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USC Basketball season in review: Bennie Boatwright

Due to injury, Bennie Boatwright’s contributions last season were limited.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Tulsa Practice
Bennie Boatwright lets one fly during practice.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As USC Trojans basketball gears up for a new and exciting campaign, we look back on each individual player’s season and what to look for in 2017-18.

Impact:

After a strong freshman campaign, Bennie Boatwright was pegged to be USC’s potential leading scorer last season. Boatwright looked phenomenal in preseason and was named co-captain of the team. Unfortunately, the injury bug would quickly dampen those high expectations. A run of four games in November seemed promising, but an early exit against San Diego would see him sidelined until February.

Even with his injuries, they were able to have him suit up almost 20 times. Still, the fact that USC were able to win so many games without him is a testament to their young core and stellar coaching staff. The reality is, though, that the Trojans are a superior team when Boatwright is in the lineup. Before an eventual loss to Baylor, USC had won 5 of 6 games, all with number 25 back in the fold.

Having a player that can shoot like a guard in the body of a power forward is such an advantage in college hoops. Boatwright’s gravitational pull toward the three-point line opens up USC’s offense, creating mismatches all over the court. He also gives them a second option behind Jordan McLaughlin, as someone who can create a shot from nothing. His ability to shoot over the top of almost any defender is insanely valuable. It carried over at season’s end, especially in the NCAA Tournament. Similar to Chimezie Metu, the Trojans don’t get that close to the Sweet 16 without Bennie Buckets.

Key Games:

11/25/16 - W vs. SMU: 17 points, five rebounds, and four 3’s helped push USC to a statement home win against SMU, who they would eventually see again in March Madness.

02/01/17 - W @ Washington: 23 points and four assists in just 21 minutes on his return from injury got the Trojans a needed road win in Seattle.

03/15/17 - W vs. Providence: 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in USC’s First Four game against Providence. Probably his best game of the season.

03/17/17 - W vs SMU: 14 points and five boards were crucial in another comeback victory in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-SMU vs USC
Boatwright drives strong to the rack against SMU.
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

What to look for in 2017-18:

The biggest focus for Boatwright this season is obvious and slightly out of his control: health. For a team that is going to have too many guards and wings to play all at once, Boatwright is probably the most unique player on this team. A legitimate stretch four with the ability to handle the ball and set up his teammates, he’s their queen piece offensively on the Trojans’ chess board. He opens up the floor for everything they want to do on that end.

As it will likely be his last season in college, especially if the team goes on a big run, USC will hope for better rebounding and more consistent shooting. Despite being a volume sniper from deep, Boatwright has never reached over 36 percent from deep in college. If they can get him around or slightly under 40 percent, that will be a huge development for their season.

Boatwright will likely be a captain again, so his leadership role will expect to increase. Having missed almost half of their season a year ago, he should look hungry and engaged next season, even more than expected. With so much depth, USC probably won’t have many players put up crazy numbers. However, Boatwright should be able to step up and establish himself as the undisputed leading scorer. They need him to become a legitimate number one scoring option.