USC hosts San Diego in season opener

first_imgThe men’s basketball team will kick off its season against the visiting San Diego Toreros this Friday night. The Trojans will hope to kickstart a successful season in head coach Andy Enfield’s third year at the helm. Enfield has gone a combined 23-41 in his first two years as head coach, including back-to-back last-place finishes in the Pac-12. The Men of Troy are 3-0 all time against the Toreros, and this will be the first meeting between the two schools since USC’s 60-50 victory in 2007.The Trojans are returning almost every player from last year’s squad, including standouts Elijah Stewart, Katin Reinhardt and Nikola Jovanovic. Enfield has also added two top prospects in forwards Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright.Metu, a 6-foot-11 power forward, averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds last season for Lawndale High School en route to being named CIF Southern Section Division II Player of the Year. As impressive as Metu was in high school, Boatwright may have been better. The 6-foot-10 sharpshooter from Village Christian High School averaged a whopping 27.8 points and 13 rebounds. Boatwright was named the CIF Southern Section 1AA Player of the year. Both freshmen figure to contribute heavily to a team lacking front court depth.After being one the youngest teams in the NCAA last season with no seniors and just one junior on the roster, this year’s USC squad is much more mature. This season’s roster will feature players with 209 starts in a USC uniform, compared to just 52 last season, a stat that Enfield hopes will help the Trojans turn the corner.“We allowed our players to play through their mistakes last season. They were young and inexperienced. We were competitive last season,” Enfield said. “We just were not able to win a lot of close games, but with a year of experience, bodies being more developed physically … understanding how to win close games, we hope the growing pains we went through last season will show up as some more victories this season.”Last season’s key additions, freshmen Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin and redshirt junior transfer Katin Reinhardt, look ready to take on a greater role. Stewart and Reinhardt were phenomenal at the end of last season, and McLaughlin had offseason surgery to finally rid himself of shoulder troubles that plagued his freshman campaign.Junior Nikola Jovanovic, who averaged 12.3 points and seven rebounds per game last season, hopes to continue his growth as the team’s leader. Jovanovic improved dramatically last season, raising his statistics in every category from his freshman year. The addition of Boatwright and Metu should help Jovanovic down low as the Serbian has never really played with another dominating big man.“We’re looking for a great season,” Jovanovic said. “The last two years were a rebuilding process with a new coaching staff, new players and we were trying to put everything in place. This year, with the right pieces, we’re covered in every single position pretty well. We feel pretty comfortable going into the new season.”The Trojans are still a very young team but the team should outperform last year’s team dramatically.USD will enter the Galen Center coming off a 15-16 season that saw their head coach Bill Grier get fired. Lamont Smith will take over as head coach after previous stints as an assistant at Arizona State and Washington.The Toreros lost their top three scorers from last season to graduation and are a rather young team with six freshmen on the roster. The Toreros are returning only two starters from last year’s team that finished fifth in the West Coast Conference.The Trojans are 74-35 overall in season openers and had won six in a row before last year’s shocking defeat to Portland State. With the Pac-12 becoming more competitive this season, the Trojans will need to pick up these early season wins if they hope to make it into the NCAA Tournament.Tipoff is set for Friday at 5 p.m. The game will air on the Pac-12 Network.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *