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USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

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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.

USC lands key commit in 2019 5-star Onyeka Okongwu

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With one of the Pac-12’s top 2018 recruiting classes — even with the loss of Taeshon Cherry — set to enroll this summer, USC has moved on to filling the spots in its 2019 class. On Monday the USC program picked up its first verbal commitment in the class, with 6-foot-9 power forward Onyeka Okongwu announcing that he will don the cardinal and gold when the time comes.

Okongwu attends Chino Hills HS, where he led the team to the CIF-SS Division I title this season, and he plays his grassroots basketball for the Compton Magic program. While there are still some strides for Okongwu to make offensively, should he be able to transition to being a power forward who can step away from the basket, he’s an elite talent on the defensive end of the floor.

Okongwu’s commitment is a big first step for USC with regards to the 2019 recruiting class, especially when considering everything the program had to deal with in the fall.

Former assistant Tony Bland was one of ten indicted in the FBI’s probe into corruption and bribes in college basketball/recruiting, and that led to some wondering that the effects would be on USC’s recruiting both in the short and long-term. But Andy Enfield and his staff managed to put together a good 2018 class, featuring guard Kevin Porter Jr., and to land a player of Okongwu’s talent is certainly a good start to the program’s 2019 class.

Add in the fact that the Trojans are also in the running for highly-regarded southern California based talents such as 2019 guard Cassius Stanley, 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley, 2020 forward Evan Mobley (Isaiah’s brother) and 2020 guard Johnny Juzang, and USC is well-positioned to continue to be a factor within the Pac-12 moving forward.

Former Minnesota forward Buggs headed to USC

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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

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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)

USC adds power forward Rakocevic to 2016 recruiting class

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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.

Last-second layup gives No. 9 Providence first tourney win since 1997

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It had been nearly two decades since East No. 9 Providence had experienced a win in the NCAA tournament, with their 1997 Elite Eight team being the last to do so. And with Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn battling foul trouble for much of the night, it appeared as if the streak would continue on for another year. But other players stepped forward down the stretch, and Rodney Bullock’s layup with 1.4 seconds remaining gave the Friars a 70-69 win over No. 8 USC in Raleigh.

Bullock finished the game with 16 points and ten rebounds, stepping up to provide help on the offensive end on a night in which Ben Bentil needed 22 shots to score 19 points and Dunn tallied 16 on 5-for-13 shooting. Providence also received ten points and five assists from guard Kyron Cartwright, who helped the team do just enough to hang around with their floor general on the bench.

But it’s important to acknowledge that the Friars had some help down the stretch from a USC team that was making its first NCAA tournament appearance in five years. Andy Enfield’s young Trojans were in position close the game out at multiple points in the second half, but turnovers, poor shot selection and missed free throws left the door open for a Providence comeback.

After losing 20 games in each of Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm the Trojans won 21 this season. And with just one scholarship senior on the roster, USC can use Thursday’s crushing defeat to push them into a 2016-17 campaign they’ll begin with the expectation of being a contender in the Pac-12.

As for Providence, next up for them is East No. 1 North Carolina, and the Tar Heels will present a far different test for Ed Cooley’s team. Possessing depth, talent and experience, the Tar Heels are one of the favorites to get to Houston and if Providence is to win they’ll need contributions from everyone.

With one star on the bench and the other struggling to find his groove offensively other options stepped forward against USC, which is why the Friars will get their shot at North Carolina.