16 min Read

The Trojans are winning in the transfer portal

By Rich Ruben

In the last few seasons, college basketball recruiting has been dramatically changed by the transfer portal. Not many years ago, college rosters were put together from high school and junior college recruits and the occasional transfer who was required to sit out one season.

Recruiting evolved with more players transferring as graduate transfers who were immediately eligible and the one and done players such as OJ Mayo and DeMar DeRozan who spent their one season of college basketball at USC.

The recent addition of the transfer portal has given many more college players the ability to find another school if they were unhappy over playing time at their original school or for any reason. This spring’s additional NCAA rule change to allow any player to transfer once without having to redshirt has widened availability of the portal and has opened the transfer floodgates.

After the past season, over 1,600 players entered the portal. There are approximately 355 Division 1 schools playing men’s basketball; therefore there is an average of over four players in the portal from every school, from the Big 12 to the one bid leagues. An example of how crazy recruiting has become is former Utah guard/ forward Both Goth. He transferred from Utah to Minnesota after 2019-2020 season and recently announced that he is transferring back to Utah for the upcoming season. His decision to transfer again might have been influenced by the fact that the head coaches at both Utah and Minnesota were replaced this Spring, but nationally the player comings and goings have a used car-like atmosphere.

The Trojans Have Embraced The New Recruiting Model

Andy Enfield and staff have embraced today’s recruiting rules. Players have transferred from USC and the Trojans have added a number of portal players as well. At the same time USC has recruited four five star players in the prior three seasons, three of whom became one and done – Kevin Porter Jr, Onyeka Okongwu and Evan Mobley. The Trojans have also have brought in good high school recruits in building the roster.

Oregon is the Pac-12 pace setter in attracting the best players from the portal. Dana Altman has drawn players to Eugene from other power conferences, including several who received all conference or other recognition at their last stop. The Trojan coaching staff has demonstrated the ability to evaluate talent and add players from mid major leagues who have become key to USC’s recent success. That success in turn has led to the ability to add a player such as Boogie Ellis from Memphis who was a major high school recruit two years ago.

A look at the Trojans’ additions and subtractions from the transfer portal demonstrates that the Trojan staff have been winning the transfer battle.

USC’s 2021 Transfers

After the 2021 season USC lost seldom used guard Noah Baumann to the portal and added a big pickup in guard Boogie Ellis. Noah was with the Trojans for two seasons; he redshirted his first year after two seasons at San Jose State. Known for his three point shooting at SJS, in his limited minutes for the Trojans he didn’t have the same success, averaging only 3.6 points per game.

When Baumann entered the portal two years ago his only offers were from USC and Grand Canyon. He made 45% of his threes in his two seasons at San Jose and it was surprising he garnered so little interest. For the Trojans Noah made 42% of his shots including 35% (11 for 25) from three and only got to the free throw line 11 times, making only 5 of his attempts. Given this resume it was a surprise that shortly after he entered the portal he received an offer from Georgia.

Boogie was a top 40 player from San Diego who decided to sign with Penny Hardaway and Memphis over USC and many other schools. He played significant minutes in his two seasons at Memphis and averaged 10 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists as a sophomore. He made 40% of his shots, a very respectable 38% from three, and a Trojan like 67% of his free throws. Across the board he raised his numbers from his freshman season, most notably his shooting percentage from three.

Many expect Boogie to slot into Tahj Eaddy’s starting spot in the backcourt this fall. Boogie is a very explosive player with the ball and is a good perimeter defender. It has been reported that Boogie wants to play the point for the Trojans though his Memphis numbers indicate he needs to develop his ball handling skills to be a one guard.

By adding Boogie and losing only Noah there is no question the Trojans’ “won” in the transfer portal this off season.

Four Players Transferred From USC In 2020

The Trojans were much more active in the portal after his sophomore season in 2020. The coaching staff was surprised when Elijah Weaver entered the portal that Spring. He started for USC in the first half of the season and then became the first guard off the bench when Daniel Utomi became a mid season starter. Elijah made some big shots for the Trojans in his sophomore season, most memorably the off balance three to send the Stanford game into overtime to complete the Trojans’ comeback from a 20 point deficit. He dominated the five minute extra period and led the Trojans to a key conference win.

