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Jan. 2, 2007

USC Head Coach Dave Odom talked to the media on Tuesday afternoon about the Western Carolina game on Wed., Jan. 3 at 7:30 pm at the Colonial Center. The media also talked to the team’s leading rebounder, Brandon Wallace, and his comments follow Odom’s.

USC has one non-conference game remaining after Western Carolina: No. 9 Kansas on Sun., Jan. 7 at 4:30 pm on CBS at the Colonial Center. Only 1500 tickets remain for the Kansas game.

Odom opening statements on the Wednesday night contest with Western Carolina:

“They are a team that is much-improved over a year ago. They have some new players and new players worry me. Nick Alridge signed at Cincinnati originally and when they had a coaching change, he decided to go to Western. The kid (Jake) Robinson is very good. They have their two guards back.

“We will have to play better than we did the last 10 minutes against Jacksonville to win. They have been traveling all over the country and played Rice and St. Mary’s in California recently. They score the ball, they hustle on defense and we will have our hands full.

“We are down in numbers again. We have been working on it the last few days. The last loss, of Tre’, is a very significant loss for us. We have to rebound, make no turnovers, and share responsibility – everything that goes into making up for a loss like that. Still, when you think about it, this is one of the unique `not asked for’ opportunities, but it’s one that’s there. When those kinds of things happen, it brings out the best in people. Adversity brings you to face with who you are. You either duck your head or you go out there and really fight. I am ready to fight. I am excited about the opportunity our team has tomorrow night because it’s a chance to lay the foundation for something that could be very exciting. We will see what happens. Tre’, I won’t down play his importance. He is extremely, extremely important to our basketball team. It will be a real challenge without him.

“I don’t know who will start yet. We don’t have a lot of options. (Brandis) Raley-Ross could start. (Evka) Baniulis could start. Probably one of those two. It will be a decision made between now and tomorrow morning. But I don’t know right now.”

Who will handle the ball?

“We will make the decision when the time comes. We have tried some different combinations and I have a pretty good idea on that, but not set yet. No one will play that position 37 minutes like Tre’ did. It will be more like committee.

“Dwayne Day and Brandis have played as much there – an equal amount of time.”

Anything new on Tre’ condition? “No, he has a sprained left knee. It was significant. I think he wants badly to play and he is not going to play against Western Carolina. He thinks he can, but he is going not to. We will just see from there after tomorrow night. He hasn’t been allowed to do anything. He has iced, rehabbed and shot free throws. Nothing active.”

“The plan on Tre’ is to hold him today and tomorrow and see what he can do on Thursday. If there is no swelling and the trainers and doctors are confident he can do something, then we will let him. If I had to say right now, I would list him as doubtful for Sunday, but we will see. That could change.”

Who will step up as a leader in Tre’ place?

“As an on-the-court leader Brandon Wallace, but skills are easier to replace than personality. Brandon and Tre’ are two peas in the pod personality-wise. They are both very good with their leadership qualities. He is a natural. He is older, knows what lies ahead.”

How do you weigh using him vs. Kansas vs. the league games coming up?

“The conference is more important. If you look at starting with Kansas, those next five or six games, I would rather win any number of those games than Kansas. Florida vs. Kansas. Florida. Kentucky vs. Kansas. Kentucky. The list goes on. It would be nice to have him against Kansas for obvious reasons, but to put him in there to test him, that doesn’t make sense.”

As competitive as he is, will he tell you if he is injured?

“If the injury is such that he can’t play at 100% full speed, I don’t care what he says, I will know. If everyone says he is ok and I see he is not, then the decision falls to me. If he has a chance to injure his knee more, I still have the ability to put him in and take him out. I won’t have them telling me one thing when it’s not, because I know what a full speed Tre’ Kelley looks like. If the doctors say this is an injury that can’t get any worst, but they haven’t said that. They said that it can get worse. They said it can.”

How does it feel to lose Tre’ for a game?

“You can’t believe how much time I’ve spent on this since I found out on Saturday, in my own mind. Sometimes I think I am going crazy with some of the things I’ve thought. There is nothing off-limits without Tre’ Kelley. There is a not a team in the country that depends upon any one player than we have depended on him offensively. You can say `you should have thought about that’, but you don’t coach a game thinking `this guy is going to get hurt’. Somewhere there is an answer there and my job is to find it. I feel very good given our options off our practices so far.”

“Losing Tre’ for one game is like losing a son. If you gave me 10 guys I’ve coached – 10 guys I’ve fallen in love with and asked me name them. I would say Tre’. I have fallen in love with Tre’ Kelley. Brandon Wallace is another. I love him as person for what he gives back. This is not one I will back away from.”

How is Chad Gray progressing? “They are going to try him a basketball shoe tomorrow and let him walk some new foot supports. Maybe lightly run and shoot without the boot on. They feel good about his progress. They will do that according to pain tolerance.”

The media also talked to senior center/forward Brandon Wallace. Here are a few of his quotes:

“Coach is trying a bunch of people back there (to replace Tre’ Kelley at point guard), but we are confident that whoever does it can do it. Guys are going to get their turn to step up.

“Tre’ is our leading scorer so there is a difference. There’s a different feeling out there. I think teams will pressure us more, but if you work against Devan Downey (transfer guard from Cincinnati) everyday will get you ready for it.

“Tre’ is like my brother. We are the best of friends. I feel sorry for him, but he is just missing one game. It’s a different feel, but we will do what we can. I have to try to be the leader like he is. I can talk to the guys like he does. I am not going to quit. So the guys won’t either.

“His injury against Jacksonville? I thought he had cramps, but anytime you are dealing with a knee it’s serious.

(on Tre’ being gone): “I think we can handle it. We don’t have a choice. I am not giving up. Anytime you have someone that starts every game in three years it’s huge. I am looking forward to another team challenging us. I think the young guys can get it done.”