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.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 21st, 2013

Today we begin unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

USC Trojans

Strengths. Energy and experience. New head coach Andy Enfield brings to the program a swagger that has been largely missing from this USC program about as long as guys like Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Demar DeRozan have. He’s trying to carve out an identity for the Trojan basketball program as a fun place to play and a fun team to watch. And while guys like Jio Fontan, Eric Wise, Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller are now gone from the program, Enfield does have a crew with a decent level of experience. J.T Terrell, the team’s leading returning scorer, newly eligible point guard Pe’Shon Howard, and seven-footers Omar Oraby and D.J. Haley are all seniors – and seniors who have been around the block a time or two. Throw in Byron Wesley in his third season on the USC campus and there’s a quality bunch of players who know their way around major college basketball.

J.T. Terrell Is Just One Of Four USC Seniors With Plenty of Experience

J.T. Terrell Is Just One Of Four USC Seniors With Plenty of Experience

Weaknesses. How well does this roster fit the style? Enfield’s going to have this team running and throwing lobs and shooting threes regardless, but ideally he would have an efficient pass-first point guard who could be the floor general, a role Howard was unable to fill in his previous stop at Maryland. To go alongside that distributing point, Enfield would love to throw in a couple of mobile bigs who love getting up and down the floor, something Haley may be able to do well, but something Oraby certainly is not known for. Running the wings for Enfield’s offense would be a couple of prolific three-point shooters, rather than guys like Terrell and Wesley, a pair who are primarily known, respectively, for their lack of shot selection and defensive intensity. Still, some of the younger guys on this squad, like freshmen wings Roschon Prince and Kahlil Dukes, or European bigs Strahinja Gavrilovic and Nikola Jovanovic, or even young point guard Julian Jacobs or Chass Bryan, could carve out roles that could earn them long-term run under Enfield.

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Scouting the Pac: Chass Bryan, Devon Collier and Kaleb Tarczewski

Posted by AMurawa on November 19th, 2012

Let’s take a few minutes to scout some of the new faces in the Pac-12 this season.

Chass Bryan – When Maurice Jones was suspended and left the USC basketball team in September, it appeared that one of the biggest holes on the roster would be the backup point guard position; there seemed no obvious solution behind senior guard Jio Fontan. But, as the Trojans head to Maui, it’s pretty clear that the walk-on freshman from Oaks Christian is the man there. What’s more, he’s not just a place-filler. He’s a tiny guy, yeah, and young, but he plays with a maturity and a confidence beyond his years. He’s got all the speed you’d expect of a guy listed at 5’9” and 165 pounds, capable of getting past most defenders and getting into the lane, but what makes him a really great prospect is his basketball IQ and great court vision. And he’s able to create for himself as well as for his teammates; once he’s got a step on his man, he is just as likely to pull up for a mid-range jumper as he is to drop a nice dime. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has been talking this kid up since the middle of summer, but many still didn’t know what to expect from him. While Bryan shouldn’t expect a ton of minutes this season, he’ll help earn Fontan some rest while still giving O’Neill a solid floor general. And, frankly, he may already be an upgrade over the departed Jones, at least in terms of basketball IQ. Not to mention, size.

Chass Bryan, USC

After Chass Bryan’s First Two Games, It Looks Like USC Has An Answer Behind Point Guard Jio Fontan (Steve Solis, PR Photos)

