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April 11, 2007

USC Head Coach Dave Odom (DO) closed out the season on Monday night with the annual team banquet. Now – it’s time to look forward to next season. Odom sat down with to talk about the off-season work-outs, who is stepping up and what lies ahead for Brandon Wallace and Tre’ Kelley.

“The next three weeks are very important,” said Odom. “The month of April for all students, in particular our basketball team, offers an opportunity to make some academic gains, take care of our academic assignments and finish up the school year in solid fashion. Our team is in position to do all those things academically. We are looking for a good finish.”

USC: You and the coaching staff sat down after the season and took a long look at your off-season program. What are some areas you hope to address and how are the work-outs going?

DO: We worked hard to try to address our weaknesses. The first things we addressed were our lack of strength and size and the need for increased conditioning. We have been very aggressive. We all lift four days a week at 6 am and then have a mandatory breakfast after the work out. In addition to the hard work in the weight room, we are also paying close attention to the player’s diets. We not only have worked with the strength staff, but also our dietician Deborah Zippel. She has done a good job meeting with each of our players and our staff. The work in the weight room and the improved diet plans are complimented by the two hours a week on the court with the players in the afternoon.

So far it’s gone very well – we have seen some gains. We expect if we stick to it we will see the gains we badly need and expect.

A program like this not only helps you physically, but it shows the commitment of each player towards the team and the ability to stick to the goals and tasks in front of them. We want to find out now who is capable of pushing through tough games and staying with the task. They are working very hard to improve in many areas.

USC: You lose the leadership of three pretty good senior leaders in Tre’ Kelley, Brandon Wallace and Bryce Sheldon. Who has stood out so far in the off-season work-outs?

DO: Dominique Archie has really risen to the front as a leader. He has come out of his shell an awful lot. He is playing athletically much better. I am most pleased that his leadership abilities are surfacing.

Aside form Dominique, Zam Fredrick and Devan Downey are making their presence known with the team. The next game they play they will be eligible and they sense `this is our time’. They bring a sense of leadership and an ability to play right now. I have been very pleased with them.

Dwayne Day has also made some improvement and we are pleased with that.

USC: When will you re-evaluate the program — at the end of the summer?

DO: We will re-evaluate the program at the end of the semester, at the end of May and at the end of each of the summer sessions. We look at each aspect and decide what needs to be added or tweaked. It will be rigorous and demanding, but I think the players can handle it.

USC: Are all the players going to be here this summer?

DO: For the most part, yes. They will take some trips and play with teams, but they will all be based here. We look forward to getting our freshmen in in June or July depending on when graduation is for each of them.

USC: How is the schedule for next season shaping up?

DO: We are in the midst of working on it. When I first started working on it, given the fact we lost three starters and 80% of our scoring, I felt maybe we ought to schedule with the idea that we give our young team a chance to mature. As the schedule developed, there are now certain things I can control and certain things I cannot. The dates at the Disney Tournament during Thanksgiving are not something I can control. We felt two years ago we would be one of the stronger teams and favorites to win and now the Disney organizers are working to make this the Maui of the East-type Tournament. We are committed to that and now the SEC has asked us to play Providence in the inaugural SEC-Big East Challenge event and that is fine. We can’t control the date there either. Our schedule quickly has grown to a level I didn’t envision and that doesn’t even take into account Southern California and Baylor visiting here and USC traveling to Princeton, College of Charleston and Clemson. The schedule could clearly elevate itself to the most difficult schedule this university has ever played and certainly the most difficult we have played. It will be sometime in July before we are able to finish it up.

USC: How will your schedule match your team next year?

DO: We lost three main starters in Brandon Wallace, Tre’ Kelley and Bryce Sheldon and with them we lost tremendous leadership and ability throughout the lineup. Tre’ was first-team All-SEC and one of the best guards in country. Brandon set the school record in blocked shots and was All-SEC honorable mention. Bryce turned out to be a very good shooter. Dominique Archie started every game last year as a freshman and gained SEC All-Freshman team honors. We will miss them, but we do have experienced guys who were redshirted. Devan Downey who has been through a D-1 season at a high level, playing in the Big East and picking up Big East All-Freshman team honors. Zam Fredrick also played at a very high level at Georgia Tech in the ACC for two years. We have guys that have that kind of experience so I feel really good. If you are going to lose a Tre’ you want a Devan the next year to replace him. If you are going to lose Bryce Sheldon, you want a Zam Fredrick to replace him. Brandon Wallace – youth will have to replace him, but I feel good about that area.

USC: Brandon Wallace played very well at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament last weekend. He averaged 13 ppg and 9 rpg, with his team collecting a 2-1 record. He also continued his mastery in shot blocking as USC’s career leader. You had to be pleased with his play.

DO: I thought going in Brandon would play very well and he did. That was no surprise to me. He worked hard, continued to stay in shape, work on his skills and also worked hard in the weight room. He prepared properly and went there with the right mind-set. Those who stay in shape and take it seriously before they go do well when they get there. Judging from the numbers, the way his team performed and the reports I have gotten from those who saw the games say he did play well. I am very proud of him and pleased for him.

USC: What is the next step for Brandon?

DO: He has hired a representative and he has to continue to work on his basketball skills every day, build up his strength and stay in shape. The big thing the next three weeks is his academics. He is in position to graduate and we are encouraging him every day to go to class, get his work in and finish in May. We look forward to his graduation.

Beyond that, we will recommend he be given an opportunity at the Florida Pre-draft Camp at the end of May, beginning of June. We will work to possibly get him in one of the NBA Summer Leagues and that will show what he can do against that caliber of player.

USC: How is Tre’ Kelley’s knee coming along?

DO: His knee has been repaired and he has been very diligent with his rehab. He is working hard in that area. He is on schedule if not slightly ahead. It is our hope – and the trainers and doctors believe this – that by May 1st he will be on the court shooting, running, etc. If everything goes well and he gets his strength back, hopefully we can get him in the Florida Pre-Draft camp. We don’t want him to go to that camp unless he is completely healthy for his own safety and so that he is seen at his best – even if it means another month.