There hasn’t been much excitement around the Galen Center in the past few years, at least not from the USC men’s basketball team. There have been NCAA sanctions, plenty of losses and some coaching changes.
Last season, the first under Coach Andy Enfield, the Trojans won only two Pac-12 Conference games. Enfield brought his thrilling, high-scoring “Dunk City” system from Florida Gulf Coast, but it didn’t materialize for USC. The talent wasn’t there. The players didn’t fit the system.
National relevance might still be a ways off, but for the first time in a while, there should be some entertaining basketball played on USC’s home court Saturday night, when the Trojans open against Portland State.
“We’re playing a lot faster,” said sophomore Katin Reinhardt, who sat out last season after transferring from Nevada Las Vegas. “We’re playing a lot better faster. I would say we’re a lot smarter when we play.”
Enfield brought in four freshmen in a recruiting class that was ranked No. 12 in the nation by Scout.com. USC also added two impact transfers.
The biggest addition was Jordan McLaughlin, a point guard from Etiwanda High whose decision to play for USC over UCLA or others was a big moment for the program. In USC’s exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles on Nov. 8, McLaughlin led all scorers with 18 points.
McLaughlin didn’t play for six months after shoulder surgery and didn’t pick up a basketball until mid-September. Already, Enfield said, “he’s much more comfortable.”
The way USC’s season unofficially started gave the Trojans a scare. In the exhibition game, USC trailed 14-1 before finding a rhythm. The Trojans won by 19 points but were reminded that they’re still a work in progress.
Enfield said he and his staff understand they still have much to teach. The level of athleticism they have to work with is encouraging, though.
Darion Clark, who sat out last season after transferring from Charlotte, said the team can spread the floor more and attack in several ways. “We can be exciting and get up and down,” he said.
Ultimately, for Enfield to be successful, USC will have to become a factor in the Pac-12. The Trojans are probably not at a level where they will be upper echelon in the conference yet, but the pieces who can get them there are starting to develop.
“You need a baseline of talent to execute any system and be a top-25 program in the nation,” Enfield said. “So we’re on our way.”