Pac-12 basketball this week: To Cantu, zone not bad word

2013-01-16T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:14:03Z Pac-12 basketball this week: To Cantu, zone not bad wordPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

At his first practice Monday as USC's interim head coach, Bob Cantu asked his players a simple question: Why do you play basketball? Is it because you love the game? Because you're tall? Because you want to win, or make money someday?

Cantu, a 12-year USC assistant, told them to have their answers ready Tuesday.

While his players pondered their question, the 38-year-old who replaced the fired Kevin O'Neill on Monday focused on a different one: How will the Trojans play basketball?

"We'll look at some stuff," he said, "and probably make adjustments."

Here's how:

• On offense: The Trojans (7-10, 2-2) will play faster. Cantu said the Trojans, who are 11th in the Pac-12 with 63.8 points per game, need "ways of scoring other than manufacturing against a set defense."

"I do want to try to speed it up a little bit offensively and get easy baskets," Cantu said.

His message at practice Tuesday was simple: Tell the difference between a good shot and a bad one.

"Playing fast," he said, "and playing under control."

Oregon coach Dana Altman, whose Ducks travel to USC on Thursday, expects small tweaks.

"If they do play differently, I think we'll be prepared for that," Altman said. "It's pretty hard to change in three days, whatever you do."

• On defense: Zone was frowned on under O'Neill, a strident man-to-man coach whose knowledge of the scheme helped him land head coaching jobs at four Division I-A schools.

With two 7-footers, though, Cantu plans to play more zone defense.

"I have to adjust to my personnel," he said.

Playing zone would allow Cantu to play centers Omar Oraby and Dewayne Dedmon together at times and could bode well for the playing time of forwards Ari Stewart and Renaldo Woolridge, who averaged 13.1 minutes combined under O'Neill.

• On playing time: Cantu vowed to "look at some other guys who haven't been playing." He mentioned Stewart and Woolridge and said Oraby, who's averaging 7.7 points, needs to play more than the 15.3 minutes he's averaging.

Guard J.T. Terrell, the Trojans' second-leading scorer despite being benched for games at a time, will get a reprieve from O'Neill's doghouse.

Two weeks ago, he played eight minutes total in two games.

In Saturday's 17-point win against Utah - O'Neill's last game - Terrell scored 14 points in 31 minutes.

"The '2' guard spot is such an important spot, because you need scoring," Cantu said. "I told him, 'I need your scoring … but you have to play on both ends, and you need to take good shots.'"

• On being a new voice: When Cantu met with his team, he sounded a lot like O'Neill when he took over the Arizona Wildcats for Lute Olson in 2007.

"Any time you change a voice on any team at any level, it's completely different," Cantu said Tuesday.

"My message to the guys was: 'Life's about adversity. You never know when something's going to happen. How are you going to adjust to this?'"

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