Trojan’s top returning scorer suffers a torn knee ligament during exhibition tour.
The inexperienced basketball team of USC experienced a severe setback Thursday when one of the Trojans’ two returning starters, Jio Fontan, was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Coach Kevin O’Neill said in through telephone from Brazil that USC’s floor leader and highest scorer Jio Fontan will need operation and miss the 2011-12 season.
A 6-foot senior from Paterson, N.J., Fontan was injured Tuesday night during an exhibition in Sao Paulo when he landed awkwardly after being hit in the air. The Trojans are playing a series of scrimmages and exhibitions in Brazil, and are scheduled to play their last game of trip on Friday.
USC said X-rays taken Tuesday came back negative, but O’Neill said he feared the worst. Fontan came back to Los Angeles on Wednesday and an MRI examination revealed the tear.
O’Neill said, “It’s a huge blow for our team.”
Fontan achieved 57 points in USC’s first two games in Brazil. Fontan averaged 10.5 points last season, starting every game after joining the team 10 games into the season.
NCAA move policy required him to sit out until USC’s December 18 game at then-third-ranked Kansas, but he made an immediate impact, scoring 15 points as the Trojans lost in the final seconds. Fontan had 13 points as USC upset No. 19 Tennessee three days after.