Two more Trojan signees joined the party over the weekend during Week 2 of the Nike Sayno Classic at the Hangar Athletic Xchange.
Small forward Garrett Jackson (Portland, Ore./Westview) and point guard Maurice Jones (Saginaw, Mich./Arthur Hill) played in their first games for Salvatori's Squad, joining teammates Bryce Jones, Aaron Fuller and DeWayne Dedmon, who each made their debuts last week.
But whereas the opening weekend featured dominating wins by the Trojans, Saturday's and Sunday's games were a lot tougher.
Salvatori's Squad — featuring the USC five, plus former USC guard Kyle Austin, UC Irvine guard Patrick Rembert and juco forward DeQuan Brown — lost both games on the second weekend, to Salvatori's Shooter and West Coast Hoops.
Once again, Austin was the team's best player, controlling the flow of the ball on the majority of offensive possessions. Bryce Jones struggled with his shot again and had a bit of a temper flare-up late in the second half of Sunday's 67-54 loss.
Fuller looked similarly tentative and failed to take control of play at any point in the game, but he did put his crafty rebounding skills on display once again. Dedmon showed more his tantalizing potential in grabbing two blocks but was a complete non-factor on the offensive end.
When on his game, Jones looked more than capable of running the offense. Listed on USC's official site at 5-foot-7, 155 pounds but appearing smaller, his distributing skills were by far the best of any player on the floor, and he nailed multiple shots from 3-point range with a textbook stroke. He also showed an early connection with Jackson, connecting with the 6-foot-6 forward on a number of plays — including one lay-up alley-oop that came from a half-court pass.
Wearing knee pads that appeared to limit his mobility, Jones looked to be calibrating himself to the game's fast-paced play, something he confirmed afterward. Jackson was the best of the USC players on the floor, showing a clear willingness to trust his shot and get back on defense.
With the Trojans likely needing either Bryce Jones or Jackson to start on the wingfrom day one in November, it appears Jackson is the early favorite — at least based on summer-league play.
Playing for West Coast Hoops was former USC forward Leonard Washington, who was dismissed from the team by coach Kevin O'Neill in March. Washington got the ball in the post against Fuller on a few sets but wasn't able to score.
Washington, looking slimmer than he did while weighing in at 230 pounds for USC, did score on a thunderous alley-oop slam late in the game. He has yet to decide on a new school.
The Sayno Classic continues on for three more weeks with a break for July 4 weekend. All five USC players plan to stick with the squad; it is currently unknown if the final Trojan signee, forward Curtis Washington (Elizabethtown, Kent., Elizabethtown), will play at any point.
After Sunday's game, Jackson talked about his first experience with his Trojan teammates. The 2009-2010 Gatorade Player of the Year in Oregon, Jackson said he flew in on Saturday and was just beginning the settling-in process at school and on the court.
Asked what his goals were for this season considering O'Neill's handling of freshman forward Evan Smith a season ago, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound Jackson sounded confident.
"I feel like I can contribute," he said. "I still have a lot of things I need to learn defensively, but I feel like I have the tools. I just need to work with Coach O'Neill and see what I need to get better at.
"I just want to learn."
Here's the full video with Jackson: