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October 14, 2006

No. 24 Storyline: Georgia, USC pick up pieces

Smith key to Vols plan
Midnight Madness Preview
The College Basketball Wire

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Rivals.com has selected the top 25 storylines for the upcoming 2006-07 college basketball season and we will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 24 storyline involves the offseason deaths of USC's Ryan Francis and Georgia's Kevin Brophy.

Every year, each college basketball program comes up with a new motto or slogan. Two teams didn't need any time to make a choice.

Georgia and USC are dedicating their seasons to former teammates who were died this past offseason. Georgia guard Kevin Brophy was killed in a car accident in July, and USC guard Ryan Francis was shot in May in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.

Brophy's passing has become a source of motivation for the Bulldogs, who will wear black patches with his No. 3 and the words "Do it for Broph." His father uttered the phrase at Brophy's memorial service. A scholarship fund has been established in Brophy's name, and the school hopes to raise $150,000 by the time Brophy's family comes to a home game in early February.

A former walk-on, Brophy earned a scholarship last season and became one of the most well-liked and well-respected players on the team.

"Kevin was looked at as a guy that could come in and do whatever needed to be done," Georgia sophomore guard Mike Mercer, a former roommate of Brophy's, told Rivals.com. "He worked so hard. He couldn't wait for practice and always gave 100 percent. He helped me out a lot. Whenever my attitude got down or something was wrong, he would keep me up."

Senior guard Levi Stukes believes there is one way to best honor Brophy's memory.

"We are dedicating this season to Kevin, and we have to win because I know that is what he would expect from us," Stukes said.

It looks like the Bulldogs will have a good chance to do that. Four starters and most of the key reserves are back from a team that went 15-15, the best season since coach Dennis Felton inherited a vast rebuilding project in Athens three years ago.

Mercer says sophomore center Rashaad Singleton has gained 35 pounds since the end of the season. The Bulldogs also have added highly touted junior college power forward Takias Brown, which should help them on the inside, an area of weakness during the Felton era.

"This is probably the best team we've had since I've been here," Stukes said.

USC also has high hopes thanks in large part to an unselfish act by freshman point guard Daniel Hackett of Downey, Calif.

Soon after Francis, who started every game as a freshman last season, was killed, the team found out his replacement, Gabe Pruitt, was academically ineligible until at least mid-December. There was no other point guard on the roster, and no time to recruit anyone else.

Hackett, Rivals.com's No. 56 overall prospect in the class of 2007, decided to take summer classes and graduate early. He enrolled at USC in the fall.

The Trojans return one of the Pac-10's top players, small forward Nick Young, who averaged 16 points per game last season. They also added four-star power forward Taj Gibson.

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