Ever since the unfortunate sanctions that transpired over five years ago, the USC Trojans basketball program has become a lackluster competitor that has been inhibited by poor coaching and the lack of star-studded recruits. In the last two years, the Trojans only won 20 games, with the 2011-2012 season being one of the worst performances in school history (they were 6-26 that season). However, it appears that this now fiery college basketball team is now out of the dark ages and is more than ready to compete in their competitive conference. Between the acquisition of former Florida Gulf Coast head coach Mark Enfield along with an intriguing group of talented freshman, the Trojans appear to be on the path to eventual success.
The biggest difference between the new and improved Trojans and the forgettable abysmal team of yesteryear is their tenacity when it comes to playing the boards and swiftly distributing the ball to open players. This year, the Trojans have garnered 41.8 rebounds per game (56th in NCAA) while also averaging 15.4 assists per game (68th in the NCAA). While these numbers may not be immediately indicative of a powerhouse college basketball unit, they are immensely impressive because these numbers emphatically suggest that the Trojans have made the proper adjustments to be not only more competitive but also that much more dynamic in their playing style.
While the Trojans have a strong base of young up and coming sophomores and freshman, they have one standout senior who is the unquestionable leader in terms of seniority and overall athletic presence on the court. Center Omar Oraby is the unsung hero for this tenacious Trojans squad as he has puts up 13.6 points per game along with nearly eight rebounds per game.
However, while Oraby’s veteran leadership and physical presence are vital to this teams prolific success, the Trojans have a swift and talented guard who’s dual threat defensive and offense capabilities make this revitalized teams perseverance all the more feasible. Junior Byron Wesley has stepped up as an unselfish ball distributor and unstoppable scoring machine that can make a monumental play at a moments notice. While Wesley has been a solid contributor in the past, his statistical achievements from the last two years pale in comparison to the monster season he has already had this year. Last year, Wesley put up a respectable 10.2 points per game and garnered 4.3 rebounds during his sophomore season. However, Wesley has improved statistically from last season as he has become the Trojans best overall weapon on the court who has been utilized effectively this season as he as scored 19.8 points per game and has more than doubled his average rebounding capabilities from last season to 8.8 rebounds per game. Simply put, Wesley’s contributions as a quick and intelligent guard are critical to the Trojans becoming a ruthless and competitive underdog rather than being the laughing stock of the PAC-12 conference.
While the Trojans impressive improvements on defense have been sensationally entertaining to witness, their offensive accomplishments have been noticeably static so far this season. Thus far the Trojans are ranked 145th in field goal percentage (46.1%) and are ranked 178th in points scored in the NCAA (75.2 points per game). Luckily, the Trojans lack of offensive production hasn’t demoralized this team as they have only lost one game this season. Still, if the Trojans hope to make a run within their conference, they’ll have to build up the confidence amongst the plethora of freshman they have within their ranks to see if any of them have the potential and innate abilities to play efficiently when it inevitably becomes their time to shine.
Although the Trojans still have to become a more balanced team before they can even think about going head to head with some of the more athletic and well formed teams in their conference, they have shown intriguing improvements on the defensive side of the ball while having a proven head coach who has the awareness and uplifting attitude to allow this team to reach new heights. While the Trojans still have a lot to prove this year, the atmosphere and confidence within this revived organization could be the type of inspiration this team needs to get back to the NCAA Tournament.