By Rich Ruben
There have been a large number of very good forwards who have worn the cardinal and gold, and picking only five is difficult. A few very good players did not make my list but are listed as “also considered”.
No. 1 – Sam Clancy
Sam was a key member of the 2001 Elite 8 team and the 2002 team which earned a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. He was a second team All American and the PAC 10 Player of the Year in his senior season in which he averaged 19.2 points.
He played bigger than his 6’7” size. He came to USC from Ohio as a Parade All American. He suffered a serious injury in NBA pre draft workouts and fell to the second round. Although he never played in the NBA, he had a very long and successful professional career in other countries.
He is third in career points with 1657, fourth in career rebounds with 839 and increased his points per game and rebound averages each season. Sam is also second in career blocked shots with 195. He scored 30 or more points three times.
No. 2 – Taj Gibson
Taj was drafted late in the first round (26th) by the Chicago Bulls after his junior season. Always a fan favorite at USC, he helped lead the 2009 Trojans to Troy’s only conference tournament title. In his 105 games at USC he scored 1307 points for a 12.4 career average and was the PAC 10 defensive player of the year as a junior.
He made 60.1% of his shots in his final year and 58% in his Trojan career, which is the fourth best career percentage. Taj is third on the Trojan career rebound total with 896 and is the career leader in blocked shots with 253. He also has the highest season blocked shot total with 100 blocked shots as a junior.
Taj had two of the top ten seasons in field goal percentage, two seasons in the top ten in total rebounds and the two highest single season blocked shots total.
No. 3 – Cliff Robinson
Cliff played two seasons for the Trojans before being drafted eleventh by the Nets in 1979. In both seasons he was All Pac 10 and averaged 18.6 points (sixth best career average) and 10.5 rebounds (fourth highest). At 6’9” he scored inside and was also very good from ten to fifteen feet, his best shot being a fade away which he could shoot over any defender.
Cliff scored 836 points in his Trojan career and made 49.6% of his shots. He had five 30 point games, fifth most by any Trojan. Against Portland State in his freshman season he scored 35 points and grabbed 28 rebounds, which is the single game rebounding record which has since been tied.
No. 4 – John Block
John played three seasons at USC and was first team all conference in his junior and senior seasons in 1965 and 1966. Although I never saw him play for the Trojans his numbers speak for themselves. He scored 1423 points in 78 games, and his career 18.2 points per game is seventh best in Trojan history. He increased his ppg and rpg each season.
In a tremendous senior season John averaged 25.2 points and he has nine career games scoring 30 or more points, which is second all time behind only Harold Miner’s nineteen. He scored 45 in one game and 44 in another, the two highest single game point totals at USC. His 727 rebounds are still thirteenth highest at USC and his average of 9.3 is sixth.
No. 5 – Ronnie Coleman
In my opinion no Trojan has ever produced more from a limited skill set than Ronnie. He was only 6’6” yet he scored the great majority of his points near the basket. Ronnie totaled 1727 career points, second most in USC history. He averaged double figure points in all four seasons, raising his 10.0 ppg as a freshman to 17.5 as a senior. His lowest single season field goal percentage was 53.4% and over his career he made 54.2% of his shots, which is eighth highest by any Trojan. He also collected 821 rebounds, the seventh most career rebounds at USC. In his senior season Ronnie was All Pac 10.
There are several other forwards that deserved consideration. There is a solid argument for including any of these four players in the top 5 list.
Bill Hewitt had a very good two seasons in the 1960’s and averaged 19.1 points per game.
DeMar DeRozan was drafted ninth by the Toronto Raptors after his freshman season. He helped lead USC to its only conference tournament title. He was very good late in his one season, averaged 13.9 points for the entire year, and was selected to the freshman All PAC 10 team.
Wayne Carlander led USC to a tie for the PAC 10 title, was the PAC 10 Player of the Year in 1985. He was a two time first team all conference player and two time honorable mention All American. He scored 1524 career points, seventh best, and averaged 13.1 points for his career. He was a fifth round draft pick by the Clippers.
Chimezie Metu scored 1284 points in his three seasons at USC and grabbed 656 rebounds. He was All Pac 12 as a junior and honorable mention as a sophomore and was voted the conference Most Improved Player after his sophomore season. He was drafted in the second round by the Spurs.