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Offseason Report

It has been approximately 4 months since the 2020-2021 USC Basketball season came to an end. After a dramatic and impressive Elite 8 run, Trojan fans knew this would be a critical offseason as Coach Enfield looks to cement the Trojans’ place as a consistent player both in that Pac-12 and on the national stage.


First, I must apologize for the tardiness of this offseason report, the past four months have been a whirlwind, both personally and professionally. I am pleased to say that in late June my wife and I were able to finally have our dream wedding in Los Angeles. Despite the chaos surrounding the Pandemic, the pieces fell into place and we were able to proceed with a fully vaccinated wedding full of our family and friends. My wife is a tremendous sport (pun intended) and has always supported my affinity for all things USC sports. Importantly, she is a proud Trojan and an avid sports fan, in fact during her wedding vows she promised to love me the “way that Coach Andy loves reading stats in post-game interviews.” She watches every game with me, understands the finer details of the game, deals with my screaming and shouting and can deliver some trash talk with the best of them. I am a very lucky man, and I am extremely excited for our future together!


As busy as this offseason has been for me, it has been equally, if not more hectic for the Trojans. There has been a good deal of movement on both the roster and the bench, but the pieces that remain leave the Trojans in a good place to continue build on the success of the past two seasons.


Who is Gone:


The success of the 2021-2022 Trojans will mainly depend on how well the Trojans are able to replace the production of its two leading scorers from last year. It was no surprise that All-Everything Freshman Evan Mobley declared for the NBA draft. He was always going to be a one and done player, and he lived up to the billing. Mobley was selected 3rd overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, matching OJ Mayo as the highest selected Trojan of all time. Mobley’s versatility on both ends of the floor make him a highly projectable professional in the age of the NBA “stretch forward.” Mobley will probably see significant time as both a Power Forward and Center, especially as he continues to put on muscle and body weight. Mobley’s selection gives USC a first round pick in each of the past three drafts (Kevin Porter Jr. in 2019 and Onyeka Okongwu in 2020). Only three other schools in the country can make a similar claim (Kentucky, UNC and Florida State), and this speaks to the success Coach Andy has had on the recruiting trail, in not only identifying top prospects, but in developing them as well.


Also gone from last year’s Trojan team is Guard Tahj Eaddy. While Evan Mobley deservedly took home most every award, Eaddy may have been the most important player on last year’s team. Eaddy assumed point guard responsibilities early in the year when Ethan Anderson went down, and he was exceptional down the stretch. As an experienced transfer from Santa Clara, Eaddy added a level of calm to the USC offense, and always seemed in control with the ball. Eaddy will forever be linked to his buzzer beater 3 against UCLA in the regular season finale, securing a 4th straight victory over the Bruins. Eaddy elected to forego his last season of eligibility, and signed with the Orlando Magic as an undrafted Free Agent. Recently, USC fans have seen former PG Jordan McLaughlin enter the league as a UDFA and work his way into significant minutes with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Eaddy will have an opportunity to prove he belongs, and it would be foolish to count him out of any situation.

Lastly, Guard Noah Baumann entered the transfer portal and has officially transferred to Georgia. While we had high hopes for Baumann, it appeared that he was going to be buried on the depth chart this year, and he simply was not consistent enough as a three-point shooter to vie for more playing time.


On the sideline, the Trojans were dealt a big blow when Assistant Coach Jason Hart accepted a job to become the Head Coach of the G League Ignite. It was only a matter of time until Hart was snatched up by either another University or a G League team, he was too talented of a recruiter and coach not to be given an opportunity sometime soon. I am thrilled for Coach Hart, and have no doubts he will succeed in his new role.


Roster Additions:


Once again, Coach Enfield has gone into the transfer portal and found what he hopes to be a reincarnation of Eaddy, this time in the form of 6’3” PG Boogie Ellis. Ellis comes to USC by way of Memphis where he averaged 10.2 points a game last year for Penny Hardaway’s squad. Ellis is a former four star recruit from San Diego, who many thought was USC bound back in 2019. USC will feature a very deep rotation this year, but Ellis is expected to come in and start from day one. Ellis is a capable three point shooter, but also has the size to finish inside. Enfield will be in an enviable position in having to choose between Ellis and Ethan Anderson as the primary ball handler.


Ellis will be joined by a trio of true freshman, including California Gatorade Player of the Year Malik Thomas. Thomas is the third straight Trojan to have won the prestigious award joining fellow Trojans Okongwu and Evan Mobley as high school standouts. Thomas, who graduated as Damien’s all-time leading scorer, is a sturdy 6’4” and is not afraid to play with the type of physicality usually reserved for collegiate upper-classmen. Thomas will contend immediately for playing time, even in a crowded back court.


Joining the freshman ranks is former Mater Dei big Harrison Hornery and Kobe Johnson out of Milwaukee. Hornery’s game will remind many Trojan fans of a young Bennie Boatwright, as he is a 6’10” shooter. Hornery is a typical stretch four, who is as comfortable beyond the arc as he is down low. Hornery’s floor time will largely be dictated by his ability to defend down low. While he is an offensive mismatch for smaller forwards or even guards on the perimeter, he will need to add muscle and lower body strength in order to mix it up down low with more experienced forwards. Johnson is the kind of athlete who can flourish in Enfield’s up-tempo style. He plays bigger and stronger than his 6”4 frame would lead on, and is a very fluid athlete. Johnson’s energy and versatility will give him the best shot of seeing the floor this year.


Overview:


For the past three years, I have entered the season believing that “this USC team is the deepest yet,” which is a positive evaluation of the program Coach Andy is building. That being said, this team is actually the deepest yet. Even with the departures of Evan Mobley and Tahj Eaddy, this USC team will feature a ton of experience and talent. The biggest news of the offseason was Isaiah Mobley electing to return to USC.


While it was always considered a longshot that he would enter the draft, all combine feedback was very positive for the elder Mobley brother, especially on the heels of an impressive tournament, where he showed his ability to connect from three. Isaiah will be the focal point of the Trojan offense, and Andy will need to find creative ways to work him both in the interior and perimeter of the offense, especially in a pick and roll/pick and pop game.


Other experienced returners include Ethan Anderson, Isaiah White, Drew Peterson, Max Agbonkpolo and Chevez Goodwin. Also look for Joshua Morgan and Reese Waters to see valuable minutes as well. Depending on the matchup, USC will have the ability to go big with either Goodwin/Morgan next to Mobley or play small ball, with both Anderson and Ellis in the starting lineup next to Peterson and White.


We will learn more about this team as training camp ramps back up, but I for one am very excited to see if and how this team builds on the legacy of the Pandemic Trojans.


I will work hard to provide more consistent updates, and look forward to a big season!


Fight On!



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