Southern California looks to improved talent to find way up
LOS ANGELES (AP) Things can’t get much worse for Southern California.
They were 12-20 last season, finishing last in the Pac-12 with just three victories after having only two in coach Andy Enfield’s debut season.
Now it’s time to start working their way up in the standings.
The Trojans return nine players and add highly touted freshmen Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu to the mix, giving a much-needed dose of experience and promise to a team picked by the media to finish 10th in the league.
”We’re not making any predictions,” Enfield said. ”We’re not here to say we’re going to win a certain amount of games. We’re just trying to do our best and improve.”
Enfield has focused on recruiting in the region and he’s succeeded, bringing in forwards Boatwright from Mission Hills and Metu from Lawndale after landing a solid class last year.
”We knew as a staff we’d have to put up with a lot of freshmen and sophomore mistakes, which we have, but they’re on the right path,” he said.
The Trojans open the season at home against San Diego on Nov. 13.
Here are some things to know about USC this season:
JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN: He’s healthy after having surgeries on both shoulders that cut his season short in February. He averaged 12.1 points as a freshman and figures to be the starting point guard if he stays injury-free. The Trojans’ other top guard, Katin Reinhardt, is back after leading them with 12.5 points last season. Adding depth in the backcourt are Julian Jacobs, Elijah Stewart and Malik Marquetti. ”Everybody complements everybody and we get the best out of each other by pushing each other,” McLaughlin said. ”Everybody’s mentality has just changed.”
BIG MEN: Nikola Jovanovic returns after averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. He gives the Trojans a 6-foot-11 presence on the low block, while 6-10 Boatwright and 6-11 Metu will complement Jovanovic inside. Boatwright is a solid shooter and his size on the perimeter could present matchup problems for opponents. He averaged 27.8 points and 13 rebounds as a high school senior. Metu isn’t quite as polished a scoring threat, but he should make an impact early after averaging 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in high school.
ROAD WOES: The Trojans were winless away from home in league play. As the visiting team in five of their first seven Pac-12 games, they’ll find out quickly whether they can withstand the rigors of the road. They lost five road games by eight points or less last season, including one point at California. ”Our inexperience showed,” McLaughlin said. ”With the experience we had from last year, it was a learning step for everybody.”
DUNK CITY WEST: USC plans to run an up-tempo, high-octane offense, something Enfield became known for while taking Florida Gulf Coast on its head-turning NCAA Tournament run a few years ago. The Trojans averaged 67.0 points last season, which ranked 10th in the Pac-12. They gave up an average of 71.0 points.
FUTURE IMPACT: Watching from the sidelines will be 6-7 guard Shaqquan Aaron, who sits out this season after transferring from Louisville. He figures to make a big impact during his three remaining seasons of eligibility. The Trojans seem poised to move up this season, but with only one senior on the roster their biggest leap could come next year.