USC lands four-star Class of 2018 forward Taeshon Cherry

1 Comment

A strong recruiting week for USC continued on Friday as the Trojans landed four-star forward Taeshon Cherry in the Class of 2018.

After landing a commitment from fellow Class of 2018 four-star forward J’Raan Brooks earlier this week, the Trojans have now recruited their potential future frontcourt as both players could step in and make an immediate impact.

The 6-foot-9 Cherry is especially intriguing for USC because he possesses the potential to play either the three or the four. Rivals considers him as the No. 30 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 national rankings. With wing skills like perimeter shooting and passing, Cherry can add some unique things to the Trojans while also still being able to rebound against bigger opponents. Ideally, Cherry should be a suitable replacement for Bennie Boatwright in time.

Cherry still has to figure out some stuff regarding which position he’s most comfortable at, but he has a world of upside that has given him five-star status in some respected national rankings.

Now that USC has landed Brooks and Cherry, they can spend July trying to figure out which other players to pursue in the Class of 2018.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

J Pat Carter/Getty Images
Leave a comment

USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Former Minnesota forward Buggs headed to USC

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Nikola Jovanovic turning pro and Darion Clark and Malik Martin both transferring out, USC entered the summer in a position where they could afford to add another front court option to help with depth. Thursday afternoon the Trojans did just that, as former Minnesota forward Charles Buggs has decided to join Andy Enfield’s program.

As a graduate student Buggs will be eligible to compete immediately for the Trojans, who return rising sophomores Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu from last season’s front court rotation. News of Buggs’ decision was first reported by CBSSports.com.

Last season the 6-foot-9 Buggs averaged 5.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game for Minnesota, shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 3.19 percent from beyond the arc. His best scoring output came in a win over Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, scoring 15 points, and from a rebounding standpoint his season high of ten came in a loss to Temple in mid-November.

With USC having the aforementioned Boatwright and Metu, not to mention highly regarded incoming freshman Harrison Henderson and another newcomer in Nick Rakocevic, Buggs will simply have to fit into the rotation as opposed to being asked to play a starring role. He gives USC some additional experience in the front court, something they lost with the departures of Jovanovic and Clark.

Pac-12 all-star team to tour Australia in July

AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez
Leave a comment

While the majority of summer tours in college basketball consist of teams making the trek overseas (or to Canada) together, there are all all-star teams put together to represent a conference or some other entity. The Pac-12 has put together an all-star team of sorts in recent years, and on Tuesday they announced the 12-member squad that will visit Australia to play three games in early July.

Two of those games will be played against the Australian men’s national team, which will be preparing for the Summer Olympics to be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.

The coaching staff will be led by Mike Montgomery, who led the programs at both Stanford and California before retiring in 2014, with former Stanford head coach Trent Johnson and former Stanford players Casey Jacobsen and Brevin Knight serving as his assistants. Ten of the conference’s 12 teams will be represented on the roster, with Oregon (which has some players hoping to reach the Olympics for other countries) and UCLA being the teams without a player making the trip.

Also of note for Oregon is the fact that they’ll be taking a summer trip to Spain in August, so their players are already set up for a busy summer.

Arizona and Oregon State will each have two players on the roster, with Kadeem Allen and Chance Comanche making the trip representing Sean Miller’s program and Drew Eubanks and Stephen Thompson Jr. doing so for Wayne Tinkle’s program. Of the 12 players two earned honorable mention all-conference honors (USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson), and Colorado’s Wesley Gordon was a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection.

Below is the full roster, and the team is scheduled to depart for Australia from Los Angeles July 7.

G Kadeem Allen (Arizona)
C Chance Comanche (Arizona)
G Tra Holder (Arizona State)
G Stephen Domingo (California)
F Wesley Gordon (Colorado)
F Drew Eubanks (Oregon State)
F Stephen Thompson Jr. (Oregon State)
G/F Dorian Pickens (Stanford)
G Jordan McLaughlin (USC)
G Lorenzo Bonam (Utah)
F Matisse Thybulle (Washington)
F Josh Hawkinson (Washington State)

Looking Forward: Which programs are on the rise as we head into 2016-17?

AP Photo/Andy Manis, File
Leave a comment

The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs on the rise heading into next season.

Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams’ second season in Blacksburg proved to be more successful than many expected, as the Hokies won ten ACC games (20 overall) and played in the Postseason NIT. What can they do for an encore? In all honesty the pieces needed for the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 are in place, with six of their top seven scorers from a season ago due to return led by forward Zach LeDay and guard Seth Allen. Expecting the Hokies to contend for the ACC title may be a bit much, but it’s fair to expect them to work their way into the Top 25 and the NCAA tournament in 2016-17.

