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News and Notes from the first days of USC basketball practices

By Rich Ruben

Basketball practice got underway yesterday, and Coach Andy Enfield and staff welcomed the full complement of players – no one is injured thru the first two days. For now, media is only able to watch the first 15-30 minutes of practice, which has been general drills, and come in after practice officially ends and watch those getting individual work. The coaches and returning players are available for interviews after practice, with the anticipation that sometime later the new players will be available. But there is plenty to share, so let’s get right to it.

We covered a lot of ground in my interview with Andy on Tuesday. He seemed upbeat, and was very candid.

  • The European trip was a great benefit. They got to install a lot of the offense and defense, and the team started bonding
  • Partly as a result of the trip, this freshman class is the best prepared at the start of fall practice of any class he has ever recruited.
  • He is pleased with the first day of practice. Tuesday was devoted primarily to work on half court defense.
  • He intends to play primarily a man defense, but will mix in some zone. He thinks that the zone has worked well when used in the last couple of years
  • This will be a better rebounding and interior defensive team. They have more players who are naturally suited to these roles.
  • As of now, Elijah Weaver will play both point guard and off guard. He does not expect either of the grad transfers to play the point, though Adelsh could if needed.
  • Villanova contacted S.C. about scheduling the October 18 practice game. They apparently want more exposure in the west for recruiting. A practice game is only open to the public if the revenue goes to a charitable cause approved by the NCAA, in this case, California fire victims and firefighters.

I interviewed Nick Rakocevic after practice on Wednesday. Nick was visibly tired, and said they worked very hard in these first two days. Here is more from Nick:

  • He can’t believe he is a senior; said it seems like he just got here as a Freshman
  • His goal for the season is to win the PAC 12, and thinks that is very achievable. As for individual goals, if they team does well, that will take care of itself
  • The team is very athletic. He is the least athletic player on the team.
  • He describes freshman Oneyko as a “ beast “, and that was true the minute Oneyko got to campus.

In response to my question of whether any player has noticeably improved some nice the Spring, he pointed to 6’8” Max Agbonkpolo. Nick said Max isn’t a banger, but it very athletic, a good shooter, and reminds him of Matisse Thybulle of Washington, who was the PAC 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season. I think the comparison was more about body size and type than defensive prowess

  • The two freshman point guards are good players and are ready to play right away. Nick specifically said that Ethan Anderson has a great feel for the game and great hands.

Other Notes

  • Jonah Mathews stayed after practice Wednesday to work with Assistant Coach Jason Hart on his moves to the basket from the left wing.
  • After practice, freshmen point guards Ethan Anderson and Kyle Sturdivant were both making three pointers from the corner at a high rate.
  • The two grad transfer shooting guards could not look more different. Daniel Utomi is a very solid 6’6” 225 pounds, and he looks even bigger. He can go inside and bang. Quinton Adlesh is 6’1”, and wants to play on the perimeter.
  • The players were working hard in the portions of practice I observed, but they were also having fun. In one drill, Assistant Coach Chris Capko divided the players into two groups, one at each basket. The players shot threes one at a time until one team made five in a row. Lot of yelling by the winners. The losing team had to run up and down the court at full speed, with Capko leading the way.