End-of-year capsules, No. 8

Over a two-week period that began last week, we're going over the 10 scholarship basketball players who were on USC's 2010-2011 roster -- one by one, Monday-Friday -- and recap their accomplishments in the now-completed season, no matter how big or how small. In order, the series has featured redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, redshirt sophomore Evan Smith, sophomore Curtis Washington, sophomore forward Garrett Jackson, sophomore guard Maurice Jones, departed senior guard Marcus Simmons and departed senior guard Donte Smith, with the years in reference to what they will be come next season.

Now we have departed senior forward Alex Stepheson.

Stepheson won the award for Most Inspirational Player at USC's end-of-year banquet Tuesday, and it fit him pretty well. He's different than the typical MIP though. Why?

He's an interesting case: Stepheson has most every physical gift in the world but is simply nowhere close to being a polished basketball player. Still, he went at it with determination every day in practice in 2010-2011 -- fighting through a fractured hand for the first 14 games of the season -- and managed to finish as the Pac-10's second-leading rebounder.

His shooting skills were never great, but he made a big improvement this year over last year by shooting smarter shots and thus improved his shooting percentage from 48 percent to 55, a hefty jump. He also averaged seven more minutes per game yet reduced his foul averages, which was a big problem for him entering into this season.

Stepheson has an outside shot at making the NBA -- he was invited to both a college senior All-Star Game this weekend in Houston and the annual Portsmouth Invitational in Portsmouth, Va. next week. More likely, he'll be able to make a living playing professionally in Europe.

That's it for today. Coming up Wednesday is senior guard Jio Fontan.