USC Men's Basketball To Begin Practice For the 2016-17 Season|
Sept. 29, 2016
USC will begin practice for the 2016-17 season on Friday, Sept. 30 at 2:30 p.m. at the Galen Center. The Trojans will open up the season at home on Nov. 11 vs. Montana. USC will hold the annual Trojan Tip-Off on Oct. 22 at the Galen Center which will provide fans their first look at both the USC men's and women's basketball teams.
The following is the 2016-17 USC men's basketball season preview:
Enfield Era Began To Take Flight In 2015-16
- Head Coach Andy Enfield’s Young Guns Again Will Run An Up Tempo, High-Scoring Brand Of Basketball -
When Andy Enfield came to USC he made a conscious decision to build the program from the bottom up, bringing in high-level recruits and developing them for the future. It looks like that patient approach has paid off with the Trojans coming off a 21-13 season and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011. This team may be just as good, despite significant roster changes. The talented group again trends young with only one scholarship senior on the roster.
USC returns three starters from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, including leading-scorer junior 6-1, 180-pound guard Jordan McLaughlin who averaged 13.4 points and 4.7 assists per game while being named Pac-12 honorable mention. USC tied for 19th in the country by averaging 80.5 points per game and tied a school record with four 100-point games last season.
USC also set a school record with 266 three-point baskets made and returns plenty of firepower in that area. McLaughlin finished fourth on the team with 56 makes and led the team with a 42.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
Sophomore 6-10, 230-pound forward Bennie Boatwright averaged 11.5 points per game as a freshman and tied for the team lead in three-point baskets with 60 makes. His 60 three-point baskets tied Harold Miner for the third-most ever by a Trojan freshman. Boatwright was named honorable mention on the 2016 Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.
Another player dropping in 60 three-point baskets was the 6-5, 190-pound guard Elijah Stewart, who has now made 97 in his first two seasons to rank 19th on USC’s all-time charts. The junior also averaged 9.8 points last season.
Last season USC also set the school record in blocked shots with 215, led by 6-11, 225-pound forward Chimezie Metu who had 54, the second-most ever by a Trojan freshman. The sophomore Metu provided a strong defensive presence for the Trojans, while averaging 6.4 points per game.
This year USC will also feature Louisville transfer sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron, a former top-50 recruit and four promising freshmen in California Division IA Player of the Year guard Jonah Mathews, California Southern Section Division III Player of the Year guard De’Anthony Melton and forwards Harrison Henderson from Texas and Nick Rakocevic from Illinois.
Aaron is a 6-7, 190-pound multi-talented wing that can score from the perimeter or in the lane and will be a strong defender with his length. After playing as a freshman at Louisville in 2015 and sitting out last season, Aaron will be itching to get his Trojan career started.
The four freshmen also beginning their Trojan careers will also be counted upon to contribute early. Mathews, a 6-3, 185-pound guard, has an excellent all-around game and is a strong shooter from the outside. He averaged 24.1 points per game, led his Santa Monica High team to a 25-game winning streak and the CIF Southern Section 1A title, a game in which he led his Vikings with 33 points in a come-from-behind victory.
Melton is a 6-4, 190-pound talented scoring guard and elite defender who can help USC right away. Last season he led Crespi HS to its second consecutive state title by averaging 20.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
Henderson is a 6-10, 220-pound skilled forward with a big upside. He has the ability to play multiple positions and can score both inside and out to three-point range. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds for South Grand Prairie and was named first team All-District.
Rakocevic, a 6-11, 225-pound forward with Serbian roots, seems to combine the toughness of Luis Gavrilovic with the scoring skill of Nikola Jovanovic, USC’s recently departed Serbian players. Rakocevic played for Saint Joseph’s High in Westchester, Ill., where he averaged 19.8 points, 14.4 rebounds and 4.0 blocks as a senior. He was named the the Chicago Tribune All-Star first team, All-State and All-Conference.
USC has also added a talented pair of transfers to the roster in senior forward Charles Buggs and sophomore guard Derryck Thornton. Buggs will only be available this season, while Thornton has to sit out the 2016-17 season, but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning next season.
Buggs is a 6-9, 230-pound experienced forward who can stretch the defense by hitting the three-pointer or banging inside to pick up the tough points. He averaged 5.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game last season for Minnesota, while finishing second on the team in field goal percentage (.462), third in free throw percentage (.769), third in blocks (14) and fourth in three-pointers made (23).
Trojan fans will have to wait a season to see the immense skills of the 6-2, 185-pound guard Thornton on display. He was a top-15 recruit according to Scout.com and Rivals.com before signing with Duke. In his one season with the Blue Devils, he started at point guard in 20 of Duke’s 36 games and averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 assists per game. He was second on the team in total assists (93) and sixth in total points (255) and minutes played (35). His assist total ranks 10th all-time on Duke’s freshman list and his 1.58:1 assist to turnover ratio ranks tied for seventh all-time by a Blue Devils’ freshman. The Blue Devils went 15-5 in his 20 starts and he averaged 8.7 points in those games.
Providing additional depth in the backcourt will be Kurt Karis and in the front court will be Samer Dhillon. The 6-1, 190-pound junior guard Karis will provide depth and experience at the point guard position for the Trojans. He played in nearly 60 games during this two seasons at Chicago State, before sitting out last season while here at USC. The 6-8, 220-pound forward Dhillon continues to be a hard worker and spiritual leader on the team, with tremendous success academically and in the community, being named to the 2016 NABC Good Works Team.
Coach Enfield has changed the culture of the program and developed a fun, fasted-paced style of basketball which the fans enjoy. After laying the building blocks the first two seasons, the Trojans were able to vault off their solid foundation to shock the basketball world in 2015-16. This season promises to be just as exciting as the Trojans have a very talented and young squad which again seems to be entering the season flying under the radar.