LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coach Andy Enfield has restocked Southern California’s roster and retained major talent, putting the 21st-ranked Trojans in contention to make a deep postseason run.
The buzz around the basketball Trojans is a major change for a team that’s long been overshadowed by the school’s vaunted football program.
Boogie Ellis has improved every year with the Trojans and if the fifth-year senior continues that trend, he could be in line for a slew of postseason honors. Ellis averaged career highs of 17.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals last season. He shot 48% from the floor and 39% from 3-point range, tying for the Pac-12 lead with 83 3-pointers made.
Returning starter Kobe Johnson will be the defensive stopper in the backcourt. He averaged 2.2 steals last season — his 72 steals were second in the league — and was named to the league’s all-defensive team.
Joining Ellis and Johnson is newcomer Isaiah Collier, who averaged nearly 20 points, seven assists and over five rebounds as a high school senior in Georgia. The consensus top recruit of the 2023 class was the co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and can score and distribute the ball equally as well.
“He’s going to make life for me a lot more easier,” Ellis said of Collier. “I don’t have to score off the dribble so much. I get a lot more catch and shoots. So just having me and him pushing the ball we’re going to play a lot faster, and I feel like we have an elite group of guards.”
USC will be making a run at winning its first regular-season Pac-12 title since 1985.
“This is probably our most athletic team. We’re fast, very athletic and long arms,” Enfield said. “We’ll push the pace more on offense. This year our most dynamic scorers and ballhandlers and creators are at the guard position.”
The Trojans went 22-11 last season and tied for second in the Pac-12. They reached the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year, but lost to Michigan State in the first round.
This season the Trojans were picked by the media to finish second behind No. 12 Arizona in the Pac-12.
USC opens the season Nov. 6 against Kansas State in Las Vegas.
The college debut of the son of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James remains up in the air. The highly touted guard suffered a cardiac arrest in late July. He had a procedure and has since started classes, but USC has deferred to the James family for updates on their oldest son’s condition.
“We hope to have Bronny back on the court with the team at the appropriate time,” Enfield said.
ANOTHER FAMOUS NAME
James isn’t the only famous offspring on the Trojans’ roster.
Washington State transfer DJ Rodman is the son of NBA rebounding legend Dennis Rodman. The younger Rodman averaged nearly 10 points last season for the Cougars and the 6-foot-6 forward is a versatile addition.
“He has no ego. He just wants to win,” Enfield said. “He’s a great complement as a position defender. He’s very skilled offensively, very smart player, and he can play with other good players.”
BIG MAN VINCE
Vincent Iwuchukwu will be looking to fulfill his promise in his first full season.
The 7-foot-1 forward was limited to 14 games as a freshman after suffering a cardiac arrest in July 2022 during a workout with teammates, similar to what happened to James.
Iwuchukwu had a device implanted in his chest to help regulate his heart rate and returned to the court 7 1/2 months later.
“He feels much better now than he has maybe in his basketball career, from being healthy and strong and athletic and quick,” Enfield said. “He’s very fast and a rim protector. Once he gets back with us on a fulltime basis you’ll see a very quick development on the offensive end.”
Iwuchukwu will team with Joshua Morgan, who led the Pac-12 in blocked shots last season, to give the Trojans a big frontcourt.
The Trojans play six of their first seven games in California, including two near San Diego over Thanksgiving weekend.
They'll play No. 11 Gonzaga on Dec. 2 in Las Vegas, where they return in March for the Pac-12 Tournament. It's USC's last season in the league before switching to the Big Ten next year.
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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball