Fresh off an intra-squad scrimmage over the weekend, USC's Men's Basketball returns to the court the second week of official Fall practices in the midst of preparations for the season opener November 8th on the road at Utah State.
The Trojans enter this season with high hopes and rising expectations following a surprising 9-9 campaign in Pac-12 play ending their season with a first-round loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament. Coach Andy Enfield is working to build off that confidence along with transfers D.J. Haley, Pe'Shon Howard and Katin Reinhardt bolstering the cause. (Haley and Howard have been ruled eligible immediately by the NCAA while Reinhardt will have to sit out the season.)
Along with the bevy of transfers, junior forward Byron Wesley (10.2 PPG last season), shooting guard J.T. Terrell (11.7 PPG) and center Omar Oraby (1.5 BPG) return as leading contributors for this upcoming season. Early on in camp, the highly-touted Wesley has caught the eyes of players and coaches following a tremendous week of practice.
"I thought that offensively, everyone seemed like they're in a good rhythm," Wesley said, grading his team's assessment during an intra-squad scrimmage. "Defensively, my team gave up a lot of easy baskets. I think we need to brush that up but for the first week of practice, I think we're on the right path."
The proof lies in the pudding through one week of practice. Wesley exhibited excellent touch from the perimeter going 6-for-7 from the outside, in a rather revealing offensive first half on Saturday.
"I thought Byron Wesley played hard," Enfield said grading Wesley's performance, adding "the upperclassman continue to impress, as to be expected at this point."
Working to implement more zone defense and press up and down the floor, which stands very similar to the ideology utilized by Florida Gulf Coast for most of last season, the Trojans continue to adjust well on the fly to Enfield's system.
"I want our players to play hard and understand what it means to be a teammate," Enfield said. "These guys are all competing for starting jobs and competing minutes."
The Trojans' biggest challenge may arise over replacing the size and athletic versatility provided from departed forward Dewayne Dedmon, who was recently signed by the Golden State Warriors. That being said USC is confident in their outside shooting game and four-guard lineups that could utilize pinpoint shooting behind the arc, lightening the load for its smaller rotation down low for non-conference play.
"Our style of play is more conducive to the NBA," Enfield said, describing his four-guard look the Trojans want to implement this season on offense. "I don't know what a college style offense is, I am a college basketball coach but our style of play is more conducive to the NBA."
Now just one month away from the opening game of the season, USC is focusing their sights on implementing zone defense and perimeter shooting this week in practice.
The Trojans are looking to escape historically low numbers from the outside, while also improving their 65 points per game clip last season (ranking 217th in the nation) and coach Enfield wants to break that mold by shooting through the nature of low-scoring affairs in college basketball.
"If you look at NCAA, scoring was the lowest in 60 years across the nation. As the talent improves, and the athleticism improves, the scoring should go up every year," Enfield said on Campus Insiders last week, addressing his teams need to build upon a 14-18 campaign.
That process begins with hard work and plenty of installation from the fall practice courts the next few weeks at the suddenly-hyped Galen Center grounds, which could house plenty of offensive fireworks this season.