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USC’s most important incoming Freshman doesn’t play football

The USC women’s basketball team looks to rebuild with elite incoming talent

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football and Men’s basketball have plenty of talent coming in:

USC’s 2017 football recruiting class turned out to be a gem for head coach Clay Helton. Universally considered a top ten group in the nation, it includes prospects such as nose-tackle Marlon Tuipuloto and linebacker Levi Jones who should both contribute immediately. Similarly, the men’s basketball team added its fair share of talent, namely in the form of four star shooting guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. (40th ranked recruit in 2017, according to Rivals).

While all of these young athletes are poised to make big impacts once they reach campus next semester, none of them owns the distinction of being USC’s most important freshman; that belongs to Ayanna Clark, the women’s basketball team’s most prized recruit.

Ayanna Clark had an amazing high school career:

Towards the end of her career, accolades seemed to pile up for the 6-4 center from Long Beach Poly. Ranked as the 18th best player in her class by ESPN, Clark was the John Wooden High School Player of the Year, along with being named a Jordan Brand and McDonald’s All-American. She has a punishing inside presence on both ends of the court, finishing her senior year with 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. She chose the Trojans over perennial powerhouses like UCLA and UConn.

Her defensive prowess and explosiveness are clearly illustrated in this play against Brea in February.

USC Women’s basketball seeks to rebuild:

Ok, ok I know what you’re thinking. How can a women’s basketball player be the most important freshman at USC? The answer is actually pretty simple. Football recruits such as Tuipuloto enter an already successful Rose Bowl squad, while basketball recruits like O’Bannon Jr. join a team that returns four starters from last year’s group that upset SMU in the NCAA Tournament. In contrast, the women’s basketball team is starting from scratch. The team finished 14-16 this year, and head coach (and Trojan basketball legend) Cynthia Cooper- Dyke promptly resigned once the season ended. Now with new coach Mark Trakh in the fold, the Women of Troy will be searching for an identity. Expect the five-star Clark to not only play immediately, but lead a team that had the lowest number of rebounds in the PAC-12 last year.

Freshmen such as Tuipuloto and O’Bannon Jr. will contribute to their squads right away, no doubt. But the lesser known Clark has the opportunity to do much more in her first year at SC. She could be the team’s most valuable player from the moment she touches the court at the Galen Center. Whether women’s basketball generates a lot of revenue or not, that sounds pretty important to me.