5 min Read

Trojans still short on backcourt bodies

By Rich Ruben

The spring signing period for men’s basketball began April 15 and ran through May 20. But to this point, five-star center Evan Mobley remains the only prospect USC has announced as having signed, as Mobley signed in November during the early signing window. Head Coach Andy Enfield would likely prefer to make one announcement with the full Spring class, and the staff is still working to obtain an additional guard or two.

The late decision by Elijah Weaver to enter the transfer portal–he has now announced a commitment to Dayton–has magnified the need for backcourt help, as the Trojans are extremely thin at both guard positions.

As of today, the roster has two freshmen big men, three sophomore returning players (big man Isaiah Mobley, point guard Ethan Anderson and wing Max Agbonkpolo), redshirt junior guard Noah Baumann, and three grad transfers; 6’9” forward Chevez Goodwin, 6’7” wing Isaiah White and combo guard Tajh Eaddy.  Goodwin will provide interior defense and rebounding and can score inside. White is not a consistent three point threat, but scores inside and rebounds. Eaddy is the most important of the three. He can play the point and score from outside. Two more transfers with multiple years of eligibility will likely sit out this season–in former Long Beach State center Joshua Morgan and Rice guard Drew Peterson.

The current team has talent but not enough bodies in the backcourt. As of now, Anderson is the likely starter at point guard and Santa Clara transfer Eaddy is the backup at the point. Eaddy and Baumann will battle to start at off guard. If the Trojans are to get the  most from signing Evan Mobley, one of the top two or three freshmen in the country, they desperately need one or preferably two more guards. 6’6” Baumann is a spot up shooter, and cannot be the primary ball handler even for a few minutes a game. With the current roster, if Anderson or Eaddy has foul trouble or an injury, the Trojans would struggle against pressure defenses and the Trojan perimeter defense would be a problem.

The Trojans have depth and talent at small forward with 6’8” Agbonkpolo and White, and inside with the Mobley brothers, Goodwin and 6’10” freshman Boubacar Coulibaly. The coaching staff had hoped that Evan’s presence would help attract another freshman star, but they missed on a couple of very talented high school guards and are now in full scramble mode. The list of uncommitted quality high school seniors and grad transfers has become pretty short.

A few options exist for USC to try to fill the void. Peterson has said that he will seek a waiver from the NCAA to play this season. If he is successful, it would give the team a big lift. He is an athletic 6’8” guard who can also play small forward. He can shoot from the perimeter and can take smaller guards inside. His eligibility would give USC another shooting guard along with Baumann, and Eaddy’s versatility helps fill the backcourt gap.

USC is also one of seven finalists for Georgetown transfer Mac McClung, a dynamic combo guard with two years of eligibility remaining. But McClung also would need an eligibility waiver to be able to play this season.

An unconfirmed rumor is that 2021 commit shooting guard Reese Dixon- Waters (Los Angeles/St. Bernard) may be trying to reclassify to join the team this fall. His presence would be a big boost. He is a top 50 national recruit and could contribute right away. However, to give some perspective, his recruiting ranking is almost exactly the same as Elijah Weaver’s two years ago, so it is hard to know if he would be a big factor as an early enrollee freshman.

Ideally, the Trojans would like two more guards; one needs to be able to play the point as a third option behind Anderson and Eaddy to occasionally run the offense. USC has been mentioned as a possible destination for at least one high school guard who is still unsigned, and I expect that the coaches are looking at the junior college ranks as well. It is very late in the recruiting cycle, but the staff found underrated Ethan Anderson last Spring. Can they do it again?