LOS ANGELES -- USC basketball coach Kevin O'Neill respects UCLA's Josh Smith, but O'Neill also felt compelled to offer some unsolicited advice for the burly center before the Trojans play the Bruins on Sunday.
"I like Josh, I think he's a good player," O'Neill said after the Trojans' practice on Thursday, when asked how he thinks Smith is progressing this season. "But I would encourage anybody that's in Josh's physical condition that, if you want to play at the next level, he's got to lose weight and get himself in better shape to play."
Smith, a sophomore, is listed at 6-foot-10 and 305 pounds. Some reports have his weight pegged far above that number, and UCLA coach Ben Howland admitted last summer that the listed number wasn't exactly accurate.
But the Washington native continues to play effectively, albeit in limited minutes. In just over 18 minutes per game this season, Smith's averaging 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds, a small step down from the numbers he posted as a freshman in the 2010-11 season.
O'Neill has talked about Smith before, saying in March of last year that he thought Smith had the most upside of any Pac-12 player. Asked about those comments specifically Thursday, O'Neill was non-committal.
"I thought he did," he said. "But it's dependent on one thing: He's got to get in shape. You can't play at the next level if you're not in shape."
O'Neill did say Thursday that Smith was "supremely skilled" and possessing of "great hands."
Smith will match up against hyped USC 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon in Sunday's 6 p.m. PT tilt at the Galen Center.
Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.