1. The Return of Bennie Boatwright
Over the last two seasons, Boatwright has missed a combined 30 regular season games. Even when he played last year however, he often just did not look comfortable or in sync with the offense. His scoring and shooting were down from 2016 across the board.
But when the 6 foot 10 inch Boatwright is healthy, he’s nearly impossible to defend on the outside. If it weren’t for his injuries, his name could’ve very well been called in last month’s NBA Draft.
This is a USC team that will see a lot of unfamiliarity. They need veteran leadership and production, which Boatwright can undoubtedly provide. No one has a higher ceiling than the senior.
Yet no one seems to have lower falls, either.
Barring injuries, the front court is the certainty for the Trojans, with Boatwright at the four and Nick Rakocevic at center following Chimezie Metu’s departure to the San Antonio Spurs.
Boatwright is going to have to stay healthy in crunch time at the end of the year if he wants his shot at the next level, and if the Trojans want their shot to make some noise in March.
2. Backcourt Battles
The every-game starters in the backcourt a year ago, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, have moved on to the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers respectively after signing as undrafted free agents.
Jonah Mathews is the lone shoe-in for significant playing time. At times though, he’s been more effective as a sixth man.
Derryck Thornton meanwhile was the clear, effective back-up point guard behind McLaughlin last season.
But incoming freshmen guards Elijah Weaver and Kevin Porter Jr. were both top 40 in their class, just as rising sophomore Charles O’Bannon Jr. was a year before.
With so many options, Head Coach Andy Enfield has the luxury of a good problem. Nevertheless, it’s one he needs to sort out while at the same time developing his young guards, something he didn’t do with O’Bannon last season.
Contrary to 2017, particularly when Boatwright was healthy, USC will end up playing much smaller on the floor, or perhaps just a more typical lineup. Who that will consist of remains to be seen.
3. USC’s 2019 Recruiting Class
Not Kentucky and John Calipari. Not Duke and Coach K. Not Kansas and Bill Self.
Rather, it’s USC and Andy Enfield who have the current No. 1 rated recruiting class for 2019.
Yes, this is USC basketball, not football.
Whether Enfield can keep that top spot will be a huge storyline to monitor throughout the course of the season. The Trojans’ play may impact that as well—surely, both current and potential recruits won’t be pleased to see another failure to make the NCAA Tournament.
Winning is a huge selling point in recruiting. A scandal-free season would be as well.
The Trojans currently have commitments from two top 30 recruits according to 247 Sports, the No. 13 overall in center Onyeka Okongwu (below) and No. 29 in power forward Isaiah Mobley.
They also now have two-sport commit Drake London, the 67th highest rated hooper in his class, and are awaiting word from several other high-profile targets.
Certainly, Enfield has his work cut out for him in ensuring the 18th rated group of 2018 performs as expected. But if he can sustain and even improve the following year’s influx of talent to the Galen Center, USC’s program will be as talented as any over the next few seasons.