<
>

'An overly large man with a broken foot'

Ever wonder how 7-footers fit in airplanes?

It's tough. First class is generally the only way to do it comfortably, and sitting in economy can lead to some weird and uncomfortable situations.

But the circumstances USC forward Dewayne Dedmon dealt with Saturday are perhaps some of the weirdest on record. As he tells it, he was sitting in an aisle seat near the back of a commercial flight that departed from the Bay Area late Saturday night -- New Year's Eve.

In late November, Dedmon suffered a stress injury to his right foot that was supposed to keep him out until right around this time, but he returned after missing only one game and hasn't appeared particularly hurt on the court since. But, while he is permitted to play by school doctors, he is often required to wear a boot on the foot when off the court to stabilize the injury and prevent it from getting worse.

So, as USC (5-10, 0-2 in the Pac-12) flew home from Stanford on Saturday, where the Trojans lost 51-43 to the Cardinal, Dedmon was wearing the boot in the aisle seat and was apparently causing some significant trouble for the flight attendants on board the plane.

Why? Because the booted foot -- coupled with his large frame, of course -- was unable to be fit inside the normal confines of the seat, which prevented the stewards from doing their job.

"You know how they bring the carts up?" Dedmon recounted Wednesday after the Trojans practiced in preparation for Arizona State. "She was stopping the cart because she couldn't pass me. And she was just walking up the aisles handing some people their drinks.

"And so, before the flight ended, she got on the intercom and said, "I'm sorry for anybody that didn't get their drinks. We have an overly large man with a broken foot on our flight."

His teammates, of course, broke out laughing. Never mind that Dedmon's foot isn't actually broken, and never mind that fellow 7-footer James Blasczyk was also wearing a boot on his foot for a slightly less severe injury and sitting two rows behind him. For some reason, Dedmon was spotlighted by the flight attendants -- and he can't figure out why.

He is figuring out how to play, though. It has taken the highly-hyped junior-college product some time, but he put up his first back-to-back good performances over the weekend in losses against Stanford and Cal. He hadn't had more than five points in consecutive games until last weekend, when he scored eight points against the Bears and 10 against the Cardinal on combined 9-for-12 shooting.

"I'm more comfortable, finally," Dedmon said.

The biggest reason he cited for his improvement is the realization that he needed to play hard every single game, not just every other game or most games. He said it happened only recently and pointed to it as the reason why he followed up a 16-point debut against Cal State Northridge with a four-point clunker against Nebraska.

USC head coach Kevin O'Neill cited that and an overall "better feel" on the offensive end for Dedmon's recent improvement. Twenty-four hours before the Trojans play Arizona State in their Pac-12 home opener, O'Neill also said he's largely pleased with the way the rest of his young players are improving, including freshman guards Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley.

"I couldn't ask for more," O'Neill said. "I'd like us to make more shots. I'd like us to make more free throws. But in terms of not turning the ball over, playing hard and defending, I couldn't ask for anything more."