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Gambling on Wake Forest transfers J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart hasn’t paid off for USC

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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J.T. Terrell (USATSI)

The calculated risk former USC coach Kevin O'Neill took on a pair of talented but troubled Wake Forest transfers hasn't worked out as well as the Trojans hoped.

High-scoring guard J.T. Terrell has been ruled academically ineligible for the rest of the winter semester and will miss a minimum of six games, USC announced Thursday night. That comes on the heels of an August announcement declaring forward Ari Stewart academically ineligible for his senior season.

Though Stewart was a reserve who provided outside shooting and perimeter defense in limited minutes, Terrell had been expected to be one of the mainstays of Andy Enfield's first USC team. The 6-foot-3 senior tallied double figures in his final 11 games last season and put up 20 points against Utah State in USC's season opener earlier this month.

Terrell's potential return will depend on his final exams next month. Passing grades could get him on the floor as soon as Dec. 19 against Long Beach State, but his college career could be over if he doesn't succeed in the classroom.

“There’s not a whole lot I can do as a coach other than give support," Enfield told the Los Angeles Daily News. "We have tutors, an unbelievable academic support system here with advisors and learning specialists. If you can’t succeed, it’s not USC’s fault. It’s not the program’s fault. It’s your fault. I think J.T. understands that. He needs to mature and do what he needs to do."

USC can't say it was blindsided by the academic woes of Terrell and Stewart because a lack of maturity is what led to their departure from Wake Forest.

Stewart was suspended for academic reasons when he left Wake Forest in March 2011. Terrell, a onetime four-star recruit, drew criticism at Wake Forest for his shot selection and attitude and eventually was dismissed from school in 2011  after he was arrested on charges of driving while impaired and driving after consuming alcohol.

It's safe to say Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik wasn't exactly heartbroken to say goodbye to two of the program's key contributors.

"I sleep easy at night,'' Bzdelik told the Winston Salem Journal at the time. "The phone's not ringing at 1:30 in the morning.

"I don't have to motivate guys to give an effort. I can now teach. And that's a great feeling for a coach ... Last year I had to give a Knute Rockne speech to get guys to run up and down the court."

Enfield can probably commiserate with Bzdelik now.

The roster Enfield inherited from O'Neill wasn't stocked with talent even before USC lost Terrell and Stewart. Now, the Trojans' chances of enjoying much success in Enfield's debut season only looks more unlikely.

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