These are certainly strange times.
USC has the top 2019 men’s basketball recruiting class over powerhouses Duke and Kentucky even after all that FBI buffoonery.
With all the buzz surrounding the 2019 class, the 2018 class has inexplicably gone under the radar. I’ve said it to everyone on all platforms over the last three years—USC’s basketball program is undergoing a complete shift.
From March Madness bids to landing top recruits, the culture is changing.
The Trojans will take their biggest step forward in their culture change with the arrival of incoming freshman Kevin Porter Jr., J’Raan Brooks and Elijah Weaver. Before the season starts and the buzz finally catches up, here’s what you have the know about this very real Big Three.
Kevin Porter Jr., Five-Star Forward—Rainier Beach High School (Seattle,WA)
Kevin Porter Jr. might end up as one the biggest steals in the country—somewhat of an atypical thought when it comes to college basketball recruiting.
Porter Jr. wasn’t a ranked prospect until November 2017, a relative unknown prospect in one of the rising hotbeds in youth basketball. Now, he’s almost impossible to not come across on any Twitter timeline or any freshman watchlist.
There was a clear lack athleticism or any true physical prowess early in his high school playing days. Exclusively a spot-up shooter prior to his senior season, Porter Jr. was able to elevate his game with a newly developed frame and explosive athleticism.
The biggest thing to know about Kevin Porter Jr. is his drive is almost unmatched in high school basketball. He is super competitive —demanding the most from his teammates with fiery sideline talks and in-game jabbering. These traits always stick out to me in such young players—it’s that level of drive seldom seen even in the collegiate and professional levels.
As a player however, Porter Jr. as an ascending wing in today’s NBA.
In combination with his knockdown shooting, his brand of athleticism makes him an exciting player to watch. With his ability to penetrate the lane, Porter Jr. is an explosive finisher who—even as lefty, can throw down violently with either hand.
An almost complete offensive weapon, Porter Jr. is still finding his way as a faciliator—even though there are promising flashes of creative passer. A lot of this will depend on how much better of a ballhandler he gets.
Since he isn’t a iso scorer, Porter Jr. doesn’t bother facing up his man to go on the attack—rather he attacks the lane or steps back to knockdown the jumper.
The five-star prospect has garnered a lot of notoriety in the past week alone. Already under the tutelage of fellow Rainier Beach High alumni and Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford, Kevin Porter Jr. received high praise from Seattle legend Isaiah Thomas:
Kevin Porter Jr! Best player in college basketball. Might/might not show in college due to how the game is played but once he gets to the league he will be a star!— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) July 23, 2018
Already showing up big in Team USA scrimmages earlier this year, Porter Jr. is also dominating pros and blacktop legends alike in the Drew League this summer. This is just a taste of what he is bringing to the Trojans:
As a brief preface—I’m not fond of hot (not-so hot) takes the mainstream sports media is almost entirely made up of today. However, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Porter Jr. might just wind the top pick in next year’s NBA draft.
With a blend of athleticism, shooting and intangible tenacity, we might just be in the midst of something truly special in this USC basketball program.
Elijah Weaver, Four-Star Combo Guard—Rockledge High (Rockledge, FL)
Let’s get this out of the way now—THERE IS ONLY ONE RUSSELL WESTBROOK.
Now it’s almost obligatory to do so as when the college season starts, there’s bound to be many Westbrook comps to our next recruit.
Elijah Weaver was one of the most sought-after recruits coming out of Rockledge as the combo guard not just oozes potential, but had one memorable senior year to back it up.
Finishing his season with 23.1 points, 8.2 boards, 8.7 assists and 4.3 steals, Weaver and his smooth style of play had the entire country buzzing.
At 6’4” and 195 pounds, Weaver has a very impressive physique (again, much like Westbrook) and his athleticism translates accordingly. However, his aforementioned “smooth gameplay” is applicable to his physical abilities as well.
He can outjump almost anyone in the gym, on almost all the tape I watched on him, he effortlessly glides through the air—elevating above the rim in most cases.
Weaver’s biggest strength is his playmaking—much as it goes for all floor generals.
His ballhandling is a thing of beauty as Weaver is a very special guard with unique handles. But alas, that’s just one more piece of the puzzle. He’ll always find the open man and typically does while driving the lane.
The latter is the biggest reason for his success on offense. He’s a tough guy to stop on the dribble as his speed and strength make him hard to get a beat on (yeah, yeah I know…Russ). A creative finisher at the rim, Weaver’s opportunities lie in hitting jumpers on a more consistent basis. He doesn’t rush his shot much like all of you Westbrook-truthers think he might, Weaver just needs to be a bit more selfish in these moments.
Calm, cool and collected, his demeanor is never wavered. Unlike his future runningmate Porter Jr., Weaver isn’t as outwardly expressive. It’ll be an interesting blend in personalities in the fall, but Weaver will certainly be the stat box stuffer in USC with the plethora of talent surrounding him.
J’Raan Brooks, Four-Star Forward—Garfield High (Seattle,WA)
Do you love you some Bennie Boatright? Then J’Raan Brooks is your new favorite Trojan.
A while back, we had a profile on the incoming Brooks:
At 6 feet 9 inches and 225 pounds, Brooks is the exact same size as former Trojan and recent NBA draft pick Chimezie Metu, and will fill a literal huge hole in the front court...At this point of his career, Brooks’ jump shot is a lot farther along than Metu’s was. He will be an ample replacement for Metu’s athleticism as well
While this is mostly true, I’d argue Metu is still finding his jumper, Brooks is absolute money in the midrange.
Pushing 6’9” and 215 pounds, Brooks is developing into the ideal stretch-four in today’s NBA. He has impressive length and brings the mouth-watering trait of actively searching for the rebound. I’ll stray away from calling him “high-motor” in response to his lack of elite athleticism, but he is always where the action is.
A high-IQ player, much of this can be attributed to his level coaching from former NBA All-Pro Brandon Roy. Roy coached Brooks and the Garfield High program to a state championship in 2017 defeating Rainier High and Kevin Porter Jr.
Brooks’ faceup game is his bread and butter.
Setting up other bigs just outside the paint and routinely draining the jumper in their face or taking them off the dribble to drive the lane, it’s virtually identical to Boatright.
Over the course of his four years at USC, Boatright refined his game and ultimately extended his range to three-point line. Brooks still isn’t ready to make the jump to a three-point shooting big, but his stroke definitely shows promise to extend his range.
Under the tutelage of Boatright in his final season at USC, it’ll be interesting to see how Brooks’ game evolves as all eyes will be on this USC Big Three.