The USC men’s and women’s basketball teams are excited to compete and are revving up for the tip-off of the 2020-21 season.
Both teams put on strong campaigns last year. Despite having seven freshmen on their roster, The Women of Troy proved they can contend in the loaded Pac-12 conference. They defended home court well with an 11-4 record in the Galen Center. A high achievement was their victory over UCLA, a team that was ranked 10th in the AP Top 25, in double overtime.
Among their returning talent is sophomore forward Alissa Pili and sophomore guard Endyia Rogers. Pili was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year along with being on the All-Pac-12 and Pac-12 All-Freshman Teams. She led the team in scoring and boards with 16.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
“Having such a young team and going through the adversity that we did just brought us together,” Pili said. “It kind of forced us to learn how to play with each other fast.”
USC women’s basketball head coach Mark Trakh calls Rogers “an amazing talent;” she scored 13.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Rogers won Pac-12 All-Freshmen Honorable Mention.
“She can shoot the three, she can get to the rim,” Trakh said. “As far as an all-around game she rebounded last year, she was able to score and she defended also.”
Redshirt sophomore guard, Shalexxus Aaron and redshirt freshman guard, Madison Campbell has returned from injury. Aaron and junior guard, Desiree Caldwell are team captains. The Women of Troy have a close bond, this made the quarantine hard on them.
Caldwell worked diligently on checking in with her teammates during the pandemic all while staying in shape sans access to a gym.
“I had to get inventive with the ways I trained,” Caldwell said. “My teammate, Shalexxus Aaron, lives around the corner from me so she actually bought a basketball hoop to put outside of her house, so I spent most of my basketball time there.”
The USC men’s basketball team came in 4th in the Pac-12 with a 22-9 overall record. The effort was spearheaded by former player Onyeka Okongwu, who have them 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
This season, they welcomed three graduate transfers: forward Chevez Goodwin, guard Tahj Eaddy, and Isaiah White.
“We have a lot of new faces, a lot of guys that are unproven, meaning they’re talented, they just haven’t proven it at the Pac-12 level yet,” said USC men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield. “They have great chemistry, and we have a lot of athleticism and size and length, but we just have to go prove it.”
Among the new faces is freshman Evan Mobley, who is a two-time California Gatorade Player of the Year recipient and is currently on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watchlist. He is also the younger brother to sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley.
The advice that Isaiah would give Evan is to stay adamant, work hard, and trust the process.
“I haven’t played with my brother for a long time now, so it’s cool to rejoin him again,” Isaiah said. “I just tell him to stay hard, focus, make sure you pay attention to the little things that the coaches teach us and tell us.”
Isaiah had been practicing with fellow teammate sophomore guard Ethan Anderson throughout the summer. One of Enfield’s observations from recent practices is that Anderson had added new attributes to his game. According to Isaiah, Anderson worked hard to improve his shooting.
“I think he’s gonna bring a lot of leadership to the team,” Isaiah said. “We worked on that a lot this summer, getting in great shape so we can affect the game for the whole time we’re in there.”