USC coach Andy Enfield might have the most unusual five-man basketball recruiting class in America, which helps explain why he’s so happy and optimistic.
“We have fun every day when we walk into the gym,” he said Tuesday at the Southern California basketball coaches tipoff luncheon at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
What has Enfield excited and confident is not only the quality of his recruiting class, but the fact that all five players spent four years at their respective high school, a rarity in the era of transfer mania. They’ve displayed the kind of loyalty, leadership and dedication that could make for a special college experience.
“It’s unusual to have five freshmen who played four years at the same high school,” Enfield said. “The key is they came from winning programs and they’re winners themselves. They’ve helped their teams win state championships, City championships, CIF championships.”
The freshman class includes Ethan Anderson from Fairfax, Max Agbonkpolo from Santa Margarita, Isaiah Mobley from Temecula Rancho Christian, Onyeka Okongwu from Chino Hills and Kyle Sturdivant from Norcross, Ga. Soon to join the group will be Drake London, a receiver on the football team out of Moorpark who also spent four years at his high school.
The 6-foot-9 Okongwu made a positive impression during USC’s 11-day summer trip to Europe, averaging 20.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games.
“I thought Big O was terrific as a freshman in high school,” Enfield said. “Now he’s a freshman in college and it’s surreal he’s four years older. He won a state championship as a freshman, won two more as a junior and senior, and was state player of the year. He’s done everything you can ask for as a player. He’s an exceptional young man.”
USC will open its season with an exhibition game Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. at Galen Center against national power Villanova. All proceeds from the game will benefit the California Fire Foundation, which provides emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters.
Coaching award: Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer was announced as the recipient of the Legends of Coaching award and will be honored in April as part of the John R. Wooden Award presentation.
Shout-out to public schools: UC Irvine men’s basketball coach Russell Turner offered praise to four seniors who arrived from Southern California public high schools and have been starting since their sophomore years. Three were all-conference honorees.
John Edgar Jr. (Chino Hills Ayala), Eyassu Worku (Los Alamitos), Tommy Rutherford (El Cajon Grossmont) and Evan Leonard (Cerritos) helped the Anteaters win their first NCAA playoff game last season against Kansas State.
“I’m thrilled for those guys because they’re outstanding competitors and played for outstanding high school coaches,” he said.
Comedian: Long Beach State coach Dan Monson has become the coach offering the most humor in his speeches at the annual gathering of Southern California coaches. Of his three returning players, he said, “One never plays defense.” And another is a “defensive stopper, which is a code word for he can’t shoot the ball.”
As for meeting his wife on a blind date, he said, “She was blind and I needed a date.”