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Basketball: Trojans hire O’Neill

Well, that diidn’t take long. In a swift move, perhaps intended to halt the program’s bleeding, USC hired Kevin O’Neill today as its new coach. O’Neill had mixed results in his one season as interim replacement for Lute Olson at Arizona in 2007-08, but the guy can coach. Here is the Trojans’ official news release, plus a story from ESPN.com.

Here’s a story on one-time USC signee Noel Johnson, who has chosen Clemson.

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Cal football: A few thoughts

–Some of you have asked about the start time and TV for the Minnesota game. I’m told that’s likely to be announced next week.

–Cal’s team camp is taking place this weekend and I’m told there are some top prospects there, more than last weekend’s individual camp.

–Reminder that our live chat with Jahvid Best takes place next Thursday from 1:30-2:30 p.m.

–Pac-10 media day is scheduled for July 30. That’s when the preseason media poll will be announced. I’ve received my ballot and will turning it in soon, then will share my picks with you.

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Cal football: Pre-weekend reading

–We reported earlier that Cal had been ranked No. 9 in Phil Steele’s preseason rankings. The Cal preview appeared today on the magazine’s website. It’s a replica of what appears in the hard copy of the magazine.

–The Seahawks have signed former Cal tight end Cameron Morrah.

–The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Chargers have released former Cal linebacker Anthony Felder.

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Cal football: Some reading

–ESPN.com’s Ted Miller has an interesting take on Cal, notably that the Bears don’t necessarily need to see improvement from their passing game because of the presence of punter Bryan Anger.

–I touched on it before, but here is the finalized TV schedule from the Pac-10.

–Defensive tackle George Uko has narrowed his list to five schools, and Cal remains in the mix. Uko is rated as the No. 7 DT in the nation by scout.com and No. 15 by rivals.com. It would be quite a get for the Bears to land both Uko and fellow defensive tackle Cassius Marsh, who still says Cal is his No. 1 school.

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Cal football: Syd’Quan Thompson

Here’s a story I wrote for today’s paper about Cal corner Syd’Quan Thompson, who has been raking in the preseason honors by the various magazines that have been released.

More from Thompson that didn’t make it into the story:

–On the expectations or pressure that may be heightened now with the preseason recognition: “I hear people say I have to ignore the pressure, but I’m not really worried about the pressure. If the pressure is on me, then it’s time for me to make a play and there are more opportunities to make a play.”

–On how he can still get better: “I’m still learning. I think I can learn the offenses more, what they are trying to do in certain situations. I know a lot but I think I can focus in more and really grasp everything they are trying to do. I can also know more about what my teammates’ defensive assignments are, not just mine and the safeties, but knowing where the linebackers need to drop and the linemen if they are in coverage.”

“I think my technique can be more disciplined this year. People laugh when I say that, because they say I had a good season. But there is a lot of stuff on film that the fans don’t see that I can improve on, and I can give more effort.

“Another thing is being a leader. Last year, we had good leadership with our linebackers and Alex Mack. All of our leaders left. This is a time for a new breed of leaders to step in and take that role and lead this team.”

–On his comfort level assuming a leadership role: “When I’ve had to speak, I’ve felt comfortable doing it. I lead more by example. I’ve always had a lot of vocal guys around me. I need to be one of those vocal guys this year. I’m not all the way there, but each day I’m getting more comfortable with my new role.”

–On the potential of Cal’s defense this season: “I think we have something special, even though we lost the linebackers. I think we may be better than last year, even though we had a lot of big names last year.”

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Cal football: Workout notes

Some tidbits I picked up from Cal’s workout on Thursday:

–Running back Jahvid Best is practicing. He said he’s not totally 100 percent but “I could play.” He said he has been cleared to do everything without limitations.  “My body is feeling a lot better,” Best said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s feeling really good right now.”

–Fans will no longer see long flowing hair coming out of the back of Michael Calvin’s helmet. Calvin shaved his head in March. “I needed something new,” said Calvin, who is on his way back from ACL surgery.

–Wide receiver Nyan Boateng on Calvin’s return: “Mike is a special player. I’m very proud of how hard he’s worked to get back. He will add another threat to the offense. We need him. We need everybody we can use.”

–Quarterback Kevin Riley said the mechanical adjustments he made during the spring are paying off. It was designed to shorten his motion and make sure he didn’t drop his elbow, a bad habit he had formed. “My ball is coming out more accurate, with more zip on it,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt in like two years. It’s coming out quicker and feels better.”