KU, Southern Cal agree on hoops series

Kansas University’s men’s basketball team will be playing a pair of USCs next season.

The Jayhawks, who will complete a home-and-home series with the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., have agreed to a home-and-home series with the University of Southern California.

Next year’s game against Southern Cal is slated to be played in Allen Fieldhouse, with KU returning to Los Angeles the following season.

USC next season moves into the new on-campus Galen Center, a hoops/volleyball arena that will seat 10,258 fans.

“That’s a possibility,” KU senior associate athletic director Larry Keating said of meeting the Trojans in back-to-back seasons.

Keating has a policy of not confirming games publicly until contracts are signed, sealed and delivered. Southern Cal officials, however, have told the Los Angeles Daily News the series is set.

Next year’s game will match KU junior-to-be Rodrick Stewart against his twin brother, Lodrick, who will be a senior guard for the Trojans.

“The coaches asked Rodrick what team he wanted to play, and he said USC,” Lodrick Stewart told the Daily News.

Southern Cal, which finished 17-13 overall and 8-10 in Pac 10 play in its first year under coach Tim Floyd, returns its top three scorers in 6-foot-6 sophomore Nick Young (17.3 ppg), 6-4 soph Gabe Pruitt (16.9 ppg) and 6-4 Lodrick Stewart (12.3 ppg). Rodrick Stewart, a USC transfer who became eligible the second semester of KU’s just-completed season, scored 10 points in 14 games for the Jayhawks.

KU’s return trips to Georgia Tech and Michigan State are on hold at least another year. The Jayhawks will play Northern Arizona at home next season and will play two home games in mid-November and two in Las Vegas on Nov. 24 and 25 as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Keating is working with the networks on other possible nonconference contests for the 2006-07 campaign.

¢ Self to check status: KU coach Bill Self will check on Brandon Rush’s NBA draft stock even though the freshman guard/forward has decided to return to school next season.

“Even if a decision is made,” Self said, “I still will provide information to him. It’s a commitment I made to Brandon and his family.

“It (returning to KU) is what he feels. He wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t what he feels. It is what I feel is best for him as a player and person. (Still) I will hold true to my commitment to him.”

Self has many friends in the front offices of NBA teams and in scouting departments. He’s easily able to assess the draftability of his players.

¢ Smart move by Rush: Chad Ford of ESPN.com agrees with Rush’s decision to return to KU for his soph season.

“The Big 12 freshman of the year has been strong this season, but his first-round play against Bradley was ugly (as was his team’s),” Ford wrote. “Rush, who has been a steady force for the Jayhawks, went four of 14 from the field and never got to the line in KU’s loss. Rush has proven this season that he’s a legit NBA prospect. But he needs to spend at least one more year in Lawrence before thinking about the NBA draft. This goes for the entire KU squad.”

¢ Ceremony set: KU’s men’s basketball awards ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. on April 11 at a yet-to-be determined location. The annual ceremony is open to the public.

¢ Week off: Most of KU’s players have left town for spring break. It’s business as usual for KU’s coaches, however, following Friday’s first-round tournament loss to Bradley in Auburn Hills, Mich.

“I’ve not seen the tape of the game,” Self said Monday, referring to KU’s 77-73 loss. “We didn’t play well. They are a good team which they showed (in beating KU and Pitt).

“Their quickness offset ours the vast majority of the game,” Self added. “Hopefully with another year’s experience we’ll be better able to combat that.”