USC women’s basketball begins a new season against Montana State on Friday, but the team is full of recognizable faces. Even head coach Mark Trakh, who replaced Cynthia Cooper-Dyke after her resignation last season, has been around the block before. He coached the USC women’s team from 2005 to 2009, leading the Trojans to two straight NCAA tournament appearances. After spending the last six years at New Mexico State, Trakh feels back at home.
“I’m really happy,” Trakh said. “It’s a great institution, it’s a great place to coach, the tradition and everything. It was a great five years when I was here the first time, getting to know everybody and I’m really, really excited to be back. It’s a dream job.”
As Trakh gets set for his second tenure as head coach, he inherits an experienced roster that showed flashes of potential last season.
Four of the team’s five projected starters played significant minutes in 2016-17, but the fifth is no rookie. Sixth-year senior Jordan Adams tore her ACL five games into last season and was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. The versatile guard holds career averages of 6.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
“She joked with me, ‘I think you recruited me the first time you were here,’” Trakh said. “She’s a great kid, the glue that holds us all together.”
In addition to Adams, senior Sadie Edwards (9.2 points per game), sophomore Minyon Moore (2017 Pac-12 All-Freshman), and junior Aliyah Mazyck (40 3-pointers made) make up an accomplished and battle-tested collection of guards. The backcourt, however, will have to replace the 3-point production of Courtney Jaco, who graduated last spring. Jaco is second all-time in school history for 3-pointers.
“She’s obviously one of the best shooters in the history of the University of Southern California,” Edwards said. “That’s no easy task, but Aliyah has been in the gym improving, she’s been shooting the ball extremely well. Having Jordan back will help stretch the floor, and I have been in the gym working really hard on [my 3-point shot].”
In the frontcourt, senior Kristen Simon returns, bringing back her powerful, bruising style of play. She looks to build on an All-Pac-12 year in 2017, in which she averaged 14.6 points a game and recorded 10 double-doubles.
Last season under Cooper-Dyke’s leadership, the Trojans raced to an impressive start finishing 9-2 in their non-conference slate. But the team quickly crumbled in Pac-12 play, losing seven of their first eight match-ups. They finished with a 14-16 record and a last place conference finish.
“This year, we have a lot more excitement and energy on the floor,” Adams said. “I just think this coaching staff really stresses family and togetherness. If we can play like that, play together and share the ball, then we’re going to be alright.”
While so many aspects of the Women of Troy look familiar as they enter their 2017-18 campaign, Trakh has noticed at least one difference from when he last coached the team nearly a decade ago.
“All the facilities have upgraded a lot,” Trakh said. “But basically, it’s just the same special place that I left.”