Led by another Mobley, USC looks to repeat NCAA tournament

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Evan Mobley fueled Elite Eight’s first appearance in Southern California in 20 years. He leaves for the NBA, giving his brother Isaiah Mobley his own chance to propel the Trojans in another race in March.

After flirting with the NBA draft, Isaiah Mobley chose to return to the Trojans. The junior forward is a great all-rounder who just played his best basketball at the NCAA tournament.

Mobley averaged 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds last season alongside his younger brother, who was the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Isaiah will anchor the USC frontcourt, along with senior Chevez Goodwin and junior Max Agbonkpolo.

Evan Mobley won three Pac-12 playoff honors, including Player of the Year. Isaiah could follow in his footsteps.

“Isaiah has become an elite defenseman,” said coach Andy Enfield.

The Trojans were chosen to finish third in the Pac-12. They received votes in the Associated Press’s Top 25 preseason poll. Along with Mobley, Isaiah White and Drew Peterson, the Trojans have a line that has started a total of 56 games. USC was 25-8 last season and was second in the league at 15-5.

“Our players expect to win this year,” said Enfield, “and they came with a lot of leadership and a lot of enthusiasm.”

Enfield is 157-110 heading into his ninth season, the Elite Eight berth being the highlight of his tenure at USC.

The Trojans open the season Nov. 9 at home against Cal State Northridge.


Ethan Anderson is back on offense full time after leaving the bench last season with injury. “He’s in great shape, he’s more explosive now,” Enfield said. “We need him to be good so that we have a good season.” Transfers Taj Eddy and Drew Peterson were competent substitutes for Anderson. Eddy is gone, leaving Peterson to take on a bigger scoring role after doing a bit of everything last season. He averaged 9.8 points and 5 rebounds last season. White showed at the end of last season that he can deliver valuable offense. Freshman Malik Thomas could also be a factor, though he’s not under any pressure to produce immediately. “Our rotations are not yet defined,” Enfield said. “Our practices are extremely competitive with a lot of talent on the ground. “


Guard Boogie Ellis’ college odyssey opens a new chapter at USC. He was a leading prospect from San Diego who engaged with Duke before ending up in Memphis. He was the AAC’s sixth man of the year last season. He started 15 of 28 games for the Tigers, averaging 10.2 points and shooting 39% from 3 points. He’s aggressive in defense, which fits Enfield’s style well.


Besides Thomas and Ellis, the Trojans landed top rookies Kobe Johnson and Harrison Hornery. Johnson averaged 26.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in his high school in Wisconsin. Hornery, a 6-foot-10 Australian forward, is a solid outside shooter who has time to fill up and learn to play physically under the basket. They should be given the opportunity to contribute important minutes.


After participating in the NCAA tournament, the Trojans were sentenced to two years probation and an NCAA fine following the FBI investigation into former assistant coach Tony Bland. The school also agreed to self-impose sanctions. The sanction includes a reduction in official visits and recruitment days. Overall it wasn’t a big blow as Enfield landed a solid recruiting class anyway.


Following its opener, USC will travel to the East Coast for games at Temple on November 13 and to Florida’s Gulf Coast three days later. It’s a homecoming at FGC for Enfield, who guided the little school to the Sweet Sixteen as the No.15 seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament. That success helped him land his current job. The Trojans open the Pac-12 game on Dec. 1 at home against Utah. They will face their crosstown rival, UCLA, on February 12 and March 5. The Trojans beat the Bruins two straight years with 3-pointers late in the game.


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