Rozitis Departure Reminiscent of a Disappointing Trend

It shouldn't come as a surprise that not too many USC basketball fans are worried or disappointed about the expected transfer of 7-foot reserve center Davis Rozitis. After all, Rozitis, a native of Latvia, had a rather ho-hum freshman campaign in 2010, appearing in just 9 games, averaging 3.2 minutes per contest, and finishing with a mere total of 2 points for the entire season. Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times even went as far as to label him a "project" still trying to learn the game.

As a result, his on-the-court struggles haven't exactly instilled much confidence in his basketball abilities moving forward into the coming years.

Nonetheless, his departure represents a startling trend that has become increasingly prevalent under USC coach Kevin O'Neill's watch here in Los Angeles - player turnover.

Just two months ago, another player, sophomore forward Leonard Washington, announced that he would also be transferring after it was widely reported that he did not "mesh well" with O'Neill, much to the surprise of most fans and followers of the program.

Yet, while the reasons for Rozitis's decision to leave USC are presently unclear, the fact that two players have decided to transfer within a couple of months remains a potentially damaging scenario, especially considering O'Neill's track record.

Over time, O'Neill has developed the reputation for being anything but a "player's coach." After all, he has had relatively short stays at nearly every college program he's been at, and during his last stint before ending up at USC, Arizona, O'Neill alienated just about everyone involved with the program, including future pros Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger, before being dismissed by then-athletic director Jim Livengood. To top it off, one player, who spoke anonymously, went as far to label him "bipolar."

"He's a great guy off the court, but he's bipolar or something," he said. "On the court, he's a madman."

In turn, it should come as no surprise that many have cited his demeanor and overly aggressive personality as the primary reasons for his inability to relate to 19 and 20 year-old student-athletes. Does that mean both Rozitis and Washington left because of O'Neill? Likely Washington, but not necessarily Rozitis.

Even still, the team's current predicament is a little disheartening. When you have a coach with a track record like O'Neill's, it's not beneficial to be losing players to other programs so early in their collegiate careers.

The responsibility of a college basketball head coach is to accelerate the development of his players. We saw that last season with Nikola Vucevic, who went from averaging 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a freshman to posting near double-double averages as sophomore with 10.7 points and 9.4 points per game while being named the Pac-10's most improved player.

But that type of progression needs to happen across the board. It can't be restricted to one or two players if USC is serious about earning NCAA Tournament bids and making runs at the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, it's hard to see any of that occurring if underclassmen such as Rozitis and Washington are leaving the program every offseason.

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