Elijah was a highly ranked high school guard who the Trojans battled to sign. In his last season with USC he averaged 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He made 41% of his shots, 33% from three and a very poor 55% from the foul line.

Elijah played for the Dayton Flyers this past season and started 10 of the 18 games he played. He averaged 25 minutes per game, 5.4 points and 2.4 assists while improving his shooting percentages. He made 43% of his shots, 36% from three and 72% from the line.

Kyle Sturdivant left the Trojans last Spring after one season and transferred to Georgia Tech in his home state. Kyle missed several games in the second half of the year after his father died. Andy Enfield was very high on Kyle during his freshman season and said he expected Kyle to be a major contributor in the future. So far, however, Kyle has not played up to expectations. In his one year at USC, Kyle played 8.3 minutes per game and averaged 2 points and 1.2 assists. He made 34% of his shots, 21% from three and 8 of 9 free throws.

His numbers didn’t improve a lot at Tech. He played 12 minutes per game and averaged 3.5 points and 1 assist and made 43% from the floor, 36% from three and 78% from the line.
It’s a bit difficult to know where to place Chuck O’Bannon. He entered the portal in December of 2019 and used the 2019-2020 season as a redshirt year. Chuck landed at TCU and found a role for the Frogs which he never had at USC.

Chuck was a McDonalds All American and a highly decorated player coming out of high school but had a mostly injury plagued career at USC. In his freshman season he played in only 14 games and scored a total of 18 points. He was limited to one game the next season due to injury. In his third season he was injured early again but did play in three games and scored two points before entering the portal at the semester break.

In practice and pregame warmups at USC, Chuck displayed a good shooting stroke, but he also looked disinterested and not fully engaged when he was on the court. When he left in December, 2019, it was barely noticed. Chuck redshirted that season after he arrived in Fort Worth.

Last season Chuck played in 25 games for TCU with 16 starts. He played 18 minutes per game and averaged 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. He made 40% of his shots, 36% from three and 75% from the line.

USC Loaded Up With Five Transfers in 2020

In 2020 the Trojans graduated players and lost others to the portal, requiring the staff to recruit hard during the pandemic. Five new players arrived via the portal and four played big roles on the Elite 8 team last season.

Tahj Eaddy joined the Trojans from Santa Clara and he became the backcourt leader and was the second most important player after Evan Mobley. Tahj played 32 minutes per game and averaged 13.6 points, 2.9 boards and 2.8 assists. He made 44% of his shots, 38% from three and 77% from the line.

Tahj was recognized after the season as a Second Team All-Pac 12 performer. He will always be remembered as the second consecutive number 2 to make a three at the buzzer to beat UCLA in the final game of the season, following in the footsteps of Jonah Mathews the prior year. Tahj’s shot was closely contested and he was falling to his left when he shot from the baseline corner.

Drew Peterson transferred into Troy from Rice after committing to Minnesota and changing his mind. Originally expected to redshirt, Drew became eligible when the NCAA allowed all transfers to be immediately eligible for last season.

Drew started 30 of USC’s 33 games and averaged 28 minutes, 9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Drew and Tahj often played with the ball after Ethan Anderson was injured early in the season. He made 42% of his shots, 38% from three and 71% from the line. Drew will have a key role in the upcoming season.

Isaiah White was a grad transfer from Utah Valley last season. He started 28 of the 32 games in which he played and averaged 21 minutes. He contributed great energy on both ends and in the post season run made several big threes. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.4 rebounds and made 49% of his shots, 36% from three but only 60% from the line. The Trojans received an extra bonus when Isaiah decided to return for one more season

Grad transfer Chevez Goodwin from Wofford was the first front court player off the bench last season for USC. He is also returning this season and will likely start in place of Evan Mobley though he may be pressed by three talented young bigs. He averaged 14.9 minutes, 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds, making 53% from both the floor and the foul line.

Josh Morgan transferred to USC after a very good freshman season at Long Beach State where he led the Big West in blocked shots and was the Big West Defensive Player of the Year and honorable mention all conference. He was not highly recruited out of high school but greatly increased his profile at LBSU. Josh did not break into the rotation last season but will have a big opportunity this fall.

In 2019-2020 the Trojans were big winners in the transfer portal. They gained much, much more talent all over the court than they lost.