Creighton: The Bluejays, picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll, nearly played its way onto the NCAA tournament bubble thanks to a much-improved big man in Geoffrey Groselle, transfer Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff, and guard Isaiah Zierden. Groselle’s gone, but given the combination of returnees and the addition of former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster the Bluejays could be in line for another leap forward. The key for Greg McDermott’s team will be the return of Watson, who’s going through the NBA Draft evaluation process.

Wisconsin: At one point last season the Badgers were 9-9 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play, with it appearing highly unlikely that Greg Gard would have his interim tag removed. But Gard’s team turned things around, winning 22 games and reaching the Sweet 16. Provided Nigel Hayes, who’s currently going through the NBA Draft evaluation process, returns to school the Badgers will be on the short list of Big Ten title contenders. Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ lead four other starters who will be back, and Andy Van Vliet (who the NCAA sidelined for last season) will help in the front court as well.

USC: The Trojans’ progression was a year ahead of schedule, as after producing consecutive 12-win seasons they earned an NCAA tournament berth in Andy Enfield’s third season at the helm. USC does have some questions in the form of guard Julian Jacobs and forward Nikola Jovanovic both going through the NBA Draft process, but if both return the Trojans will be a contender in the Pac-12. Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are among the returnees for a team that could return five of its six double-digit scorers — Katin Reinhardt being the lone departure — from last season.

UCLA guard Bryce Alford, center, attempts to move the ball past Kentucky guard Charles Matthews, right, as Jamal Murray, left, helps defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
UCLA guard Bryce Alford (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

UCLA: Staying in Los Angeles, this is a big year coming up for Steve Alford. The Bruins were a major disappointment last season, but the combination of some key returnees and a recruiting class led by Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf should propel UCLA back into the Pac-12 and national conversations. Ball should be handed the keys to the show from the start given his abilities at the point, which should result in plentiful scoring opportunities for the likes of Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Thomas Welsh. How good this team can be will depend on two things: how well the pieces mesh, and an improved commitment on the defensive end.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 last season, but the way in which they got there wasn’t what we’ve grown accustomed to with regards to Mark Few’s program as they needed the WCC automatic bid to ensure a spot in the field. Even with the departures of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga has the tools needed to be better in 2016-17, as a backcourt that made strides as the season progressed will be a year older with Josh Perkins and Silas Melson leading the way. Also, Przemek Karnowski will be back on the court after missing last season with a back injury.

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton received some good news, as both Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes decided to return after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft. They’ll be asked to lead the way for a team that adds a solid recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Jonathan Isaac, and putting points on the board won’t be much of an issue. If they can get back to defending at the level we’ve come to expect from Hamilton-coached teams, Florida State can make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.

Rhode Island: Dan Hurley’s Rams began the 2015-16 season viewed as a team that could contend in the Atlantic 10. Then the injury bug hit, with E.C. Matthews being lost to a torn ACL and multiple key contributors (including Hassan Martin) missing time throughout the course of the year. URI’s healthy again, and with Four McGlynn being the lone major contributor out of eligibility 2016-17 should see the Rams rebound and make a run at the Atlantic 10 title.

USC adds power forward Rakocevic to 2016 recruiting class

AP Photo/Peoria Journal Star, Ron Johnson
1 Comment

With front court rotation members Malik Martin and Dorian Clark both transferring at the end of the season, USC had room for a late addition as they look to contend in the Pac-12 in 2016-17. NBC Sports confirmed Monday afternoon that head coach Andy Enfield and his staff landed a commitment from 6-foot-11 forward Nick Rakocevic, who played his high school basketball at St. Joseph HS in Westchester, Illinois.

News of Rakocevic’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

Rakocevic joins fellow forward Harrison Henderson and guards Jonah Mathews and DeAnthony Melton in USC’s 2016 class to date, with those three having signed National Letters of Intent during the early signing period in mid-November. The Trojans will also add wing Shaqquan Aaron into the fold, as he sat out this season after transferring in from Louisville.

Rakocevic is considered to be one of the top prospects in Illinois, producing a big senior season for a team that finished fourth in the Illinois Class 3A state tournament. With averages of 19.8 points, 15.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game, Rakocevic was a CSN Chicago Preps all-area selection.

“Rakocevic is a solid late grab for USC after a very strong season in which he was the only senior on his final-four team in Illinois’ Class 3A. The big man has been inconsistent at times during his career, but he’s also a productive interior finisher who has some upside if he adds strength,” notes NBC Sports recruiting analyst Scott Phillips.

Rakocevic held offers from programs such as Arizona State, Miami and West Virginia in addition to USC. His decision to attend USC comes just days after he completed an official visit to the campus.

Even with the personnel losses USC incurred at the end of this season, they don’t exactly have a bare cupboard in the front court either. Nikola Jovanovic will be back for his senior season, and two of the Pac-12’s top freshmen in Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu return as well. Those returns should aid the development of Rakocevic and Henderson next season.