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Monday, January 14, 2013
USC recruit reacts to O’Neill firing

By Adam Finkelstein



Less than three hours after it was reported that Kevin O’Neill had been fired as the head basketball coach at the University of Southern California, several of the Trojans’ five incoming recruits in the 2013 class were already talking about what the news could mean for their futures.

Shooting guard Kahlil Dukes (Hartford, Conn./Capital Prep), who made a verbal commitment to USC in July before signing in November, had already spoken to both ESPN 100 point guard Kendal Harris (Richardson, Texas/Berkner) and point guard Julian Jacobs (Las Vegas/Desert Pines) by 3 p.m. ET on Monday.

Kahlil Dukes
USC recruit Kahlil Dukes said he's still solid on the Trojans as long as interim coach Bob Cantu is on the staff.
“Kendal just asked what I was going to do and I told him I was going to stay,” Dukes said. “He really didn’t respond.

“Julian and I were talking about what happens if (Bob) Cantu leaves.”

Cantu, USC’s former associate head coach and now interim head coach for the rest of this season, was the lead recruiter under O’Neill.

“He called me right before they released the news,” Dukes said. “He just said everything was going to be fine and not to worry about it.”

With the reassurance from the man who recruited him the in the first place, Dukes quickly went to his Twitter account this morning to reiterate his initial commitment. He tweeted: “Despite the news, I am still a man of Troy. I ain’t going no where. Gotta go thru what u dnt deserve 2 receive what u do.”

He elaborated on his status later this afternoon when reached by ESPN for comment.

“I think we all have a lot of faith in Cantu because he did most of the recruiting and stuff,” Dukes said. “As long as Cantu is on the staff, I think we’re all in. But I can’t speak for all of us.”

What remains to be seen, though, is exactly what would happen if Cantu is not retained by the next head coach. While he’ll hold the interim title for the rest of the season, all early reports suggest USC athletic director Pat Haden and associate athletic director Steve Lopes will look to bring in a fresh face this spring.

If that’s the case and the new head coach chooses not to retain Cantu -- who has worked for five different head coaches during his 12 years on USC’s staff -- he could be starting from scratch in what is undoubtedly a pivotal recruiting class for the Trojans. However, with all five of USC’s 2013 recruits having already signed national letters of intent, they would have to be released from their letters by USC to play elsewhere without having to sit out.

Asked what would happen if Cantu was not retained by the next head coach, Dukes responded, “I can’t answer that right now.”