By Rich Ruben
Coach Enfield and Isaiah Mobley participated in a media conference this afternoon. The team has completed seven practices and has a lot of work to do. The Trojans are behind many teams in other states where players were allowed to begin working together in July. With only three returning players, a lot of work is needed to be ready for the home opener on November 25.
Enfield said they are still working on completing the non-conference schedule. The Trojans will play two games in a four-team event in the first few days of December in Connecticut. The other teams in the field are BYU, UConn and Vanderbilt.
A starting lineup is still weeks away and Enfield made it clear that all nine players eligible this year will play significant minutes and will need to contribute. Enfield also said that there may be more clarity by next week whether 6-foot-7 Rice transfer guard Drew Peterson will play this season. He has two seasons of eligibility left.
The team was very excited to begin practice indoors last week and they continue to practice hard and with a great enthusiasm. He believes in shorter practices in which the players work very hard, and with only 11 scholarship players, everyone is getting a lot of work.
Noah Baumann missed the first few days of practice with a minor injury but he returned a couple of days ago and everyone is healthy and working.
Last season the Trojans held the opposition to 29% from three-point range and 37% overall, which was ninth best in the country. The Trojans have been a very good defensive team three of the last four years. Although USC lost four very good defenders in Jonah Matthews, Big O (Onyeka Okongwu), Nick Rakocevic and Daniel Utomi, Andy expects this team to be very strong defensively, while the offense at this point is a work in process. The team has great size, length and athleticism and is the biggest team he has ever had. It will take a couple more weeks for the staff to get a good feel for the abilities of each player.
Enfield spoke about each player.
Chevez Goodwin has a “big time motor” and plays hard every possession. Isaiah White is “an energy guy” who excels on cuts to the basket and defensive rebounding. Enfield said that Trojan fans will really like White.
Tajh Eaddy has worked on his shooting and will be the primary ball handler when Ethan Anderson is not in the game.
Enfield said Boubicar Coulibaly “will be terrific down the road”. Boubicar and Evan Mobley are both special athletes and are very fast down the court. Isaiah called Boubicar “an athletic freak.” Enfield added that every day Evan does something that no one else can do. He can score from many spots and is a very good passer and a defensive force inside.
Recruiting in this COVID year has been very different for all teams. The Trojan staff believes that AAU events were the most useful this year in helping to put together next year’s recruiting class. They made use of zoom and the phone to recruit the three grad transfers and the other two transfers this past spring. Andy believes the staff does a great job of evaluating players. He gave as an example that no other team in the conference offered D’Anthony Melton.
The returning players have shown great leadership. Isaiah Mobley has been rebounding at a high level, is improving his shooting, and is working to cut down his turnovers and increase his assists. Both Andy and Isaiah said that Max Agbonkpolo has taken the next step and will be a big contributor. Ethan has been working to shoot more consistently and to get the ball to his teammates at each player’s strength. Ethan leads by example and has a tremendous work ethic.
Andy likes the size and toughness of this team and specifically mentioned Isaiah White and the Mobley brothers. Evan has become much stronger and is an elite shot blocker. The coaches believe this team is athletic enough that they can switch on ball screens at all five positions like last season.
Isaiah talked about how special it will be to play with his brother this season. He’s told Evan to trust the coaches and the process and to pay attention to the little things. He is looking forward to showing how well the brothers can play together. They worked out a lot together over the Spring and Summer and also worked with Ethan. Ethan is improving on the details that separate elite point guards.
Isaiah also said that Drew is a great passer and rebounder and that Max has made very big strides and that he is now 6-foot-9.
Isaiah has told his teammates that no one knows how this season will play out because of the virus. He reminds his teammates that should play each game as if it is the last game and to cherish the moments together.
For the women’s team, head coach Mark Trakh and three of his players participated in a media conference on Friday. Trakh emphasized how young the team was last year, losing only one senior. This team is more experienced and does not have any seniors. He is looking for improvement and to make the NCAA Tournament this year.
The team captains are guards Shalexxus Arron and Desiree Caldwell. Two sophomores had outstanding freshman seasons. Forward Alissa Pili was the Pac-12 freshman of the year and ESPN rated her the third-best freshman in the country. Guard Endyia Rogers was honorable mention on the All-Pac 12 Freshman team. Joining the team this season is grad transfer guard Jordan Sanders, who has two years of eligibility left and was the tenth-leading scorer in the nation at UCI last season.
The whole team will return next year along with two bigs, who Trakh said may both be McDonald’s All Americans this year. Trakh acknowledged that the Pac-12 is the toughest conference in the country. In the last poll this past spring, Oregon was ranked No. 2, Stanford No. 7, UCLA No. 10, Arizona No. 12, Oregon State No. 14, and Arizona State No. 25. He expects this team to be much improved and next season to be a breakout year.