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February 13, 2008

USC prepares, minus Hackett

Daniel Hackett may be back next week. He may be done for the season.

USC's medical staff does not know if the sophomore point guard triggered the stress fracture in his lower back two weeks ago, when he dove to the floor against Arizona and suffered a painful hip pointer. Doctors do not know when the spasms in Hackett's back will cease, allowing for a more thorough examination of the injury.

They do know that Hackett could not pass even the most elementary of physical tests Monday, and coach Tim Floyd said Hackett would not return for Sunday's game against UCLA.

"The way it was laid out to me was that there's a scenario where he won't play this year," Floyd said. "We're going to approach things like he won't be out here, and we'll be hopeful that he returns at some point. I don't know when that will be. I have no idea, because he's in no position to play basketball right now."

A partially-torn oblique muscle also has been added to Hackett's litany of ailments, although he can't feel that one.

The Trojans are 2-2 since Hackett's ill-fated dive. The previous game, he scored a career-high 26 points in a victory at Oregon, Jan. 26. Without their best free-throw shooter (82.4 percent) and top-assist man (79), Angelo Johnson moves into the starting lineup, and the Trojans are without a reserve guard on scholarship. The backups, walk-ons Ryan Wetherell and Terrence Green, have combined to play 14 minutes during this year's 11 Pac-10 games.

Floyd had hoped Marcus Simmons would return to practice Tuesday, but the freshman guard could not participate. He still walks with a protective boot.

"We're going to have to get positive minutes from somebody off the bench to be able to rest guys, be able to finish games," Floyd said, with a nod to the Arizona loss, when a fatigued Trojans team collapsed down the stretch. "We need somebody to come in and not allow the game to go south on us during the eight minutes, or ten minutes, or twelve minutes -- whatever they can give us."

Floyd said Hackett's style of play probably provided UCLA with its most difficult matchup during the Trojans' Jan. 19 upset at Pauley Pavilion. He is the Trojans' best penetrator and top rebounder from the perimeter.

The sophomore also was at the center of USC's triangle-and-two defense, which helped slow the Bruins.

"I don't know if it will be as effective without him," said Floyd, who acknowledged that his team must change its approach.

Johnson, a freshman, will take most of Hackett's minutes, running point. Monday, the two underclassmen talked.

"I've got to be me, but I take a lot of advice from Daniel," Johnson said. "He always went back to rebound for us. He always was willing to make the extra pass. He was a leader on the floor.

"Daniel's just a terrific player. I can learn from him."

Jonathan Kay can be reached at Jon@USCFootball.com


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