By Rich Ruben
Kobe Johnson (Sun Prairie, Wisc./Nicolet) committed to USC on Thursday and is the fourth high school commit for the 2021-2022 class. Johnson, a big guard at 6-foot-5, has been primarily a shooting guard in high school though in his announcement he said the Trojan staff sees him as a combo guard.
Johnson is athletic but appears to have only average quickness. He is from Wisconsin and the Badgers were the primary competition for Johnson. He is rated the No. 229 player by Rivals. The Trojans have had recent success with lower ranked players (Ethan Anderson), as well as recent failures (Harrison Henderson).
Johnson is the sixth player who would make his first appearance in a Trojan uniform next year. It looks as though, for the first time in four years, the Trojans will not have a five star freshman on the roster. The top freshman to commit to Andy Enfield’s team is Reece Dixon-Waters, who may be under-ranked at No. 48. He is another 6-foot-5 shooting guard and looks like he can score from anywhere and is athletic enough to be a good defender. In addition to Dixon-Waters, USC holds 2021 commitments from four-star guard Malik Thomas (La Verne, Calif./Damien) and three-star center Harrison Hornery (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei).
Assuming everyone with eligibility stays to play for USC next year, the Trojans now have 11 players for the 2021-2022 season. That team may be the mirror opposite of this year’s Trojan squad, which has most of its talent in the front court. Next year’s team will feature six guards.
The Trojans will need more front court depth for next year even if Isaiah Mobley returns for his junior season. There are a few uncommitted high school front court players who the Trojans appear to still be recruiting. Wilhelm Breidenback is a center at Mater Dei and ranked No. 88 in the 2021 class. The Trojans have been working hard to reel in 6-foot-7 forward Arthur Kaluma (Glendale, Ariz./Dream City Christian), the No. 38 player, and appear to be one of the favorites to land him. He has not set a commitment date. If USC can’t get the front court help they need in this class they will likely be active in pursuing grad transfers in the spring.
One other high school player the Trojans are still recruiting hard is 6-foot-3 point guard TyTy Washington (Chandler, Ariz./Compass Prep). He is the number 74 player in the 2021 class. The Trojans’ biggest competition appears to be ASU. If USC signs Washington, then Kobe Johnson will play less point guard and transfer Drew Peterson will likely play almost exclusively at small forward. Washington’s signing would give the coaches a lot of flexibility in using the roster to match up with opponents.
If the Trojans can snag both Kuluna and Washington this will be a very highly rated recruiting class. Either one could push the Trojans into the national top 20 or higher when recruiting is completed for 2021.
How likely is it that the eleven players currently eligible or committed for 2021-2022 will be on the team at the start of next season? Stated differently, which players are most likely to leave after this season? There is no reason to think Evan Mobley will play his sophomore season for the Trojans and he isn’t included in the eleven player roster. His older brother Isaiah may have a big season and decide to test the interest of NBA teams. And if Max Agbonkpolo does not take a big step forward to earn much more playing time and begin to meet his potential then he could be a candidate to enter the transfer portal.
The 2021-2022 roster is firming up, and with another player or two USC may have a very good season. Later this month I will address whether the Trojans can become a basketball power and what is needed to make it happen. For now, with each new commitment Enfield secures, I become more thankful that Kevin O’Neill is gone.