After falling in their first-round contest to the Providence Friars in the final seconds, the Trojans face another loss with the reported departures of junior forward Darion Clark and sophomore forward Malik Martin.
Clark and Martin are set to transfer from USC this offseason, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. USC has yet to confirm the report.
Rothstein also reported that sophomore guard Malik Marquetti would transfer as well; however, Marquetti announced on Twitter his decision to stay at USC.
“Just taking a test, minding my business,” Marquetti said in the tweet. “Get done and my phone was in shambles. No, I’m not transferring.”
However, both Clark and Martin seem to have referenced their departures via Twitter on Wednesday. Martin retweeted Rothstein’s report and Clark cryptically noted, “No worries this way. The big man is in my corner.”
In 2016, Clark was the Trojans’ best per-minute rebounder, averaging 2.4 minutes per rebound, with his 43 offensive rebounding ranking fourth on the team. From the floor, Clark was an accurate post-up shooter but was underutilized due to the step-up play of freshmen Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright.
A potential reason for his exit could be his lack of playing time amid injury. This season Clark averaged just 11.1 minutes per game after earning 22 minutes per game the previous year. As a result, Clark’s scoring production was cut in half as the Georgia native averaged 2.6 points per game as compared to 5.7 in 2014.
Most importantly, though, the loss of Clark marks the loss of USC’s biggest locker room motivator. Throughout their 2015-2016 campaign, Clark was a spark plug for the whole team, using his vocal and physical prowess to ignite the Trojans on and off the court.
“[Clark] is a monster,” redshirt junior guard Katin Reinhardt said to the Daily Trojan after the Oregon State game on March 2. “Just the energy, the way he talks. He competes every day in practice. Every time the ball goes up, you see him trying to get the rebound … it’s a spark plug. Every team needs that.”
Clark’s excellent rebounding ability, 6-foot-7, 220-pound frame and unrelenting energy will be a commodity at multiple Division I programs that are looking for a leader and a strong interior presence.
As for Martin, the former three-star recruit who earned offers from UConn, Miami and Louisville during high school, he will be looking to finish his final two collegiate seasons at another D-I program.
After getting his per-game minutes cut from 17.9 in 2014 to 6.6 in 2015, Martin’s production fell off drastically. In 27 games played, the sophomore averaged just 1.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.4 shot attempts per game following a freshman season of 5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.3 shots per game.
Martin has a lot of upsides with his 6-foot-11 height and rebounding abilities, and should receive offers from Power 5 conference teams.
In the meantime, the Trojans’ 2016 recruits Jonah Mathews, De’Anthony Melton and Harrison Henderson should replace the two forwards come next winter.