While plenty of hype surrounds Southern California’s DeMar DeRozan, he doesn’t appear to be feeling any pressure to match the success of the school’s last star freshman.
After a successful debut, DeRozan and the No. 19 Trojans host New Mexico State on Tuesday.
DeRozan was one of the nation’s top recruits coming out of Compton High, where he averaged 29.2 points as a senior and was named a McDonald’s All-American. Comparisons were immediately drawn to O.J. Mayo, who averaged 20.7 points and 4.5 rebounds last season and led the Trojans to a 21-12 record before leaving for the NBA, where he was the third overall pick in the draft.
While DeRozan didn’t have as spectacular a debut as Mayo, who scored 32 points against Mercer in his first college game, he still had a solid afternoon in USC’s 78-55 win over UC-Irvine on Saturday, with 14 points, three rebounds and two steals.
“It was exciting,” said DeRozan, who played 28 minutes. “I didn’t want to rush nothing. I wanted to let the game come to me. My time will come.”
DeRozan had plenty of help. Dwight Lewis had 18 points and seven rebounds, while fellow junior Taj Gibson added 17 points for the Trojans, who shot 51.8 percent from the floor.
“Through high school I always had pressure on me to do a lot,” DeRozan said. “I don’t have to exert myself. The biggest thing I learned is it’s fun when we play as a team. Everything will come easy to you if you play as one.”
DeRozan’s effort pleased coach Tim Floyd.
“I loved what I saw,” Floyd said. “He really played within himself. He’s very unselfish and takes what’s given to him. He’s really going to help our team.”
The win snapped the Trojans’ three-game losing streak in season openers.
“It was real important we started the season off on the right track,” said Gibson, who bypassed the NBA for another season at USC after averaging 10.8 points and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds in 2007-08.
The Trojans haven’t begun a season 2-0 since winning their first eight games in 2000-01. They host a New Mexico State team which is coming off a 79-52 win over California Riverside on Saturday in its season opener. Jahmar Young scored 18 points while Troy Gillenwater added 17 for the defending Western Athletic Conference champions.
New Mexico State is seeking a repeat conference title with just five returnees from last season’s 21-14 team. The Aggies lost four of their top five scorers, including Justin Hawkins, who averaged 18.1 points.
USC is 3-1 all-time against New Mexico State but lost the most recent meeting, 97-84 in 1995.
New Mexico State has lost four consecutive games against Top 25 opponents since beating then-No. 15 Nevada 80-73 on Jan. 20, 2007.