedly from a lack of hydration. But he didn't want his first Divison-1 college game to expire while sitting on the bench, so he went back in after just a game-minute's worth of stretching.
This game might not have been the cleanest of all season openers. The Trojans might seem like it has a roster full of more injured or inexperienced players than healthy or veteran ones. And USC will probably not be a national-title contender this season.
But through the bleak and murky, Dedmon appears to be a true star. It's in his frame, his mindset and his output. His athleticism will keep Trojans competing in tight games and his toughness will help USC continue battling to the end.
And if this standout continues to evolve and expand his game, he just might be able to help him team continue winning.