USC had already played 18 games without De’Anthony Melton in uniform. Now the Trojans know they also won’t have their prized sophomore for the rest of the season either.
The university announced Thursday that it will hold Melton out of competition for at least the rest of the 2017-18 season due to eligibility concerns stemming from the FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball. USC’s internal investigation corroborated allegations that would-be agent Christian Dawkins paid a family friend of Melton’s $5,000 in exchange for advising the prospect to hire Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood when he turned pro.
Melton will be allowed to remain on scholarship at USC and practice with the team. USC’s statement did not rule out the possibility he could “potentially compete for the Trojans in the 2018-19 season.”
USC’s decision did not sit well with its basketball team’s best player. Forward Chimezie Metu sent out a pair of tweets Thursday afternoon defending Melton and bashing the university.
"He didn't do anything wrong but let's suspend him bc we're selfish and have to protect our image" …makes sense
— Chimezie Metu™ (@Chimezie_Metu) January 11, 2018
The absence of Melton for the remainder of this season is a blow to USC’s chances of securing an NCAA tournament bid. The dynamic wing is USC’s best perimeter defender and his ability to force turnovers and turn them into transition baskets is something the Trojans dearly miss.
USC began the season in the top 15 of the AP poll thanks to the return of a handful of key players from last year’s NCAA tournament team and the arrival of a talented freshman class. With Melton sidelined and the FBI investigation hanging over the program, the Trojans have stumbled to a 12-6 start that includes three sub-100 KenPom losses and zero top 50 wins.
Melton will have the option of remaining at USC or declaring for next year’s NBA draft. Some scouts believe he could be a late first-round pick because of his disruptiveness on defense, his ability to guard multiple positions and his playmaking off the dribble, but to be taken that high he’d likely need to demonstrate during workouts that his jump shooting has improved.
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