Stepheson must sit out season after appeal to play immediately denied

Alex Stepheson's appeal to play immediately at USC after transferring from North Carolina was denied Wednesday by the NCAA.

Stepheson, who didn't travel with the Trojans to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Tuesday, will redshirt this season and have two seasons of eligibility remaining. USC was informed of the decision Wednesday morning.

"We were disappointed to learn about this decision, but I respect the NCAA process," USC coach Tim Floyd said in a statement released by the school. "We understand this has been a very complicated process and appreciate the efforts of the USC staff, the NCAA, North Carolina and Alex and his family.

"Alex would have really helped our team this season and would have had a big impact in the Pac-10, but we will have to move beyond this now. He practiced hard and showed us the kind of player he is. I'm confident he'll work even harder now and prepare himself for next season. Even though it appears he won't be suiting up for us this year, he'll be an integral part of our Trojan basketball team," Floyd said.

The 6-foot-9 Stepheson said he transferred to USC to be closer to his family. He filed an appeal to play immediately because he said he needed to help his parents, who were dealing with health issues. Stepheson played at Harvard-Westlake High in Los Angeles.

Stepheson was a reserve on the Final Four Tar Heels last season. He played two seasons for the Tar Heels, appearing in 75 games, making 52.7 percent of his shots. He averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. His post presence would have helped the Trojans compete for a deep March run, let alone the Pac-10 title with UCLA and Arizona State.

Stepheson would have allowed junior forward Taj Gibson to stay at his more natural power forward instead of playing center.

The Trojans do have options with more traditional big men Keith Wilkinson and Mamadou Diarra or a smaller forward in Leonard Washington.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.