For more than 50 years, the USC men’s basketball team called the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena home.
A landmark on its own, sure, but over time, the facilities were hardly up to par with other top-notch arenas around the country. To put it bluntly, if I were a recruit, I definitely wouldn’t be signed up to play in a dump.
But in 2006, the Galen Center opened. It was certainly a welcome change from the Sports Arena, and the opening of the new arena was supposed to be a new beginning for USC basketball.
In the years following the opening of the Galen Center, USC hauled in big high school stars, such as O.J. Mayo and DeMar Derozan. Despite playing one year each, the Trojans qualified for the NCAA tournament in both years Mayo and DeRozan donned the cardinal and gold. In fact, in four of the last five years, USC has earned a trip to the Big Dance. Despite sanctions imposed on the program, USC has managed to stay relatively competitive — until this year.
It’s been a snowball effect throughout the course of this long season. The Trojans have been dealt a hand that they can’t play well with. The injuries and the losses have piled up. The fans have all but abandoned the team, or so it seems.
Sure, next year looks to be promising with everybody returning. Students are not interested anymore, though. Alumni and other fans have been visibly upset. And they’re showing their displeasure in arguably the worst way possible not even showing up to home games.
With that in mind, however, can everybody forget this dismal year and give USC coach Kevin O’Neill one more shot?
Yes, they should and they can, but the Trojans need to do some work on the recruiting trail for that to happen. To make everybody put this season in the rearview mirror, USC needs to land the No. 1 overall player in the nation: Shabazz Muhammad.
The six-foot-six senior from Bishop Gorman High School in Nevada is averaging nearly 30 points and 10 rebounds a game, according to a MaxPreps.com article. He is the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country.
One player can do a lot for a fan base starving for someone to jumpstart a program coming off an underwhelming year. One player can give Los Angeles another team to cheer for.
Not since Mayo and DeRozan has USC enjoyed playing in front of a nearly sold out Galen Center. Not since those two hyped high school stars has there been a buzz around campus regarding another sport besides football.
Muhammad would solve all these problems in an instant. His size, strength and basketball acumen are unparalleled. NBADraft.net compares him to Kobe Bryant.
That alone says enough. What kind of fan wouldn’t want to see someone with the potential to be that good? If that doesn’t draw more students, I don’t know what will.
The star power, the energy and the excitement will be felt should the Trojans land Muhammad.
Attendance this season has been horrific — and that might be putting it lightly. I get it, though. After losing by 19 points and drawing a season-high 8,474 fans against UCLA in mid-January, I don’t blame anybody for not wanting to come back.
Let’s face it: O’Neill’s squads won’t wow us with offensive fireworks. The highlights on that end of the floor will be few and far between. The old adage that defense wins championships might ring true, but nobody truly likes to see teams grind out victories scoring 50 points per contest.
So even with everybody likely returning next season — and a chance for the team to be really good, win the Pac-12 conference and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament — there needs to be that one player who “wows” the crowd solely based on his name.
Without Shabazz Muhammad none of this happens, though. Land the best player in the nation and everybody forgets about this season. This is what the basketball program needs. He might be a lot to ask for, but one player can make basketball relevant again at USC.
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