The Dagger - NCAAB

Star-crossed USC loses another key starter to injuryWhen star center Nikola Vucevic entered the NBA draft last spring and three other senior starters exhausted their eligibility, USC pinned its hopes for next season on the inside-outside duo of Jio Fontan and Dewayne Dedmon.

Now it appears unlikely the Trojans will have either of them to start the season either.

Less than two months after Fontan suffered a season-ending ACL tear during an exhibition game on USC's tour of Brazil, the Trojans lost Dedmon to a broken right hand sustained during a workout on Tuesday. The injury will sideline the 7-foot big man an estimated four to six weeks, meaning it's unlikely he'll be back for the Trojans' Nov. 11 opener against Cal State Northridge and he could miss as many as the team's first seven games.

Dedmon, a junior college transfer with three years of eligibility remaining, is expected to be USC's top interior weapon in the wake of the departure of Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. USC coach Kevin O'Neill heaped lavish praise on Dedmon this summer, telling that the big man will average a double-double and could be NBA-bound as soon as next spring.

"He has a chance to be special," O'Neill said. "He has three years left. He won't make it three years. He may not make it past one.

"There's no question he's a first-round pick, no question. He's got a great motor. He's worked with a bunch of pros. He worked with my former player with the Pacers — Danny GrangerĀ — and he said he's a first-round pick. He's extremely athletic. He'll score on tip dunks. He'll run the floor. He's a great shooter and he's extremely athletic."

Whether that's exaggeration or not, it's certainly not hyperbole to suggest USC needs Dedmon back as soon as possible to weather a typically difficult non-conference schedule. The Trojans visit San Diego State and UNLV and could face preseason No. 1 North Carolina all in their opening seven games.

Dedmon was expected to start at center for USC alongside Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller and sophomore Garrett Jackson. With 6-foot-10 Curtis Washington already out for the season after suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder in August, the Trojans only have one player taller than 6-foot-7 on their roster, 7-foot-1 Texas A&M transfer James Blasczyk.

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