Devon Collier – Last year, Collier started 33 of the 36 games for the Beavers. This season, however, he had been asked to take on a new role, coming off the bench. But, with the news Sunday that senior center Angus Brandt had been lost for the season with a knee injury, it appears Collier will find his way back into the starting lineup. A junior from the Bronx, Collier made a return to New York this past weekend and had moments of excellence mixed in with a few head-slappers. Yeah, he went for 27/14 in an inspired performance on Friday night, and is clearly a physically gifted athlete. At 6’8” with terrific athletic ability, Collier is able to rebound with the best of them, score in an efficient manner around the paint, drop the occasional brilliant dime and hold his own defending guards from time to time. And his maturity was made evident by the grace with which he took his new role coming off the pine this season. However, from time to time, his athletic ability is undermined by some poor decision-making. In Thursday night’s loss to Alabama, he turned the ball over five times, a pair of which came when after he made great plays grabbing rebounds he then just decided to throw the ball to the first guy in the same color jersey he could find, whether that be somebody expecting an outlet pass or not, and whether or not there was somebody in the opposite color uniform that was in the vicinity. While his physical skills can often overcome these lapses in judgment, for him to be a consistently reliable upperclassman for the Beavers, he’ll need to improve the mental side of the game.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Yesterday was Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day in San Francisco, and the big news out of the event was the release of the preseason media poll, which has Arizona slotted in the top spot, edging out UCLA by one point even though the Bruins received one more first place vote. California and Washington were the other two schools receiving first place votes, with the Golden Bears garnering three and the Huskies two. It’s hard to argue with the choices for the two top spots and bottom three (Washington State, Arizona State and Utah) in the conference, but places three through nine can certainly be debated. It appears as though Colorado and USC are being underestimated by the media; especially Tad Boyle’s team. The Buffaloes were grossly underestimated last year, picked to finish tied for 10th with Washington State in the preseason. Of course, that prediction was wrong. Sure, the Buffs lost Carlon Brown and a couple of other seniors, but Tad Boyle has dealt with bigger losses before and been just fine. As far as USC is concerned, perhaps some media members got too transfixed on the Trojans’ 6-26 record without taking into account all the injuries last year’s team had combined with all the impact transfers that will be suiting up for Kevin O’Neill this year. On paper, USC at least looks better than both of the Oregon schools.
  2. Nothing too revealing usually comes out of these conference media days, but there were a couple of interesting nuggets. As predicted, Craig Robinson’s relationship with Barack Obama and the upcoming election was a hot-button topic, and the Oregon State head coach had some fun with the media by saying it’s classified information where he will be on Election Night before revealing that he will be in Chicago… but not before a his team practices earlier in the day. He also gave praise to 6’7’’ freshman Jarmal Reid, who he says is a great defender and could play early and often this year. Another interesting playing tidbit came from USC head coach Kevin O’Neill, who said that walk-on Chass Bryan will get minutes as the backup point guard to Jio Fontan. Bryan stands at 5’9’’ and is on a Presidential Scholarship to USC, unrelated to his status on the basketball team. It looks as though the line of diminutive playmakers at USC will continue in some fashion beyond Fontan’s senior year. Bryan’s role has taken on a greater importance over the last couple of months after it was announced that Maurice Jones would transfer from the school. O’Neill still had nothing but kind words for Jones at Pac-12 Media Day, going a little out of his way to compliment him on what he did for the Trojans the past two years and saying he loved him as a person. This writer is still very curious as to what led to his suspension and subsequent departure, though.
  3. George Dohrmann recently caught up with former Arizona State Sun Devil Demetrius Walker for a Q&A for his blog. Now a part of the New Mexico Lobos, it looks as though Walker has found a niche in Albuquerque and is starting to live up to some of the highly unrealistic expectations placed upon him in middle school and high school. As Eamonn Brennan points out, it’s interesting to hear Walker talk more in terms of “we” than “me” as he attempts to turn the page on an AAU culture that built him up to larger-than-life proportions and nearly destroyed him. The knock on Walker at Arizona State was that he was just an athlete and had very limited basketball skills — namely a poor jump shot. Here’s to wishing the star of Dohrmann’s Play Their Hearts Out greater success in 2012-13, as his Lobos try to take down San Diego State and UNLV for a Mountain West Conference championship.
  4. More exhibition news to pass along as two Pac-12 teams kick off their exhibition slates this weekend. Tonight, Utah takes the floor against Simon Fraser University, the first non-US institution to be a full-fledged member of the NCAA. Not surprisingly, coach Larry Krystkowiak’s team was picked to finish last in the conference, but there are plenty of new faces on this team to give the Runnin’ Utes an intrigue factor heading into the start of the season. However, it doesn’t help that one of those transfers — Aaron Dotson -- is scheduled to be out until late November or early December with a stress fracture in his foot. At the very least, the Utes should do considerably better than the 3-9 record they posted in the 2011-12 non-conference slate. The Utes play two non-Division-I teams and do not face a team from another power conference at all this season. Their RPI will certainly take a hit, but I don’t think Krystkowiak is really concerned about that this year. The other Pac-12 exhibition game takes place on Sunday, when Stanford hosts UNC Pembroke. Certainly the Cardinal will have faced much stiffer competition on Thursday night when they played Saint Mary’s in a secret scrimmage, but this game will give Cardinal fans a first look at their team taking on outside competition. Both games are being streamed live on the Pac-12 website, so feel free (and the streams are free) to have a look for yourself online.
  5. Connor here, hijacking this final bit as Drew and I continue our season-long football prognostication contest. It was another gloomy Saturday for me last weekend, as Drew extended his lead to three games. The Jeykll and Hyde Golden Bears neglected to come through for the second straight week, and Oregon State’s upset at the hands of Washington made it a perfect day for Drew. I’ve still got five weeks to come back, however, so I’m taking it conservatively and only differing on one pick here in week 10. Things get going tonight in Berkeley, where California needs a win to keep its flickering bowl hopes alive. Even if they get past the Huskies, the Bears finish the year with a pair of top 15 opponents, making it unlikely their season will continue past November 17. Saturday gets off to a bit of a slow start with Stanford visiting Boulder and Washington State heading into the hornets nest that is Rice Eccles Stadium, but things really get going in the late afternoon. That’s when our game of the week kicks off in Los Angeles, as Oregon tries to keep its perfect season alive with its toughest task yet. We get treated to a tasty pair of nightcaps following that one, as the Wildcats visit UCLA and Sun Devils take on Oregon State. Enjoy your weekend; it’ll be the last before your tasked with balancing hoops and pigskin until December.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Washington at California California California
    Stanford at Colorado Stanford Stanford
    Washington State at Utah Washington State Washington State
    Oregon at USC Oregon 42-38 Oregon 52-25
    Arizona at UCLA Arizona UCLA
    Arizona State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon
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USC Week: One-On-One With Kevin O’Neill

