It’s hasn’t been all glitz and glamour in Hollywood the past three years for the University of Southern California Trojans.
Following a devastating NCAA Tournament loss in 2011 to the Cinderella VCU Rams, and three consecutive losing seasons, the Trojans are looking to climb back up the proverbial college basketball ladder and regain a spot as one of the elite teams in the country.
The man at the helm of this Trojan army is Andy Enfield.
Enfield was the engineer of “Dunk City” at Florida Gulf Coast for two years, including 2013 when the Eagles became the first 15-seed in NCAA history to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, knocking off Georgetown and San Diego State along the way.
After attracting attention nationally following the Eagles run through the big dance, Enfield settled on a rebuilding USC program that went 11-21 and just 2-16 in conference play during his first season as head coach.
Despite this, their’s a feeling of hope among Trojan fans. A young roster rejuvenated by talented freshman Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, along with UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt has USC sitting at 7-4 so far on the young season.
“If you look at our record and watch us play we aren’t a dominating team,” said Enfield after the Trojans 75-71 win at Boston College. “Our goal is to compete and have a chance to win.”
The Trojans have done exactly that. After starting the year 1-3, Enfield’s squad went on a 5-game winning streak that spanned from late November through early December, knocking off quality opponents in Cal State Fullerton, New Mexico and Utah State in the process.
Leading the charge so far for the Trojans has been Jordan McLaughlin. Despite offers from Indiana, Kansas and UCLA, the Rancho Cucamonga native decided to stay close to home, and has excelled as a freshman in Enfield’s system. McLaughlin leads the Trojans with 13.7 points per game, and almost six assists a night.
“Jordan made a couple plays tonight that you just can’t teach,” said Enfield after the Boston College game. “He has a special gift. He see’s the floor and he’s able to deliver the ball at the appropriate time.”
McLaughlin’s sidekick in the backcourt, 6’5″ Elijah Stewart, is another freshman phenom for USC, and someone the Trojans will look to have a big impact for years to come.
“He’s an NBA athlete,” said Enfield. He’s learning, he did some things in today’s game he couldn’t do a month ago. He’s improved dramatically. He’ll put the ball on the floor, drive to the basket, finish around the rim and then on the defensive end he’s starting to learn position and our defensive system.”
Stewart tied a school record on Saturday going 10/10 from the field, creating his own shot and getting to the bucket at ease.
Katin Reinhardt, the transfer from UNLV,came into the year after watching all of the 2013-2014 season from the sideline due to NCAA transfer rules. Reinhardt averaged 10.1 points for the Rebels and has picked up right where he left off averaging 10.8 so far for USC.
Reinhardt, whose handles are reminiscent of what you would see at a Harlem Globetrotters game, gets by defenders with ease and has a deadly jump shot, both from three and mid-range.
Overall the biggest concern for USC is taking care of the ball. The team has already turned the ball over 153 times in 11 games, averaging out to just under 14 per game.
“We’re a young team, but at the same time some of the turnovers really has nothing to do with the other team or our youth,” said Enfield. “It’s just bad decision making.”
The Trojans still have a long way to go before anyone will be penciling them back in as annual contenders, but the future looks bright for the young team looking to bring college basketball greatness back to Los Angeles.