LOS ANGELES -- University of Southern California point guard Jio Fontan will miss the 2011-12 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the third game of the Trojans' trip to Brazil earlier this week.
Fontan, a senior, will undergo surgery in the next few days, Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill said Thursday. He had averaged 28.5 points in USC's first two games of the exhibition trip, one win and one loss. He'll apply for a medical redshirt and plans on returning for a fifth year next season.
"He's the heart and soul of our team and he was playing at an unbelievable level, so it's a huge blow," O'Neill said by phone from Rio de Janeiro. "But I have all the confidence in the world in our players and our team to rebound from this.
"I know that sounds really stupid, but it's not. I believe it."
Fontan was the team's captain, leading returning scorer and only returning starter from the 2010-11 season. He averaged 10.5 points and 3.9 assists in 24 games after transferring from Fordham and becoming eligible after the first semester.
A 6-foot, 175-pounder from Paterson, N.J., who prepped at St. Anthony in Jersey City, Fontan had memorable 20-point games in wins over Washington and Arizona late last season.
Taking his place in the starting lineup will be freshman Alexis Moore, a Long Beach Poly product who began practicing with the team three weeks ago.
"It changes things a lot," O'Neill said. "You need the heart and soul of our team on the floor mixing with the rest of the team."
O'Neill, in his third season coaching the Trojans, said Fontan's injury was the second-worst he had encountered as a coach at the collegiate and professional levels. The worst, he said, came with the Toronto Raptors, when Jalen Rose broke his hand in February 2004 at a time when the Raptors were just one game under .500.
By the time he got back on the court, they were 11 games under.
Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.