Posted by AMurawa on July 5th, 2012

Kevin O’Neill took over the USC program in the wake of Tim Floyd’s abrupt resignation in June 2009.The instability within the program caused USC to lose much of its 2009 recruiting class, but O’Neill helped that team – playing without the hope of a postseason berth due to fallout from the Floyd era – keep it’s head above water, finishing with a 16-14 record. The following season, the Trojans were able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, claiming a spot in the initial First Four, but last season the team was torn apart by injuries and recorded a program-worst 6-26 record. This year reinforcements arrive and folks around the USC program think they could be due for a big bounce-back season. As part of our week-long look at the Trojan basketball program, we had a chance last week to talk to O’Neill as he looks forward to 2012-13.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

In Three Seasons At USC, Kevin O’Neill Has Established A Tough Defensive Personality For His Trojan Team

Andrew Murawa: Obviously last year was one of those Murphy’s Law kind of years. Despite all of the bad luck and losses, are you able to find any silver lining in an otherwise bad year?

Kevin O’Neill: You know, once Jio (Fontan) got hurt in Brazil it all sort of fell apart. You kind of have to go back a couple of years. When we took over the program, there were no freshmen or sophomores – we lost two classes completely and we were able to piece it together with six guys per year for the first two years. And we knew we had to avoid injury for the third year. And then everyone got hurt. And once everybody got hurt, we didn’t have enough talent or enough players or enough depth. We had played without depth for two years and had been fortunate to avoid injuries, but it just caught up with up with us last year. But, it will make us appreciate this year a whole lot more.

AM: You did get some guys plenty of experience last year. Maurice Jones, for one, was forced into a pretty extreme role last year, playing a ton of minutes, having the ball in his hands a lot and probably taking more shots than he ever expected to take in his college career. With all the firepower you are getting back this year, is he looking forward to getting back to more of a normal role?

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USC Week: Reinforcements Arrive Among Seven Newcomers

Posted by AMurawa on July 4th, 2012

Coupled with the three players that the Trojans get back from season-ending injuries last season, Kevin O’Neill welcomes in four newly-eligible Division I transfers, two scholarship freshmen, and a walk-on freshman. This means that the USC team that finished off last season with an opening-round Pac-12 tourney loss to UCLA will bear almost no resemblance to the team that tips off the 2012-13 season in November. Below, we’ll introduce you to each of those seven newcomers, roughly in the order of impact that they’ll have on their new team.

  • J.T. Terrell, Junior, Guard, 6’3” 185 lbs, Wake Forest – Terrell played his freshman season as Wake Forest, scoring 11.1 points per game and finishing second on the team in scoring. But, two months before his sophomore season was to begin, he got busted for a DWI and decided to leave the school. He attended Peninsula College in Washington last season and averaged 24.4 points per game on his way towards earning the rating of the best junior college player in America (according to Swannys Roundball Review). In his single season with the Demon Deacons, Terrell showed a great fondness for shooting the ball, taking nearly 30% of his team’s field goal attempts while he was on the floor, but hitting only 38.8% of those. He showed improvement last season at the JuCo level, making 48% of his attempts from the field, but with this Trojan team featuring plenty of capable scorers, Terrell needs to show that he can be an effective offensive player even when not getting all the looks he wants.
J.T. Terrell, USC

J.T. Terrell Headlines A List of Four Newly Eligible Division I Transfers At USC (Chuck Burton/AP Photo)

  • Ari Stewart, Junior, Small Forward, 6’7” 205 lbs, Wake Forest – Stewart’s freshman season at Wake Forest came a year prior to Terrell’s, but they were remarkably similar. Like Terrell, Stewart took almost 30% of his team’s shots while on the floor (albeit in fewer minutes) and made just 37.5% of those. His sophomore season showed some signs of improvement as he became more judicious with his attempts and as a result shot a higher percentage, but for a guy who shoots a ton of threes, his percentage from behind the arc dipped from a solid 37.1% to a woeful 27.4%. Still, Stewart showed a new side to his game as a sophomore, taking on more of a ball-handling role and actually dishing out some assists; unfortunately, a big bump up in turnovers accompanied that change. At USC, he likely won’t be needed to do a whole lot of handling, but he will be asked to knock down the three from the corner and from the wing. He’ll at least need to bounce back to his freshman year efficiency to live up to expectations. Read the rest of this entry »
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