College Basketball is right around the corner as teams begin practices. For the USC women’s basketball team it’s the beginning of a new journey as they look to end a 5 year tournament drought. The task will be tough as they must replace several key players that were lost to graduation and transfers, however they also welcome a good chunk of talent that will be coming onto the roster. Last season USC started off the season 10-1 heading into Pac-12 conference play. Led by the sister duo of point guard Minyon Moore and shooting guard Mariya Moore as well as leading scorer Aliyah Mazyck, the Women of Troy looked a lot like a NCAA tournament team. Pac-12 play started off rough as USC started 0-5 with losses to UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Oregon. At the end of conference play USC
Coming into the 2019-2020 season the Women of Troy will have work to do to reach the NCAA tournament. Their roster took a hit with the departure of quite a few players. USC lost two of their three leading scorers in Aliyah Mazyck and Mariya Moore to graduation. However, most of their departures came from transfers. USC saw a large amount of players leave the program via transfer. A huge blow came when junior captain and All Pac-12 defensive team guard Minyon Moore transferred to Oregon. Moore was the second leading scorer on the team while leading in rebounding, assist, and steals. Moore wasn’t the only key player that the Women of Troy lost within conference. Junior forward Ja’Tavia Tapley transferred from USC to Arizona State. Tapley was second on the team in rebounding with 5.0 per game.
Despite the departures, USC still have some key veteran players to lead the way. Senior forward Kayla Overbeck will provide rebounding and leadership coming into the season. Starting in 26 games last year, Overbeck was a physical presence in the post for the Women of Troy. Sophomore Desiree Caldwell and redshirt junior Shalexxus Aaron will look to replace the fire power and production lost from USC’s backcourt. Caldwell provides speed at the guard position while Aaron will bring an outside threat that will be need on the roster. All three will most likely start to begin the season with their experience being a factor.
During the offseason the transfer process also swung in USC’s favor as they added two guards to bolster the front court depth. The Women of Troy welcomed North Carolina guard Stephanie Watts and Morehead State Aliyah Jeune. At North Carolina, Watts was a starting guard where she set the ACC on fire. Last season the redshirt senior started in 27 games for the Tar Heels and averaged 15.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assist per game while making a team leading 82 three points on the season. Watts will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer and will provide a scoring threat for the team. Jeune on the other hand also brings experience and scoring production to the guard position. During her redshirt junior season at Morehouse State, Jeune averaged 16.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assist per game. She was named Ohio Valley Conference newcomer of the year and helped lead Morehouse State to the second round of the WNIT postseason tournament.
Part of the rebuilding process at USC will be through the incoming freshmen coming in. Head coach Mark Trakh and the Women of Troy coaching staff brought in a very strong class. The 2019 recruiting class features three five stars in Point guard Endiyia Rogers, center Angel Jackson, and forward Alissa Pili (sister of Trojans defensive tackle Brandon Pili). They also brought in a couple of top guards in the nation in four star Kyra White and Madison Campbell. Look for this group to see some early playing time as they each bring something that will help USC this season.
USC will have a talented roster this year, however they have an interesting schedule to work with both in and out of conference. The out of conference slate doesn’t appear very daunting as they face only one team that made the NCAA Tournament in Texas A&M at home. One interesting game that highlights the out of conference slate will be the November 9th game against Virginia. The Lady Cavaliers are currently coached by USC basketball legend Tina Thompson. Thompson played all four years for the Women of Troy before being drafted in the 1st round of the WNBA Draft where she would have an amazing career that would lead her to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In conference the Women of Troy will have their work cut out for them. One of the notable games come against Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona State, and UCLA. All are teams that made the NCAA Tournament and will most likely be ranked in the top 15 of the pre-season AP Rankings. One huge challenge will come from Oregon. The Ducks are not only viewed as the favorite to win the Pac-12 this year, but a favorite to win the national championship and will likely enter the season as the nations No. 1 team. They will also feature the backcourt of senior and potential WNBA No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu and former Trojans point guard Minyon Moore.
USC will have to replace a lot of fire power, but will still have a talented roster filled with returning vets, talented graduate transfers, and a top 5 recruiting class. If they can gel by the time conference play comes, the Women of Troy will have a shot to end their NCAA Tournament drought. To do it in one of the toughest conferences in Women’s college basketball will be no easy feat.