August 17, 2011
USC coach Kevin O'Neill will have to wait at least one more day to find out whether star guard Jio Fontan's left knee injury is as serious as he fears.
Fontan is flying back to Los Angeles today and will undergo an MRI at 2 p.m. Thursday in order to determine the severity of the injury he sustained late in the first half of USC's 81-70 exhibition loss to Brazil's Mogi das Cruzes on Tuesday night. The injury has initially been diagnosed as a sprain, but O'Neill does not sound optimistic that the MRI won't reveal further ligament damage.
If Fontan indeed has suffered a torn ACL or any ligament damage severe enough to put his season in jeopardy, it would be a crushing blow to a USC team that needs to become more guard-oriented next season after losing big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson.
Not only is Fontan USC's leading returning scorer and primary spark plug on offense, he also had shown signs during the Trojans' Brazil trip that he was ready to emerge as one of the Pac-12's top guards. The 6-foot senior scored a combined 57 points in USC's opening two victories of the tour and drew lavish praise from his coaches and teammates.
Five-foot-7 Maurice Smith would become USC's primary backcourt scorer and distributor if Fontan's injury is serious, but the Trojans are not well-equipped to cope with injuries to one of their two main guards. As a result of the transfer of Bryce Jones to UNLV and the graduation of Marcus Simmons and Donte Smith, USC does not return a single guard besides Smith and Fontan who played in more than six games a year ago.
At the very least Fontan seems to be staying positive. The USC guard tweeted, "Minor set back for a major comeback."