By Rich Ruben
Last season WeAreSC started what hopefully will become a tradition of naming a player of the week. Not surprisingly, Evan Mobley was the player of the week seven times and Tahj Eaddy three times. In this coming season, it appears likely that the weekly winner will be spread throughout the roster.
The award was simply called the WeAreSC Player of the Week last season. After a good deal of thought, WeAreSC has decided to name the award for a former Trojan player or coach. Every reader is invited to post in the Hoops message board at WeAreSC the player/coach in whose honor you believe the award should be named and to explain your reasons if you wish. If you provide your reasoning you have the opportunity to sway others to support the same Trojan great. The “polls” close on June 30 and we’ll post the name of the Trojan great whose name will be associated with the award in early July. Only one rule; the honoree must be a player or coach from the men’s basketball team, so please no Cheryl Miller or Lisa Leslie votes.
I’ve compiled a short list of potential honorees and a brief explanation of why this player should be considered. Please participate; you can nominate any player or coach and as many as you want.
Trojans Who Scored The Most Points In The NBA
DeMar DeRozan passed Gus Williams on the USC career scoring NBA list. DeMar scored 485 points in his one season at USC which is among the top five freshman point totals. In his three seasons at USC Gus scored 1318 points which is in the top 20 on the all-time Trojan list. DeMar led the Trojans to the PAC 10 Tournament title in 2009.
Over DeMar’s twelve seasons in the NBA he has averaged over 20 points per game and has exceeded 20 in each of his last eight seasons. DeMar has been in the all star game three times. He was the ninth pick in the 2009 draft by Toronto.
Gus was twentieth pick in the 1975 NBA draft and averaged over 17 points in his 11 year pro career. Gus averaged over 26 points in the playoffs twice and 32.5 one other year. He was first team All NBA once and second team one other time and was a key player on the 1979 NBA champion Seattle SuperSonics.
Trojan All Time Greats
In my opinion, there are two players who had the best careers at USC. In his three seasons in the early 1960’s John Rudometkin was a two-time All American and is still ninth on the Trojan career scoring list with 1484 points. In his junior and senior seasons he averaged over 20 points per game.
Harold Miner was the Sports Illustrated national player of the year and first team All American in 1992 and was honorable mention All American in his first two seasons. He averaged over 20 points in all three seasons at Troy and averaged 23.5 ppg over his USC career and is the career scoring leader with 2048 points, over 300 more shots than any other Trojan. He scored 30 or more points 19 times. No other Trojan player has scored 30 points more than 9 times.
Trojan Conference Players Of The Year
Only four Trojans have ever been conference POY. Besides Harold Miner the list includes Wayne Carlander, Sam Clancy and Evan Mobley.
Carlander was an honorable mention All American in 1984 and 1985. He led the Trojans to their last conference regular season first place finish and scored 1524 points in his four seasons at USC, eighth most on the career list.
Sam Clancy was a second team All American in his senior season in 2002 and is third on the career Trojan scoring list with 1657 points. Sam was one of the leaders on the 2001 Elite Eight team.
Everyone knows Evan Mobley. A second team All American as a freshman and only the second player from a major basketball conference to be the conference player of the year, defensive player of the year and freshman of the year in the same season.
Most Overlooked Trojan
Most USC fans know that Harold Miner is the career scoring leader. Number two on the list is usually forgotten in discussions of Trojan all time greats. Ronnie Coleman was an undersized forward who scored most of his 1727 points inside. He had a career field goal percentage of 54% from 1988 to 1991 and is seventh on the career rebound list with 821.
Most Important Shot In USC History
This suggestion is admittedly a bit arbitrary. USC fans will undoubtedly disagree on who made the biggest shot ever for the Trojans. My favorite is the winning basket Ernie Powell made to give the Trojans a 46-44 win over undefeated and eventual national champion UCLA and Lew Alcindor in the final game of 1969. This win was in the middle of the John Wooden era. The Trojans used a “stall” offense (before the shot clock) to limit UCLA’s possessions, sometimes holding the ball for a minute or two between shots. This was the frustrated Bruins first loss ever at Pauley Pavilion. The Trojans took only twenty shots from the floor the entire game.
Trojan Rebounding Leader
Ron Riley was a skinny 6’9” inside player who was the center on the great Trojan team that finished 24-2 in 1971 and was first team All Conference as a junior and senior. Riley has the record for most rebounds as a Trojan sophomore, junior and senior. His 1067 career boards (in only 78 games) are the most for any other Trojan during years when teams played only 26 games, for a best career average of 13.6 rpg. He has 6 of the top 10 best single game rebound totals and averaged 14.2 boards as a junior and 15.3 as a senior, the top two season averages in Trojan history.
Trojan Career Assist Leaders
Brandon Granville was the point guard on the 2001 Elite 8 team and holds the career assist record of 779. Brandon was a bit chubby but an intense competitor snd has three of the top five single season assist totals in Trojan history.
The only other Trojan with more than 409 career assists is Jordan McLaughlin who had 738. Jordan was one of the best team leaders ever to play for the Trojans.
Trojan Who Improved The Most Over His USC Career
Nikola Vucevic came to USC under former coach Tim Floyd. There was a controversy over whether he played professionally in Europe before arriving at USC. Floyd’s version of the story, that Nik was the pro team’s “mascot,” eventually prevailed and Nik became eligible partway thru his freshman season. He went from a seldom used freshman to the 16th player drafted after his junior season in 2011. He scored the fifth most points ever as a junior at USC and has averaged almost 17 points per game in his 11 NBA seasons and has made two All Star teams.
