Slightly more than a year ago, when Jordan McLaughlin visited
McLaughlin, then a prized recruit from Etiwanda High, did, and he liked what he imagined. With him, USC could glimpse a promising future.
That image probably didn't include Saturday's season opener at Galen Center, a 76-68 loss to Portland State of the Big Sky Conference. The season was supposed to be a step forward in Enfield's second year. That progress will have to wait.
For his first game, McLaughlin appeared with the top of his hair dyed red, and he immediately showed that USC will go as far as he can take them.
The first six offensive possessions of his career were all McLaughlin. He scored twice in that span, on a hard drive and a pull-up jumper. He had two assists and a turnover.
That became a troubling theme for USC, which finished with 23 turnovers compared with Portland State's four. McLaughlin made six of nine shots from the field with 19 points, six assists and, crucially, seven turnovers.
"He's got to learn, he's got to cut that turnovers way down," Enfield said. "But we're proud of him. He's a freshman, first game, and he'll get better."
Said McLaughlin: "We just played a little bit faster than we should've been playing. People were making moves before they caught the ball, and we just weren't making good decisions."
When the Trojans were careful with the ball, they found open looks. They shot an impressive 53.2% from the field to Portland State's 39.1%. Katin Reinhardt added 11 points, and freshman Malik Martin had 10 on five-for-seven shooting. Nikola Jovanovic, a rare veteran presence, did not perform to his potential. He had six points, seven rebounds and six more turnovers
Portland State led by as many as 12 in the first half and took a seven-point lead into the break. USC retook the lead with 11:45 remaining, but again, USC turnovers and passive defense led to extra buckets for the Vikings.
Beginning with 4:46 left in the game, Portland State went on an 8-0 run, aided by two more USC giveaways.
"You're not going to beat any team with 23 turnovers," Enfield said.
McLaughlin's commitment was always a matter of faith. At the time of the recruiting visit, Enfield hadn't yet coached a game at USC. Had McLaughlin seen a tape of last season's action, he would have watched a plodding, mismatched shell of Enfield's system.
This season, the Trojans have six new players and 11 underclassmen. They are the youngest team in the Pac-12, with three juniors and no seniors.
Youth was the likely culprit during USC's exhibition, when the Trojans trailed Cal State Los Angeles 14-1 before a comeback win. Afterward, Enfield said it was a good learning experience. The team had to figure out how to stay composed after a rough start.
It was a lesson harshly reinforced Saturday and one that USC would prefer not to learn again.