USC’s Woolridge Makes Rare Repeat Appearance
By Rodney S. Yap
Southern California will be looking for its first 3-0 start since the 2000-2001 season when it opens with unbeaten Illinois (3-0) in Monday’s opening-round night cap of the 2012 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The Trojans have only started 2-0 three times in the last 12 seasons, picking up a 62-44 victory at Long Beach State last week, meanwhile Illinois is fresh off a come-from-behind win last Friday on Oahu, turning back Hawai’i 78-77 in overtime.
The Fighting Illini are led by new coach John Groce who guided the Ohio Bobcats to the 2012 Sweet 16. Senior guard Brandon Paul leads Illinois in scoring with a 19.7 average in the first three games.
USC’s roster features 12 upperclassmen and returns starters Dewayne Dedmon, Aaron Fuller and Byron Wesley. The Trojans also welcome additions J.T. Terrell, Ari Stewart, Eric Wise and Renaldo Woolridge.
Junior big man Dedmon figures to be in position for a fair amount of playing time after averaging 23 minutes per game last year. Dedmon is one of three 7-footers on the Trojans’ roster, the others are senior James Blasczyk (7-0), and 7-foot-2 junior Omar Oraby, who transferred from Rice. Last season Oraby averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds, while setting the school single-season blocks record with 54.
The other transfers the Trojans will be relying on are junior forward Stewart, a transfer from Wake Forest who sat out last year after playing his freshman year. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore. Another transfer, senior Wise from UC Irvine, brings a unique skill set as a 6-foot-6 forward. Wise averaged 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 20 games for the Anteaters during the 2010-11 season.
Woolridge instantly became the answer to a Maui Invitational trivia question when the senior transferred from Tennessee. That’s because the Vols and Woolridge were here last year, making the son of the late Orlando Woolridge, the first college player not from Chaminade to appear in back-to-back Maui Invitational tournaments.
The 220-pounder joined USC for his last season of eligibility after earning his degree in Sociology from the University of Tennessee. He appeared in 93 games for the Volunteers, including making 20 starts. In 2011, he played in 25 games, making four starts and averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds while playing 13.6 minutes per game
The 6-foot-9 Woolridge who is working towards a masters degree will be called on to produce offense as he is fond of shooting beyond the arc — where he scored 17 points, including five 3-pointers, against Anthony Davis and the No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats last season.
USC (6-26) finished with a school-record number of losses last season, something it hopes to turn around under fourth-year head coach Kevin O’Neill. The Trojans are making their second appearance at the Maui Invitational, going 1-2 in 1999.
MONDAY’S GAME SCHEDULE
Game 1: Butler vs. Marquette, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Mississippi State vs. North Carolina, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3: Texas vs. Chaminade, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 4: USC vs. Illinois, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
TICKETS: To purchase tickets to the 2012 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, please call a Tournament customer service representative at 808-667-DUNK (3865) or visit the onsite box office in person at the Lahaina Civic Center. Hours of operation for the Onsite Box Office are as followed:
– Monday, Nov. 19: 8 a.m. until 30 minutes after the last game
– Tuesday, Nov. 20: 8 a.m. until 30 minutes after the last game
– Wednesday, Nov. 21: 8 a.m. until after half time of Championship Game
Currently the following tickets are available for purchase:
* Single Game General Admission: Ticket to one game. Seating areas include the South Grandstands (sideline bleachers) and East End (baseline bleachers)
* Booster General Admission tickets: Allows access to your team’s three games. North Carolina is sold out.
* Standing Room Only for Single Games: For sold out games, Standing Room Only access will be available once the game match-ups are identified.