By Rich Ruben
Finals are over and the campus was quiet on Wednesday, except perhaps at Heritage Hall. At Galen, the basketball team had an early afternoon practice. Chuck O’Bannon and Director of Scouting Martin Bahar were absent (more on this later), but the rest of the team is healthy and everyone fully participated.
There is a definite sense that Saturday’s game at Staples against LSU is a big one. I spoke very briefly with Quinton Adlesh, and he was quick to say that the win over Long Beach was good, but the next game is really big. Basketball staff members said the same thing.
In general, the Trojans want to play faster and push the ball. They believe they get better shots and more opportunities for the bigs at the basket when the pace quickens. Speaking of the bigs, in the early part of practice, Onyeka made a three from near the top of the lane, and then stepped off the court and drilled one from about thirty feet – nothing but net.
The Trojans rank high nationally in free throw attempts, but are not shooting well from the line. Big O leads the team at 72%, and of the players averaging more than one free throw per game, the only other Trojans at or over 70% are Jonah Mathews and Ethan Anderson. Nick Rakocevic and Elijah Weaver are both shooting under 60%. Poor free throw shooting almost cost the Trojans the TCU game.
The Trojans continue to give up too many three point attempts. Contesting three point shots and running shooters off the three point line continue to be areas of emphasis.
The Trojan freshmen are making impacts on the national scene. Ethan Anderson is second nationally among freshmen in assists per game. (First is Arizona’s Nico Mannion). Big O is among the top ten freshmen nationally in many categories including points, rebounds, blocks, and free throw attempts per game.
Interview With Coach Enfield
- Andy was gracious in his comments about Chuck O’Bannon entering the transfer portal. He said that Chuck was a big part of the program and will be missed. On the one hand the timing is odd; entering the portal in mid season. But it is also semester break, and will provide Chuck with the opportunity to enroll at another school for the spring semester, and be eligible to play next spring.
- Martin Bahar accepted an offer to be an assistant coach at USD. The opportunity arose because an assistant left Creighton, and the Bluejays hired someone from the USD staff. Andy said that it is unusual for a staff member to leave in mid season for another job, but that he is happy for Martin. Andy said he wants his assistants to get opportunities to advance in their careers. Martin won’t be replaced until after the season.
- When Drake London joins the team after the Holiday Bowl, he will need to learn the offense and defense and get into basketball shape. He has not practiced with the team Andy emphasized that Drake is on a football scholarship and is having a great season. There is no specific plan for how Drake will be worked into the rotation. It will depend on how quickly he is ready and how good he looks in practice.
- LSU is not tall, but their players have good size. They play with one 6’9” front court forward. The other forwards are both 6’6” but play bigger, and they have big guards. They don’t shot a lot of threes. The guards drive the ball well, and SC’s front court players must cut off the lanes to the basket without fouling.
Interview With Max Agbonkpolo
- Max said that he has adjusted to college basketball and school. He has learned that there are no easy games where you can take a few plays off.
- He has been good friends with O and the Mobley brothers for several years, and is very happy they wound up together at SC (Evan Mobley has signed for next fall).
- His confidence level is good and he is no longer nervous when he enters a game. He knows he can play at this level.
- Max understands that he needs to get stronger, play more physically, and continue to work on his defense to earn more playing time.
- He has heard people compare him to Matisse Thybulle many times. Thybulle, the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior last season, is now having success in the NBA. Max thinks he is a better shooter, but that Thybulle is a tremendous defensive player who gets his hands on many balls and has a big impact on games thru defense. If SC plays a zone with three players on top, Max may play in the middle to make use of his size and long arms in the same manner UW did with Thybulle.
- Max defended guards on the perimeter in high school, so he is use to guarding smaller, quicker players, but he is still adjusting to the speed of college guards.
Look Back At Long Beach State
Max played only five plus minutes, but made the most of his time. He made a three, showed his speed and athleticism on a break away dunk and grabbed 3 rebounds. Will it be enough to earn more playing time? He is an outstanding spot up shooter from three point range. I haven’t seen him take contested twos or threes off the dribble. He has the size and quickness to drive to the rim, but there is a question about his ability to absorb contact and finish. If he earns more playing time, it will be interesting to see whose minutes he takes.
The guards’ shooting percentage from two and three thru 11 games is still pretty low. But in the last three games against Harvard, TCU, and Long Beach, there has been a big improvement. Jonah has especially has found his touch, and Daniel Utomi and Q have shot better.
Finally, several people were asking where new AD Mike Bohn was during the Long Beach game. Turns out that he was unpacking lots of boxes, trying to get his family settled in Southern California. He was back in his office Monday morning.