LOS ANGELES — De’Anthony Melton confirmed the news when he sent a text message to the USC basketball team’s group chat.
By Thursday afternoon, the players knew his fate, bringing an end to a monthslong saga.
Melton, the Trojans’ sophomore who in September was first linked in the FBI’s probe into bribery and corruption in college basketball, had been suspended by the university for the rest of the season.
In an announcement, USC cited its internal investigation that uncovered “extra benefits, primarily to a close family friend.”
It was a gut punch to teammates.
“It was just an unfortunate situation for him,” forward Chimezie Metu said.
“It hurts,” senior guard Jordan McLaughlin added.
The Trojans on Sunday host Utah with Melton no longer in limbo. For the first time this season, coaches and players know the versatile 6-foot-4 guard, who had been held out of all 18 games this season, will not return.
Since the season opened in early November, most in the program expected him to be back in the lineup, and Coach Andy Enfield at several junctures hinted at the possibility, one that ultimately ended Thursday. The Trojans instead are left to recover and move on with two months to go.
“It’s not a change because he hasn’t played for us on the court,” Enfield said. “However, it does give finality for De’Anthony and our team, because we were all hopeful throughout the season he would be a part of the team and on the court for us at some point, but we know now he will not be. It doesn’t make it any easier with the situation because we all want him back, but at least it gives some finality for De’Anthony most importantly, so he doesn’t get his hopes up, and we don’t get our hopes up either.”
Enfield on Thursday afternoon held a team meeting to discuss the development.
He also met with Melton, who will remain on scholarship at least through the spring semester, continue to practice and attend home games. His return for next season…