Trojan Great Players/ Coaches
Three Trojans are known as much or even more for their coaching careers than their playing careers. Tex Winter played only one season at USC in 1947 but he is in the basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. He invented the triangle offense which Phil Jackson used as the head coach for the Bulls and Lakers. Tex was on the bench when those teams won 11 NBA titles. Before that he was the head coach at Marquette, Kansas State, Washington, Northwestern, Long Beach State and for the Houston Rockets. He passed away at 96 in 2018.
Bill Sharman played for the Trojans in the late 1940s before an 11 year NBA career, the last 10 with the Bill Russell and Bob Cousy Celtics. He averaged over 18 points for the Celtics and is one of only four basketball Hall of Fame members inducted as both a player and coach. He coached the Warriors and Lakers and then became the Lakers GM and later team president; during his reign the Lakers won five NBA titles. He was named one of the fifty greatest NBA players a few years ago.
Paul Westphal was the star of USC’s 24-2 team which included Ron Riley. In only two and a half 26 game seasons (he broke his arm as a senior and only played 14 games) the guard scored 1085 points and was averaging over 20 points before he was injured. His scoring average is ninth in Trojan history and he was a two time all conference performer. Paul had a long NBA career with the Celtics who drafted him in the first round, Suns (where he had his most success), Seattle SuperSonics and Knicks. Late in his career he received the Comeback Player of the Year award. He was a five time all star and three time All NBA player who averaged over 20 points in five of his 12 seasons in the NBA and shot over 50% for his career. After he retired he coached the Suns, Sonics and Kings, taking the Suns to the NBA finals where they lost to the Michael Jordan Bulls. Paul is in the basketball Hall of Fame and died last year.
Most Amazing Shot
Dwight Anderson played for USC for two seasons in the early ‘80’s. The athletic guard averaged 20.3 points as a senior, tied for fifth best senior scoring average, and 19.3 as a junior which is fourth among USC juniors. Dwight was a second round pick in the NBA draft but Trojan fans will always remember him for “the shot.” The Trojans grabbed a defensive rebound and Dwight streaked down court ahead of the pack. The pass was over his head, and he sped up and grabbed the ball on a bounce as he flew over the baseline. In one motion he caught the ball in mid air, turned and shot the ball over the backboard and thru the net.
The Shortest Head Coaching Tenure At USC
All right, this isn’t a serious suggestion but it does reflect the history of USC basketball, at least until the last six years under Andy Enfield.
After very successful runs at Marquette and Utah the Trojans recruited Rick Majerus to be the new head coach beginning in the 2004-2005 season. Across college basketball circles commentators believed the Trojans had made a great hire. Majures resigned five days after the press conference in which he was introduced to the media. Besides his great coaching success the bachelor Majerus was best known for quirky habits such as living in a Salt Lake City hotel for years. His stated reason for resigning was to be nearer to his elderly mother in the Midwest.
The Two Most “Deserving” Players To Carry The POW Name
In considering who I would name the Player of the Week award two names top my list. Under far different circumstances, both players had their Trojan careers cut short after good freshman seasons.
Ryan Francis was the starting point guard for Tim Floyd’s Trojans in the 2005-2006 season. Ryan was the MVP of the Louisiana state basketball tournament before enrolling at USC. Listed at 5’ 10” and 180 pounds Ryan looked stocky but was very athletic and an uber competitor. As the starting point guard for the Trojans he became an instant leader and averaged 7.1 points, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He was a fan favorite and Floyd raved about what a good person he was. Ryan was very close to his mother and went home to Baton Rouge for Mother’s Day. In the early morning hours he was in a car with three others when another driver opened fire and killed Ryan. It turned out the shooter was after someone else in the car and is now serving a life sentence in Louisiana. A cement bench outside the entry doors to Galen on the Lab side of the arena is a memorial to Ryan Francis.
De’Anthony Melton’s Trojan career was also cut short. He played for Andy Enfield in the 2017- 2018 season. The 6’4” 190 pound guard averaged 27 minutes per game and started 25 of the 36 games that season, playing with Jordan MacLaughlin, Chimezie Metu and Elijah Stewart. He averaged 8.6 points, 3.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds. De’Anthony was the teams best perimeter defender and played with great energy. At the start of his sophomore season the FBI recruiting scandal became public and De’Anthony’s name was linked to the story. Before the first game Enfield said he hoped De’Anthony would be cleared to play that night. That didn’t happen and De’Anthony sat in street clothes for the first month of the season. He repeatedly said neither he or his family ever received anything and the USC compliance department finally cleared him to play before Christmas. Nevertheless, AD Lynn Swann ruled him ineligible for the season. His good friend Chimezie wore a “Free D Melt’ shirt during warmups the rest of the season. De’Anthony was drafted in the second round by the Rockets the following Spring, traded to the Suns and averaged almost 10 points per game. He landed the next year with the Memphis Grizzlies where he has been a key player off the bench. He signed a new four year $35 million contract with Memphis in late 2020.
It’s Your Turn
We are hoping a lot of USC hoop fans will cast their “ballot” for the Trojan player whose name will be front and center when the player of the week selection is announced each week. There are a lot of players to choose from!