Key Departures: Evan Mobley (NBA); Tahj Eaddy (NBA); Noah Baumann (–>Georgia)
New In Town: Boogie Ellis (<–Memphis); Malik Thomas (#79); Harrison Hornery (#180); Kobe Johnson (#190)
State of the Program:
USC was patient with Andy Enfield after hiring him in 2014 and seeing the program win just 5 Pac-12 games in the first two seasons. Since then he’s taken them to 3 tournaments, and finally broke through in a major way last year with a run to the Elite 8 and a 2nd place Pac-12 finish going 15-5. Gone are stars Evan Mobley and Tahj Eaddy, but beyond that Enfield brings back 6 major contributors including 3 starters and rising star Isaiah Mobley (JR). Mobley broke out in the tournament and showed he has the ability to be the man this season, and he’ll be surrounded by a strong returning core including starters Drew Peterson (SR) and Isaiah White (SR) and reserves Chevez Goodwin (SR), Ethan Anderson (JR) and Max Agbonkpolo (JR). Experience and a star absolutely puts USC in the National conversation, and if they continue to be a dominant defensive team they will be able to hang with anybody. Enfield also was able to bring in some nice pieces to compliment the returning group putting the Trojans right back in contention in the Pac-12.
The lone transfer coming in is former Memphis G Boogie Ellis (JR), who was the AAC 6th MOY and comes in looking to replace some of the production lost with the Eaddy departure. Ellis improved his outside shooting in his SO campaign, going from 32% to nearly 39% from outside. He was a top-50 prospect and absolutely should be a contributor, and will likely be the primary ball handler for this team. How he does as a PG and distributor could be a major factor in how successful this Trojan team will be. The best of this Freshman class coming in is CG Malik Thomas (#79) who is a strong guard that was a prolific scorer in HS, with ability at all 3 levels. He played a little out of control, taking some wild shots but with time he should mature into a very good scorer for this Trojan team, and should have an impact off the bench in year 1 as the depth in the backcourt is a little thin. Net up Harrison Hornery (#180), who made his way to the States in HS via Australia and has one of the purer jump shots I’ve seen in this class. Hornery is 6’9” and is the perfect stretch 4, but needs to improve his strength and athleticism so he can defend that position. His shooting ability will undoubtedly make him a big time scorer some day for USC, he’ll just need a year or two to develop his body and reach his ceiling. The last of the newcomers is 6’5” wing Kobe Johnson (#190), who will need time to develop but has a decent inside out game and has the skills to play as a small ball 4 honestly, he’s just a little undersized for that position. He either needs to fill out and become a bully type defender or get much quicker to be able to handle the 3 spot. His jumper looks like it can develop and come along, but he mostly excels around the rim at this stage. He is a guy to watch for down the road but shouldn’t have a big impact this season.
The Trojans are really on the upswing with Andy Enfield and with Isaiah Mobley returning alongside this big returning group from last season’s Elite 8 team. The loss of their 2 leading scorers clouds the team a little bit, but Mobley showed burst of ability to be a star and Enfield has turned this USC team into a staunch defensive group. They have gone from 118th defensively in 2019 to 18th two season ago all the way to 6th last year. That shift along with bringing in the Mobley’s and the rest of this roster and they’ve become one of the most dangerous teams in the country. The addition of Ellis to fill in the hole left behind by Eaddy helps as well, and in the end I think Enfield should have yet another solid team in Southern California, and now that the Pac-12 has gotten a little bit of respect after the performance in the tourney last year USC should be ranked an in contention most of the season. I would expect a top-3 finish in the Pac-12, a tourney appearance and a legitimate chance to go on another run.