The 2019 Team Lost Some Key Players To The Portal

The 2018-2019 team lost several players to the portal and picked up only two, though one of the additions made a big contribution.

Derryck Thornton was a five star point guard who started the first half of his freshman season at Duke. Believing he might have a battle for minutes he transferred to USC where he played two seasons. He never lived up to his top 15 ranking and is now playing in Serbia. In his red shirt junior season for the Trojans he averaged 7.7 points and 4.3 assists. He shot the ball poorly, making only 38% from the floor, 28% from three and 66% from the line.
Derryck played his final season in 2020 at Boston College and had his best collegiate season. He played 31 minutes per game and averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 assists. His shooting percentages didn’t improve except from the foul line; he made 37% of his shots, 26% from three and 78% from the line.

Jordan Usher left the Trojans at the semester break of his sophomore season. Neither Jordan or USC publicly disclosed the reason he left though there were rumors of conflicts with the coaching staff. Jordan had a good freshman season for the Trojans and in 12 games as a sophomore he averaged 8.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. He played with a lot of energy and was a fan favorite. He converted 45% of his shots, only 28% from three and 79% from the line in those 12 games.

Jordan has played the last two yeas at Georgia Tech. This past season was his best collegiate campaign. He averaged 11.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He made 50% of his shots, only 28% from three and 66% from the line.

J’Raan Brooks was a highly regarded forward from Seattle. He played limited minutes as a freshman for the Trojans and averaged only 2 points and 1.3 rebounds. He made 44% of his shots, 6 of 17 three points shots and 44% from the line. Still, it appeared he had enough talent to be a become a regular in the rotation in future years.

Instead J’Raan transferred to Washington and after a redshirt year he played in 14 games for a bad Husky team in the ‘20-‘21 season before leaving the team. In limited minutes he averaged only 3.1 points and 1.6 boards. He entered the portal and will play at Grand Canyon next season.

Finally, the Trojans also lost big man Victor Uyaelunmo after one season in which he played 6.6 minutes in the games he got onto the court and averaged less than a point a game and just over 1 1/2 rebounds. Victor was clearly not a Pac-12 level player. After redshirting one season Victor played 16 minutes a game at Towson, starting 7 of 13 games. He averaged only 2.8 points and over 5 rebounds. He made only 25% of his shots and a good 82% (19 of 23) from the line.

USC Signed Utomi And Adlesh For 2019-2020

The Trojans picked up two grad transfers from the portal for the 2019 – 2020 season. With so many departures USC needed help and Daniel Utomi was a key addition from Akron. He started the second half of the season for the Trojans and averaged 8.2 points and 3.1 rebounds and converted several big threes over the course of the season. He made 41% of his shots, 34% from three and 74% from the line. His big body allowed him to defend taller players and gave Enfield the opportunity to match smaller lineups by playing Daniel in the front court.

Quinton Adlesh from Columbia was the second grad transfer. Every year a few Ivy League transfers make a big impact somewhere else, but Quinton was not one of those players. He was noted for his three point shot at Columbia, but played sparingly for the Trojans, averaging under 2 points and just over one assist a game. He made 28% from the floor, 34% from three and was 5-6 from the line.

Quinton contributed in other ways. He was voted a team captain by his young Trojan teammates and both he and Daniel provided much needed senior leadership.

And-One

Almost every team around college basketball is turning to the transfer portal to fill gaps in their roster. With four good incoming freshman and a number of returning veterans for the upcoming season the Trojans didn’t need a lot of bodies from the portal for the 2021-2022 season. Boogie was recruited to provide needed experience in a backcourt which welcomes three freshman.

It is likely that after the upcoming season Isaiah Mobley will join Isaiah White and Chevez and leave USC (assuming IM returns for this season). It would not be surprising to see another player or two leave over playing time concerns or because he determines USC is not a good fit. To date USC does not have any commitments for the 2022 class. At this point it seems likely the Trojans will pursue at least one front court player since IM and Chevez will leave and they will likely look for a true point guard. Any other needs will depend on the play of the young players on the roster and whether there are unforeseen departures.
The portal has turned college basketball into a year around sport. Players from high school generally sign in November or the following Spring but a team can add a player anytime from the portal. If the Trojans have another good season it would go a long way toward increasing the ability of Andy Enfield and staff to recruit high profile transfers.