Checking In On Andy Enfield and USC

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 26th, 2013

In all likelihood, the last time you saw USC play, if at all, was on opening night when the Trojans put on a public display of masonry in a 13-point loss at Utah State. Since then the Trojans have taken care of business against four overmatched teams, and were it not for some Lane Kiffin-like quotes from the team’s new head coach Andy Enfield, you could say that the team was flying a bit under the radar. But since Enfield was one of the bigger stories in the preseason Pac-12 chatter, it is high time we check in with USC and see what kind of progress his team is making in the first year of Dunk City West.

Other Than Some Eyebrow-Raising Comments, Andy Enfield's Program Has Been Off The Radar (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

Other Than Some Eyebrow-Raising Comments, Andy Enfield’s Program Has Been Off The Radar (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

The biggest news is that leading returning scorer J.T. Terrell has been declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, meaning he’s got to take care of business between now and final exams in order to have a chance to get back for the spring semester. Given his shaky history off the court, there’s a legitimate possibility that won’t happen. In the short term, this obviously hurts the Trojans’ chances, especially as they head to the Battle 4 Atlantis later this week. An athletic wing with an affinity for jacking up quick shots, Terrell is one of the few guys on the USC roster who seems to fit snugly into Enfield’s system. But as a senior, it wouldn’t kill his long-term plans if Terrell never plays another minute in Troy. The big picture view is that Enfield is spending this year playing a lot of guys and seeing who fits in for the future. And if Terrell isn’t around to join the team, that’s just more minutes to give to younger guys with an opportunity to improve.

One big question we had coming into this year was how lumbering 7’2” center Omar Oraby would fit in with Enfield’s system, and early returns are quite positive. Certainly a lot of it has come against inferior competition, but Oraby is averaging 13.6 points, 7.8 boards, 3.6 blocks and 26.2 minutes per game and is getting up and down the floor in plenty of time to be an effective offensive piece, with fully three-quarters of his shot attempts coming directly at the rim. Assuming he can keep out of foul trouble once the level of competition picks up, expect Oraby to be a major factor for the rest of the season. But like Terrell, he’s also a senior and therefore not part of the long-term plans at USC.

Byron Wesley Isn't Well-Known, But Is Easily The Trojans' Best Player (Los Angeles Times)

Byron Wesley Isn’t Well-Known, But Is Easily The Trojans’ Best Player (Los Angeles Times)

The fact that we’ve gone this long without mentioning junior wing Byron Wesley is an injustice, because not only is he far and away the best player on this team, he is one of the most underrated players in the nation. He’s always been a great defender and a superb rebounder for a 6’5” guy, but this year Wesley has turned into a 20 PPG scorer as well. He’s tightened up his jumper (although he still needs to work on his range) and has become very good off the bounce, capable of getting to the rim and finishing over bigger guys when he gets there. He’s thriving in Enfield’s system, in large part because he never turns the ball over.

On the rest of the roster, there are still plenty of guys most respectfully described as works in progress. Freshman stretch-four Nikola Jovanovic has worked his way into the starting lineup and has shown a nice jumper combined with competent rebounding skills, but he needs to get stronger. Point guard Julian Jacobs, also a freshman, has moved into the starting lineup and he’s handing out four assists per night, but otherwise is offensively limited. Regardless, both of these guys would seem to have bright futures in Enfield’s system. The future is murkier for other underclassmen like Roschon Prince, Strahinja Gavrilovic, Brendyn Taylor and Chass Bryan; each player has plenty still to prove.

The big thing is that this roster has bought into Enfield’s system. Despite not being the most athletic bunch on the planet, they’re showing commitment on the defensive end, which is where Dunk City begins. If the team can get stops, they then can get out in transition and find open looks. Thus far, the Trojans’ average offensive possession is just 15 seconds long, good for 31st in the nation, while defensively they’re sort of packing it in and making opponents take tough shots over them. That defensive philosophy may change in the future to one that emphasizes forcing turnovers, but for now this is the best the Trojans can do. Make no mistake, despite four straight wins, there will be plenty of losses coming, and probably some ugly blowouts at that. But given the limited talent on the roster, this season isn’t really about wins and losses for Enfield. It’s about building for the future.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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