LOS ANGELES - Hit hard by injuries and a school-record 26 losses last season, Southern California is eager to put the ugliness in the past and make a big turnaround led by point guard Jio Fontan.
The projected star of the program has mostly been off the court the last two seasons after transferring from Fordham. Fontan played just half a season in his USC debut, then missed all of last season after he tore an anterior cruciate ligament during a summer exhibition tour in Brazil.
He wasn't the only player to go down. Forward Aaron Fuller, the team's second-leading scorer, hurt his left shoulder and center Dewayne Dedmon, the No. 3 scorer, tore his ACL.
By season's end, the Trojans had just six scholarship players available. They finished 6-26 - 1-17 in the Pac-12 - after averaging 53 points per game and shooting 39 percent from the floor.
Now Fontan is healthy and looking forward to finally playing an entire season alongside a mix of transfers and newcomers under coach Kevin O'Neill.
"We're just flipping the page, starting a new chapter and trying to take advantage of this," Fontan said. "We've got a lot of guys who only have one year left and we all have the same goal - win big."
At Lahaina Civic Center
Monday, Nov. 19
Butler vs. Marquette, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Mississippi St. vs. North Carolina, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Texas vs. Chaminade, 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Southern California vs. Illinois, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Tuesday, Nov. 20
Butler-Marquette loser vs. Mississippi St.-North Carolina loser, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Texas-Chaminade loser vs. Southern California-Illinois loser, noon (ESPN2)
Butler-Marquette winner vs. Mississippi St.-North Carolina winner, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas-Chaminade winner vs. Southern California-Illinois winner, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Wednesday, Nov. 21
Seventh-place game, 9 a.m. (ESPNU)
Fifth-place game, noon (ESPN2)
Third-place game, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Championship, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
USC will get a chance to display any improvement this month at the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The Trojans face Illinois in the first round on Nov. 19 at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Fontan will anchor the backcourt, and Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell could start at shooting guard. Sophomore Byron Wesley, who averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, is another likely starter.
Three other transfers could bolster the front line. Ari Stewart from Wake Forest, Renaldo Woolridge from Tennessee and Eric Wise from UC Irvine will be competing for playing time at forward.
Maurice Jones led the Trojans in scoring last season while playing 38 minutes per game in Fontan's absence. He was going to miss this year due to academic reasons and was expected back in 2013-14, but transferred to Iowa State last week.
Greg Allen is back after starting eight games last season, and freshman Brendyn Taylor brings an NBA pedigree. His father, Brian, played in the pros.
"We have depth. We have experience. We have size," said O'Neill, entering his fourth year at USC. "How quickly we gel and learn to play together remains to be seen. But we've got leadership in Jio. We have a lot of pieces, and now it's our job to put those pieces together."