Jio Fontan's injury sounds like bad news

Lost in all the Miami-Missouri-Frank Haith mess from Tuesday and Wednesday was this rather discouraging bit of news out of USC: Senior point guard Jio Fontan, who was playing in Sao Paulo on his team's Brazilian exhibition trip this week, left the team early to fly back to the United States after injuring his left knee in an 81-70 loss to Mogi Das Cruzes Tuesday.

The extent of the injury is unknown. Right now, USC is calling it a sprain. But the Trojans' decision to fly Fontan stateside -- where he will undergo an MRI Thursday afternoon with a USC team doctor -- makes things sound a bit more serious than a sprain. Oh, and then there's this, from L.A. Times sports reporter Baxter Holmes:

Just asked USC Coach Kevin O'Neill how bad Jio Fontan's knee injury is on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst. His answer: "Ten."

Yeah. Not good.

USC will be hoping the "sprain" designation isn't just wishful thinking. Fontan is unquestionably O'Neill's most important returning player. He was key in USC's recovery from last season's slow start, a recovery that eventually landed the Trojans in the first-ever First Four, where they eventually became a historical footnote in the back pages of VCU's miraculous Final Four story. His sturdy, experienced point guard play -- and his excellent perimeter defense -- would be just as crucial in 2011-12.

If Fontan is seriously injured, all hope is not lost; the Trojans have some decent backcourt talent, including 5-foot-7 sophomore guard Maurice Jones. Still, you can bet USC is hoping it doesn't come to that. Fingers crossed.