USC basketball fans would like to forget this past season, when the Trojans only won two conference games. But first-year head coach Andy Enfield and fans got even more bad news on Wednesday when junior forward Byron Wesley, the team’s leading scorer from last season, announced that he would transfer and use his final year of eligibility elsewhere.
The transfer is a big surprise and shock to many, though Enfield stirred the pot towards the end of the season when he suspended Wesley for two games against Stanford and Cal for violating an unspecified team rule.
There is no doubt that the team will miss the services of Wesley, who was a three-year starter and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player after averaging 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Trojans.
Enfield will have to replace three starters from next year now, with seniors Omar Araby and Pe’Shon Howard graduating as well.
As an upperclassman and team captain, Wesley also served as the unsung leader for a young USC team, a team that will need someone to step up next year to fulfill that role on the court and in the locker room. It will have to come from a junior though, as USC will not have any seniors on the roster next year.
To be honest, I don’t blame Wesley for choosing to spend his senior season at another school, somewhere where he could have a better chance at winning or making a trip to the NCAA Tournament. And especially after the season that the Trojans had, finishing 11-21 overall record and 2-16 in Pac-12 conference play.
Wesley will graduate with his degree this summer before transferring and will be eligible to play immediately wherever he lands.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, Wesley may very well be the hottest transfer on the market.
While Wesley is definitely going to be missed, the program will have to pick up, regroup and move on with its current players and talented incoming recruiting class, which includes four-star Etiwanda guard Jordan McLaughlin, who is ranked the No. 45 overall recruit by 247 sports.
The 5-foot-11 McLaughlin, a dynamic player who can do it all on offense and defense, was looking forward to be reunited with former high school teammate in Wesley, who was the number one rated player in California before coming to USC, but unfortunately, that card is now off the table.
It’s a shame, though, because I think that McLaughlin and Wesley’s playing styles would have really complemented each other, and the duo would have been a force to be reckoned with on offense, especially since they already had previous chemistry playing with each other in high school.
Maybe Wesley’s transfer is a sign of new beginnings for Enfield’s program, further ridding itself of the disappointing Kevin O’Neill era. The only O’Neill-recruited players that remain on the roster are freshman guard Kahlil Dukes and sophomore guard Brendyn Taylor.
Wesley became the sixth O’Neill-recruited played to transfer from USC.
A few weeks ago, freshman forward Roschon Prince, another recruit of O’Neill’s, announced that he intended to transfer to nearby Cal State Long Beach. The former California Gatorade Player of the Year and Long Beach Poly superstar did not fit Enfield’s system after a disappointing debut season.
It’s been hard for Enfield as he is trying to install this new fast-paced game plan, but without the right personnel. This was apparent last season.
I’m not going to say that this past season for USC wasn’t disappointing, but Enfield’s young group of players were learning a new system.
With his first true recruiting class coming in this next year, Enfield should look to shape his system for the players, not the players for the system.
Regardless, it looks like it will still be a couple of years before Enfield and the program are really able to do any sort of damage in a very competitive Pac-12.
I still remember the hype at the beginning of the year surrounding the hiring of Enfield and the arrival of “Dunk City” to the Galen Center, though that was not the case for a USC team that never really got into a rhythm last year.
After talking to assistant coach Dieter Horton, who also served under O’Neill, prior to the start of the season, he stressed how college basketball programs take at least two or three years to really turn around and this appears to be the case moving forward with Enfield.
USC men’s basketball is a program that surely has the capacity to be great but just can’t seem to get over the hump.
Even with transfers Katin Reinhardt (UNLV) and Darion Clark (Charlotte) becoming eligible to play in the fall and the additions of McLaughlin and forward Malik Price-Martin, I still don’t see Enfield’s team making any splashes in the demanding Pac-12 until year three.
The scoring should pick up with a couple of explosive guards now in the mix, but I don’t think that it will make up for the team’s lack of experience, leadership and chemistry under Enfield’s system.
Darian Nourian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Dishin’ Darian,” runs every other Friday.