USC, which is working hard to rebound from a tough 2014-15 season, is one of many college basketball teams playing some exhibitions in Europe this summer. Andy Enfield’s team is currently in Italy, where they won their opener 90-76 over the Vedano Olona All-Stars on Friday. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright led the way offensively with 18 points, with six other Trojans finishing the game in double figures.
One of those six was guard Julian Jacobs, who scored 11 points with two coming on the two-handed dunk that can be seen above. Jacobs, who will be a junior this season, turned the corner on his defender and it was “all she wrote” from there.
A tough season for the USC Trojans has been tougher over the last four games, as they’ve been forced to play without freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin due to shoulder issues. On Wednesday it was revealed that McLaughlin, who leads the team in assists and is also one of the Trojans’ leading scorers (three players average 12.1 ppg), will miss the remainder of the season.
Head coach Andy Enfield revealed the news following the Trojans’ 70-66 loss to Washington State, and McLaughlin will need to undergo surgery on both shoulders. McLaughlin dislocated his right shoulder in a loss to Utah in early January, and just over a month later suffered a similar injury to his left shoulder in a loss to Oregon.
McLaughlin underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder following his senior season at Etiwanda HS last year, and according to Michael Lev of the Orange County Register this is an issue that has plagued McLaughlin for quite some time.
Simply put, McLaughlin has a chronic issue with his shoulders popping out of their sockets. He needs to strengthen them to the point that there’s a minimal chance of that happening again.
Enfield gave a recovery timetable of 5-6 months, but it’s unclear whether that would be viable if McLaughlin needs two procedures. It also seems unlikely that he’d be able to have the surgeries concurrently.
The recovery period is a tough one for McLaughlin and USC, as a decent portion of the offseason could wind up being devoted to rehabilitation as opposed to improving his skill set. But even with that being the case, a less than 100 percent McLaughlin can only do so much to help a team looking to make the climb up the Pac-12 standings.
Without McLaughlin sophomore Julian Jacobs, who’s second on the team in assists, has been handling the point guard duties for USC. Jacobs and McLaughlin are the lone scholarship point guards on the current roster, and that’s likely to be the case next season as well.
The Trojans have two regular season games left to play before next month’s Pac-12 tournament.
Based upon the program Andy Enfield inherited when it signed on to become the new head coach at USC, the general expectation was that the Trojans would take their lumps as they transition to the fast-paced style that resulted in FGCU reaching the Sweet 16. And that may very well be the case as the season wears on, with the Trojans part of a much-improved Pac-12.
But on Sunday night USC (6-3) outclassed a struggling Boston College (3-6) squad by the final score of 78-62, and the outcome may have provided a glimpse into what’s to come at the Galen Center.
Of the five players to score in double figures three were freshmen who all established new season-highs in points: guard Julian Jacobs (16 points, eight rebounds) and forwards Nikola Jovanovic (15 points, seven rebounds) and Roschon Prince (14 points, five rebounds). As a team USC shot 46.6% from the field while limiting the Eagles to 37.3% shooting. USC controlled the glass (44-27 edge; offensive rebounding percentage of 40.6%) as well, and their 1.16 points per possession is the second-highest figure of the season in that category.
While part of this can be attributed to playing a team in Boston College that’s in serious trouble (they begin ACC play against Maryland on Thursday night), USC certainly deserves credit for this performance. They were assertive for much of the night, showing signs of progress in their quest to play the style that Enfield prefers. Veterans such as Pe’Shon Howard and Byron Wesley will be key figures as well, but their impact on the future of USC basketball won’t be as great as the freshmen and that’s what makes a game like this so important.
Of the three newcomers listed above Jovanovic entered Sunday as the high scorer, averaging 7.8 points per contest with Jacobs (4.9 apg, 4.6 rpg) being the leader in both assists and rebounds. An outing like tonight’s can only help the trio going forward, and next season they’ll be asked to lead the way. Of course additions like Jordan McLaughlin, Jabari Craig, Malik Price-Martin and transfers Darion Clark and Katin Reinhardt will be available, but the presence of players who not only know what Enfield wants but also how to carry over those lessons into game action is important.
Beating a struggling Boston College team may not move the needle much, but the way in which their freshmen played is an important step in the right direction for USC.