USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.
The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.
Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.
Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.
And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.
In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.
The Trojans aren’t done, either.
Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”
That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.
The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.
Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.
Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.
Tuesday afternoon the UCLA program received some good news with regards to its 2019 recruiting class, as two four-star wings announced that they will play their college basketball for Steve Alford.
6-foot-7 wing Jaime Jaquez Jr., who played at Camarillo HS in Camarillo, California, announced via Twitter that he has verbally committed to UCLA. A couple hours later it was reported by Josh Gershon of 247Sports.com that another 6-foot-7 wing, Jake Kyman out of Santa Margarita HS in Rancho Santa Margarita, made his pledge to UCLA during an unofficial visit.
Adding depth on the wing was something that UCLA needed to do in this recruiting class, and while it’s early in the cycle the commitments of Jaquez and Kyman certainly help in that regard. Jaquez and Kyman give UCLA three verbal commitments in the 2019 class, joining guard Grant Sherfield.
UCLA added Jules Bernard and David Singleton III as part of its talented 2018 class, and it remains to be seen who’s all on the roster when Jaquez and Kyman make their way to campus next summer. But, at minimum, UCLA has added two more talented options as the program looks to get back to playing deep into the NCAA tournament after being knocked out in the First Four this past season.
Three days after reopening his recruitment, 4-star power forward Shareef O’Neal has reportedly picked a new school. According to Josh Gershon of 247Sports, the son of Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal has verbally committed to UCLA. The 6-foot-9 O’Neal attends Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California.
O’Neal’s pledge gives the Bruins six commits in the 2018 class, and Steve Alford will be welcoming a highly talented group to Westwood in the summer. Five-star center Moses Brown leads the way for what is at this point in time one of the top recruiting classes in college basketball.
UCLA’s gain is Arizona’s loss, with O’Neal reopening his recruitment in the aftermath of a report alleging wrongdoing on the part of Arizona head coach Sean Miller in the recruiting of current freshman DeAndre Ayton.
Thursday morning the match-ups for the 2016 Wooden Legacy were announced, an eight-team event that includes programs such as UCLA, Dayton, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Of the eight teams in the field just two made NCAA tournament appearances last season, Dayton and Texas A&M. Both were eliminated by eventual Final Four participants, with Dayton falling to Syracuse in the first round and Texas A&M losing to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.
The Wooden Legacy will run from November 24-27, with each team being guaranteed three games and the event taking a day off Saturday, November 26. The first two days of games will be played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, with the final round scheduled for the Honda Center in Anaheim.
There will also be one unbracketed game in the Wooden Legacy, with UCLA hosting CSUN Sunday, November 13 at Pauley Pavilion.
Thursday, November 24 (all times Eastern)
2:00 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. CSUN
4:30 p.m.: New Mexico vs. Virginia Tech
8:30 p.m.: Dayton vs. Nebraska
11:00 p.m.: Portland vs. UCLA
As one of the top players in high school basketball regardless of class, 2018 forward Marvin Bagley III doesn’t lack for attention on the recruiting front. But even with many high-major programs looking to land his commitment, and there’s being two years before he’ll set foot on a college campus, Bagley has decided to narrow the focus on his recruitment down to six schools.
Thursday evening the Sierra Canyon (California) HS student announced via Twitter that Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Kentucky, Oregon and UCLA are the six programs that remain in contention for his commitment.
The 6-foot-10 forward is currently ranked tops in the Class of 2018 by Rivals.com, and this has remained the case despite the fact that California transfer rules kept him off the court at Sierra Canyon this school year. In early January Bagley made the move to Sierra Canyon from Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, only to be declared ineligible to compete this season by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).
Bagley played his freshman season at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona, leading the program to a 34-1 record and a Division I state title in 2014-15.
Bagley’s performed well on the Nike EYBL circuit for the Phoenix Phamily program, and obviously his status during the high school season did nothing to deter the college programs looking to sign him. There’s still a long way to go in Bagley’s recruitment, but his announcement Thursday provides a little more clarity to the situation.
Video credit: Rivals.com
Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards
The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.
Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.
The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.
Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.
And if they lose?: Utah
Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.
Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.
The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.
The Bubble Dwellers:
Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.
Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.
Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon
Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).
First-Team All Pac-12:
Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).
Second Team All Pac-12:
Jaylen Brown, California
Rosco Allen, Stanford
Dejounte Murray, Washington
Elgin Cook, Oregon
Josh Scott, Colorado
Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak
CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.