Sophomore point guard De’Anthony Melton announced Wednesday morning that he is withdrawing from USC via a statement released on his Twitter account.
Confirmed by the USC men’s basketball program just an hour later, Melton revealed that he plans on taking a leave of absence from USC to focus on preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft.
“After much thought and consideration, we, as a family, have made the difficult decision for me to withdraw from school,” Melton wrote on Twitter. “I have reached a crossroads wherein I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weaknesses for competition at the next level.”
The announcement comes just a month after USC suspended Melton for the entirety of the 2017-18 season due to his connection to a bribery case in which former assistant coach Tony Bland was charged.
Shutting down suspicions that he would potentially come back for the 2018-19 season, the former California state champion is expected to take this off-season to return to his alma mater Crespi Carmelite to train and develop his skills.
The USC men’s basketball team tweeted just 40 minutes after Melton’s announcement, “#FightOn, @DeAnthonyMelton! Melton is projected as an NBA first round pick after leading the Pac-12 in steals as a freshman. #USCtotheNBA.”
As an integral part of head coach Andy Enfield’s 2016-17 tournament team, Melton provided USC with a Swiss army knife skill set that propelled the Trojans to their first 26-win season in program history and first trip to the round of 32 since 2008.
While Melton impressed with 8.3 points, 3.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds a game for USC as a freshman, it was his Pac-12-leading 69 steals and 6-foot-8 wingspan that drew the NBA’s attention.
Melton’s 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame allowed the point guard to play alongside senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin as Melton’s defensive capabilities and offensive playmaking allowed players like McLaughlin or even senior guard Elijah Stewart to score baskets at will.
With Melton out for the entire season, McLaughlin and sophomore guard Jonah Mathews now carry the brunt of the passing duties as McLaughlin ranks fourth in the nation in assists per game (7.7).
Along with losing McLaughlin and Stewart to graduation, USC could potentially lose junior forward Chimezie Metu who has been gaining NBA looks ever since his freshman year.
Metu is a staunch advocate of the #FREEDMELT movement but there is no indication whether Metu will join Melton and leave school early to play professional basketball.
Although USC has lost an invaluable offensive and defensive piece in Melton, it will now have an extra scholarship to offer for the 2018-19 season and could potentially land another recruit from a loaded 2018 class or even a transfer from another D-I program.
Even if the Trojans save the scholarship for 2019 recruits, incoming four-star commits Elijah Weaver and Kevin Porter will both be playing big roles next season for a USC team that has already seen freshman guard Jordan Usher blossom.
Barring transfers, USC will still have McDonald’s All-American Chuck O’Bannon, Jr. and even three-star big man Victor Oyaelunmo to work with in the upcoming year.