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Boogie Ellis plans to return for USC as Trojans embark on a backcourt reboot

USC guard Boogie Ellis celebrates a basket.
USC guard Boogie Ellis, center, celebrates after scoring during a win against Washington State on Feb. 2.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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Boogie Ellis was all set to say goodbye to USC. After transforming himself into one of the top scorers in the Pac-12 this season, the Trojans point guard made it known it would be his last at the college level.

But those plans have since changed, The Los Angeles Times has learned. Ellis expects to return for a fifth year of eligibility — and third at USC, where next season he’ll be paired with one of the top point guard prospects in all of basketball, Isaiah Collier.

A person familiar with Ellis’ thinking told The Times that the USC guard is still keeping his options open, if a more promising path were to present itself in the coming weeks as the NBA draft picture comes into clearer view. But for now, Ellis intends to return to USC.

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Five-star recruit Duce Robinson, considered one of the top high school tight ends in the nation, signed with USC on Thursday. But he’s also eyeing baseball.

March 30, 2023

His change of heart is a serious coup for the Trojans, who were set to lose all three of their top scorers from last season. The rationale for Ellis’ return wasn’t immediately clear on Monday; though, his decision, coupled with Collier’s arrival, gives Andy Enfield the most potent backcourt he’s had in a decade as USC’s coach.

Ellis took a major leap forward last season, leading USC in scoring (17.7 points per game) and pacing its offense from the three-point line, where he had nearly double the threes made (83) as any of his Trojan teammates. But his most significant progress came in his role as the conductor of USC’s offense.

“He’s just becoming more of a point guard,” sophomore wing Kobe Johnson said last month. “He’s taken a big stride in controlling the game. When he needs to take over, he takes over.”

That role may not be the same with another point guard in the picture. Collier is the highest-rated guard prospect to join USC during Enfield’s tenure. He’s also a natural floor general, with elite ball-handling skills and an uncanny ability to create.

Raleek Brown has natural talent and athleticism, but USC is focusing on teaching him receiver fundamentals so he can play a bigger role next season.

March 29, 2023

How the two top guards might fit alongside each other in USC’s offense remains to be seen. But for Enfield, it’s an enviable problem to have. Along with Johnson, who was named to the Pac-12’s all-defensive team as a sophomore, USC will presumably enter next season as a preseason top 25 team, bolstered by the conference’s best backcourt.

Ellis’ return cements that. Just a few weeks earlier, the senior point guard was sure he’d played his last game at USC. But Enfield and his staff kept recruiting Ellis to return anyway.

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Their case, as it turned out, was pretty convincing. Now USC will pair a fifth-year senior with a freshman phenom, a potent combination that might just make the Trojans the toast of the West Coast next season.

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