By Rich Ruben
In a discussion about the upcoming season, head coach Andy Enfield talked about the new additions to the roster, the benefits in having a group of experienced returning players, and the state of Trojan basketball.
The Trojan coaching staff is deep into evaluating potential recruits for the 2022-2023 season. The AAU summer season begins in July and Andy Enfield and staff will be very busy continuing their evaluations and communicating with recruits. Enfield said, “(A)t this time we are happy with our roster for the 2021-2022 season,” which doesn’t completely shut the door on another roster addition.
“We have 13 very good basketball players (for this upcoming season) and we expect very competitive practices,” Enfield said. “Eventually we will figure out our rotations but we are very excited about our talent level.”
“It’s nice to have a group of experienced players who understand our offensive and defensive systems,” Enfield added. “Last year it took a while for our new players to learn what we were trying to do and for the staff to learn what they could do.”
Unlike last year, this year’s Trojan edition will also benefit from a full workout and practice schedule before beginning play in November. The players will be on campus starting next week and the new players will begin their learning curve. Even though the roster looks very deep, Enfield said that “it’s too early to know if we will press or alter our offense or defense. I’m excited to see who has added to their skill set.”
Enfield’s Evaluation Of The New Players
Enfield provided input on the three players who played sparingly last season and the new additions to the Trojan team.
Josh Morgan – The 6-foot-11, 215-pound Morgan played one season at Long Beach State before transferring to USC and was the Big West Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman.
“Josh is young for his grade and it was always the intent for Josh to redshirt last year,” Enfield said. “He played a couple of minutes in a few games to get his feet wet. We expect Josh to be a defensive presence inside like Onyeka and Evan” were the last two seasons.
“On offense he is very good around the basket and is working on expanding his offensive game this offseason.”
Boubacar Coulibaly – Of the 6-foot-9, 215-pound Coulibaly, Enfield said, “Boubacar is a dynamic athlete, has by far the highest vertical leap on the team and is an extremely hard worker. He gives a lot of attention to detail and we expect him to be in the front court rotation this season.”
From pregame warmups and in his brief game appearances last season Boubacar looks like a player who should be contribute.
Reese Waters – “Reese wanted to come early with the Southern California high school season up in the air,” Enfield said. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Waters graduated a semester early and enrolled at USC at the semester break. “Reese did a great job of learning and got the experience of a PAC 12 season and a good post season run to the Elite 8. He understands how hard players at this level need to work. Reese is a big guard and a terrific shooter. He can play thru contact and is developing his ball skills.”
Evaluation Of The Newcomers
Transfer Boogie Ellis – “He is an experienced player who overaged over ten points at Memphis last year,” Enfield said. “He has a high basketball IQ and will pick up our system quickly. Boogie is a good playmaker and scorer, can play on or off the ball on offense, and is versatile on defense.”
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Ellis is the addition who has the best opportunity to fill the scoring and steady hand that Tajh Eaddy brought last season. Plus, he brings more quickness than any Trojan in the last few years.
Freshman Malik Thomas – Of the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Thomas, Enfield said, “Malik plays very hard and is a great defender. He has the ability to get into the lane and to his spot. He is tough thru contact and will need to adjust to finishing against high level college competition.”
Freshman Harrison Hornery – “Harrison is a front court player who made over 40% of his threes at Mater Dei. He can play a stretch four” and force teams to defend a 6-foot-9, 215-pound player who can score outside. Harrison will get an opportunity to show how well he can defend Pac-12 big men when practice begins in the fall.
Freshman Kobe Johnson – Kobe is not as highly ranked as his freshmen classmates but nonetheless “he is a very versatile guard who had many triple doubles in high school,” Enfield said of the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder. “He is a great rebounder and passer and can score. We can use him in multiple positions.”
And – One
Many USC fans thought last season’s team was the deepest Trojan team they could remember, but this team should be deeper. The Trojans don’t have a dominating big on both ends, but there is much more depth in the backcourt. The same group of wings are back with one more season of experience, and they will have a front court that will have good depth and experience if Isaiah Mobley returns. Boubacar and Josh should also be ready to make meaningful contributions up front.
After two very good seasons in which USC returned only three players both years, the Trojans start with much more experience this fall. Ethan Anderson, Max Agbonkpolo, Drew Peterson, Isaiah White, Chevez Goodwin, (and possibly Isaiah Mobley) return after major contributions to the Elite 8 team. If IM returns and plays to the level of his post season play last Spring and if Boogie can replace a lot of what Tahj contributed last season, the next edition of Trojan basketball could be very good again.
Two of last season’s grad transfers have made use of the one season Covid eligibility rule to return, which says a lot about Andy Enfield’s program. Another top-15 recruiting class plus the addition of a solid experienced guard from the portal should provide Trojan supporters with another season in which the Trojans are a factor in the Pac-12 race and in the post season. UCLA, followed by Oregon will be picked by the “experts” to finish at the top of the conference, with USC and Arizona likely predicted to battle for third. The experts missed big on the Trojans by picking them to finish sixth last season before USC won fifteen of twenty conference games. The Trojans will be predicted to finish higher this time around.