Return to Troy: Bennie Boatwright back for one more year

USC men’s basketball junior forward Bennie Boatwright announced Monday to CBS Sports that he will stay at USC for his senior season, electing to finish out his career as a Trojan despite rumors that he might take his chances in the NBA Draft.

Junior forward Bennie Boatwright elected to return for his senior season. Sunny Dong | Daily Trojan

After much speculation regarding Boatwright and his desire to play professional basketball, the former Village Christian player confirmed that he will be back again next season to join a USC roster that has lost four starters to the NBA.

While Boatwright features the size, athleticism, defensive ability and shooting touch needed to be a star forward in the NBA, a medial collateral ligament sprain in his left knee his sophomore season and an infected foot blister and partially torn patellar tendon in his left knee this year permanently kept Boatwright on the bench for a majority of the 2017-18 campaign.

Boatwright played in 23 games for Southern Cal this season and was second on the squad with 13.6 points per game to go along with four 20-point games and 19 blocks.

The bright spot for the junior came during a three-game stretch at the Diamond Head Classic when Boatwright put down three-straight games of 23 or more points, including a 33-point performance in the finale that featured a buzzer-beater 3 to seal a USC victory.

Although Boatwright and fellow junior forward Chimezie Metu both attracted NBA attention last season, the Trojan Towers elected to stay at USC for their junior years.

This season, however, Metu graduated from USC a year early and declared for the NBA Draft with scouts projecting the Lawndale product to land somewhere in the second round.

The announcement of Boatwright’s return to Troy also comes just months after a Yahoo! Sports report was released, citing documents in the infamous FBI scandal that alleged Bennie Boatwright,Sr. had accepted at least $2,000 from a potential agent.

The USC Athletic Department has since cleared Boatwright to play and stated that they did not find Boatwright participated in any wrongdoing.

As for now, Boatwright is eligible to play for USC next year and will be a pillar for a USC team that not only lost solid defenders in McLaughlin, Stewart and Melton, but also the interior presence of Metu and sophomore Harrison Henderson, who announced he will transfer at the end of this year.

Along with Boatwright, forwards sophomore Nick Rakocevic and freshman Victor Uyaelunmo will earn featured minutes for a USC roster that lacks bigs.

Expected to play big minutes off the bench will be incoming 6-foot-8 recruit J’Raan Brooks who re-committed to play for the Trojans after the Tony Bland improper benefits scandal broke.

Brooks, and potentially a transfer from another D-I school, could be USC’s second line of defense once Boatwright and Rakocevic take a seat on the bench.

Either way, bringing back Boatwright solidifies USC’s frontcourt for the 2017-2018 season and will provide the Trojans with a lethal scorer and dangerous defender.