Matthew Kredell of the L.A. Daily News is the beat writer for USC basketball. This is his second season of covering USC hoops so he has seen the pendulum swing pretty hard in his two years of covering the team. Matthew started with the DN as a part time writer in 1998, in 2001 upon graduating from USC he went full time at the Daily News.
Matthew has been gracious in taking time out of his busy schedule, after a well-deserved vacation, to answer some questions on this past season and offer his insights on what could be a very exciting season next year for USC Basketball.
Matthew thanks for taking the time out to answer our questions. - Paragon
What was your best/worst moment (personally) from this past year as USC basketball's beat writer?
My best/worst moments as the USC basketball beat writer for the Los Angeles Daily News probably don't matter to anyone other than me because I look at it from a work perspective. Being the only one to report that Gabe Pruitt's return might be delayed a week was a high moment. Another was my feature on Nick Young, which was originally scheduled to run the previous year on the day of USC's never-to-be NIT game, finally being published and turning out well after an update to make it timely. The best thing I did for the fans was probably getting my blog started, providing a forum for the timely dispersal of inside information on the team that wasn't available elsewhere.
From more of a standpoint of what I saw, I'll always remember covering USC's first game at Galen Center, Daniel Hackett's defense on Kevin Durant and seeing Denzel Washington in the USC locker room.
The worst moment was probably a fight between two players that Ben Bolch and I witnessed early in the season. Floyd told us we would not have further access to viewing practice if we reported on it. Since he said there would be no punishment for the incident, and neither player missed any playing time, we decided to let it go. It didn't seem to affect relations between the players the rest of the season.
While a lot of us were pleased at how well SC did this past season what were your general impressions of the team as you observed them day in and day out, where did you see them grow?
I think the team grew most out of the tragedy that happened in May. The players rallied together and became a family after Ryan Francis' death, starting to look at Floyd as more of a father figure than just a coach.
After struggling to win early in their careers, Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt and Lodrick Stewart really enjoyed this season. They just seemed like boys riding their first roller coaster, and that was fun to watch.
With Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt pretty much out the door to the NBA, who do you see filling the void in order for this team to move forward?
MK: Outside of Floyd, the team may be barely recognizable next year. Young, Pruitt and Stewart were the heart, and Chris Penrose and Abdoulaye N'diaye were the spirit. There are players coming in who are capable of filling the void in points and I expect the freshmen from this season to improve. But the real question that will determine USC's success next season is how the new players gel and if they can recreate the bond this year's team had.
Which incoming freshman, besides O. J. Mayo, do you look forward to seeing and why?
MK: I've seen a lot of Mayo on TV/video clips and have seen Jefferson in person when he's been around USC. I haven't seen anything of Diarra, Simmons and Washington, so I suppose all of them. Probably Washington the most because I've heard good things of the immediate impact he could make.
From our wishful thinking file. Do you have any thoughts on the remote possibility of Michael Beasley being interested in USC with the departure of Bob Huggins to WVU? There has been a lot of rumor and speculation, is there any possibility that Mayo bolts from his commitment to play near home?
MK: Mayo isn't going to play for Huggins. This is the same Huggins who foolishly denied heavily recruiting Mayo when we spoke to him in Las Vegas. I don't think Beasley is coming to USC.
What are your predictions for next season and which player do you think will surprise everyone?
MK: Next year is tough to predict. The team will have more talent but will also have more players who may have their own agenda compared to the close-knit team concept of this season. I think a lot of people don't realize how good Davon Jefferson is. The guy is a beast and nearly brought down the Galen Center backboard in his post-practice sessions, so I can see him surprising. Another guy people probably forget is Kasey Cunningham. He was a monster rebounder in high school, pulling down 28 boards in one game, and that's an area USC needs to improve. Floyd is excited about having a healthy Cunningham
There has been some criticism of the Galen Center, is it completely finished? If not, what still needs to be done?
MK: With all the work being done at Galen Center during our tour a few days before it was supposed to open, it was a bit of a miracle that things came together as well as they did. But it was always said that the arena was not finished, just operational. The suites on the west side of the arena should be completed by next season. A ribbon scoreboard circling the inside of the arena is still in the plans. I expect a lot of finishing aspects in the hallways and upper parts of the arena to be improved.
And for our conspiracy theorists out there, what if any impact does Ronald Guillory have hanging around the program/Mayo and how is Floyd handling this?
MK: I've seen his name as Ronald a lot lately, including in a New York Times story, but it should be Rodney Guillory. Guillory was around the program a good amount last season but didn't seem to be a distraction. He worked his way around quietly, spending most of his time with assistant coaches like Bob Cantu. In my one interview with Mayo when he came on his official visit, Guillory was watching over his shoulder and told us when to wrap it up. How Floyd handles the increasing influence of Guillory when Mayo is in town remains to be seen. I'm hoping Guillory won't be telling the beat writers when to wrap up their interviews with Mayo after practices.
Matthew thanks once again for taking the time out to answer our questions. We'll see you next season.
Thanks to CC commenter AO for his input on the questions.