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Dispatch from Galen: UTEP Confident in Floyd, Recruiting Grades, & Other Notes

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With USC still awaiting the results of the NCAA infractions committee's investigation into an alleged "lack of institutional control" regarding the football and basketball programs, most of the attention in the meanwhile has been focused on the gridiron side of things. It's certainly understandable considering the school's history, but don't forget that basketball, which was already sanctioned by the university in January and barred from the postseason, could face further sanctions. Never before have self-sanctions been adequate for the NCAA so the idea that Kevin O'Neill and company could be hit with further penalties is more than a reasonable assertion at this point in time.

But how hard will basketball be hit? If allegations that Tim Floyd made a direct payment to Rodney Guillory, a handler of O.J. Mayo, are true than a postseason ban(s) and scholarship reduction could most certainly be in the works. Remember, it's never once been suggested that Pete Carroll was responsible for providing funds to Reggie Bush and his parents. The sole accusation is that he did not have knowledge of the relationship Bush and his parents had with agents and marketers. That's a far more difficult situation to monitor, especially in comparison to that of Floyd, who is being directly tied into the May/Guillory fiasco. However, at this point in time, Floyd's involvement is only alleged, and while USC admitted that violations occurred during Mayo's stint with the program, it did not go as far to say what in fact took place.

But if you're willing to listen to Floyd and his new employers down in El Paso, it doesn't appear as if they have anything to hide with the NCAA decision expected in the coming days, insisting that the allegations regarding Floyd are plain and simply inaccurate. UTEP's Bob Stull told the Associated Press earlier this week that it's "unlikely" that there is much validity to those allegations regarding Floyd.

Floyd has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and he's been reluctant to speak about the case, saying he has been asked to remain quite because of the ongoing investigation.

"It will all come out," Floyd said.

UTEP athletic director Bob Stull said there is always a risk in picking a new coach, but the school did its "due diligence" in hiring Floyd before the NCAA probe was completed.

"Tim had never had a previous NCAA violation and from further investigation we, along with five other universities who were trying to hire him, felt like it was unlikely for (the) allegations to be valid," Stull said.

People often forget that Tim Floyd had no history of NCAA violations before coming to USC in 2005. He wasn't some John Calipari which had left other programs in absolute shambles before leaving to coach elsewhere. Because of that, as well as other reasons, I've often felt that the rumor that Floyd handed Guillory $1,000 in cash in the middle of Figueroa Boulevard to be rather unlikely. But at the same time, it's hard to imagine that Floyd and USC ran a squeaky clean program during his stint with the Trojans as evident by the self-sanctions that came out in January. We'll learn more in a few days, but it's comforting to hear that UTEP is confident in Floyd's testimony.

More after the jump

In the meanwhile, Floyd's successor, Kevin O'Neill has rounded up a rather impressive recruiting class for 2010, which many believe will be instrumental in replacing graduated seniors Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Dwight Lewis in the upcoming 2010-2011 campaign. ESPN and Joel Francisco of Scouts Inc. ranked the Pac-10's top recruiting classes, and pegged the Trojans at number 4, tied with Arizona State and Washington. Francisco, who gave the Trojans a grade of B+, said the following about the group:

Kevin O'Neill signed two potential impact talents in Bryce Jones(Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) and Maurice Jones (Saginaw, Mich./Arthur Hill). Bryce is a bouncy SG/SF who should adapt nicely into O'Neill's defensive-minded system due to his length and defensive prowess. Maurice is a menace to stop off the dribble and can hit the 3-point shot with regularity. The Trojans also landed a late-blooming wing in Garrett Jackson (Portland, Ore./Westview), who needs strength and skill development, but has a solid upside. Curtis Washington (Elizabethtown, Ky./Elizabethtown) is a project, but he does have length and upside.

I don't see either Jackson or Washington making a significant contribution to the team next season. For one, the Trojans are already set in the frontcourt with Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic. Even Marcus Simmons and Evan Smith figure to log time at the 3 spot, relegating both Jackson and Washington to reserve. Secondly, as Francisco points out, they're projects. To a lesser extent Jackson, who was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Oregon, but both are not ready to come in and play significant minutes immediately. It's going to take some time.

As for the Jones kids, I fully expect them to make an impact. As I wrote in a Daily Trojan blog post back in April, both players were highly productive in high school and posses the skills necessary to make the transition to the college ranks:

Last week, Bryce Jones, who played his senior season at Taft High School in nearby Woodland Hills received the 2010 John R. Wooden Award for the City Section, which is annually presented to the area's most valuable player. Jones, who averaged 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in route to leading Taft to the L.A. City title game against Weschester, joins the ranks of former recipients and future NBA standouts Tyson Chandler, Baron Davis and Tayshaun Prince.

Yet, while such accolades are certainly impressive, fellow recruit Maurice Jones of Arthur Hill High School had an equally noteworthy senior campaign.

The 5-foot-8 Jones, who has drawn comparisons to the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle from Cal, was named Associated Press Class A Player of the Year for the state of Michigan.

While leading Arthur Hill to the Class A quarterfinals, Jones posted some of the best individual numbers in state history with 30 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and four steals per game.

At the very least, O'Neill will need to have the Joneses produce early, because transfer point guard Jio Fontan will not be eligible until mid-December, and the Pac-10 conference will be much stronger this season after sending just two teams to the tournament in 2010. According to ESPN's rankings, the conference landed eleven ESPNU 100 prospects, and eight of the ten teams received grades of a B or higher, an indication that things the conference may be back in the national picture once again.

One of the players, who won't be a part of the rebuilding effort will be former USC guard Percy Miller, aka everybody's favorite rapper Lil' Romeo, who was essentially cut by O'Neill last week. While it was announced that Miller had quit, it's safe to say that he most likely let go by the coaching staff after logging just 19 minutes in two years. O'Neill told the Orange County Register the following last week:

"Percy thought it was in his best interest that he pursue his (entertainment) career rather than play basketball. ... I was able to evaluate him. I think his future is more off the court than on the court, which I think he understands."

In case you need further evidence that Romeo's future is off the court, check out this video from Hoopsmixtape.com:

Can't wait for K.O. to bring in some new blood.

FIGHT ON!