The 2018-19 USC men’s basketball team has a lot of production to distribute. With the departures of starters Chimezie Metu, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, there are plenty of holes to fill on the roster.
However, all is not lost. USC has improved its basketball recruiting in recent years, and its advances can be seen in this year’s crop of 2018 freshmen. Here’s what you need to know about the incoming recruits.
Kevin Porter Jr.
The highest-ranked freshman in USC’s class, Kevin Porter Jr. earned a five-star ranking and was named the 28th-best player in the country by 247Sports. The Seattle native averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in his senior year, leading Rainier Beach High School to the 3A Washington state championship game.
At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Porter is an explosive athlete. He’s fast, he’s quick and he can get up off the floor. This natural talent has made for a fair number of highlight dunks, and USC fans should get used to seeing Porter throw down this season.
Porter also has the potential to be the go-to scorer the Trojans sorely missed last season. The lefty showed the ability to score at all three levels in high school, with the ability to finish at the rim with either hand and a nice shooting stroke off the dribble. Porter is also a crafty ball-handler, with a powerful ability to get to his spot against any defender.
The biggest questions facing Porter have to do with his passing ability and consistent intensity. If head coach Andy Enfield can get Porter to move the ball and go all out on every possession, the Trojans could have a star on their hands early this season.
Weaver, a combo guard from Rockledge, Fla., is the 37th-ranked player in the nation according to ESPN, three spots higher than Porter. A four-star recruit, Weaver averaged 23.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.7 assists in his final high school season. He was honored as Florida’s Class 6A Player of the Year.
Although he possesses the same strong, 6-foot-5 frame as Porter, Weaver fits the model of a pure point guard more than his new teammate. Also a lefty, he’s a talented passer, using his height to see over the defense and passing lanes. He’s also very adept at driving the lane and finding the open man. These could be a crucial skills in the absence of graduated point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who ranked fourth in the country in assists last season and ran the offense.
Weaver also uses his frame to his advantage on defense. His long arms and smooth athleticism make his abilities hard to limit, and were certainly part of the reason he averaged 4.3 steals per game in his senior season.
To unlock his full potential, Weaver will need to improve his jumper. It’s not that the shot is broken, but adding a deadly shot to his arsenal will make Weaver virtually unstoppable.
The final of USC’s three four-star or better recruits, Brooks was a star at Garfield High School in Seattle, the school that defeated Porter’s in the 3A state title game. Brooks decommitted from USC following the FBI probe involving former player De’Anthony Melton and former assistant coach Tony Bland, but recommitted after Melton declared for this summer’s NBA Draft.
Brooks, ranked 83rd nationally by 247Sports, was a key cog on a Garfield team that finished the season as the 11th-best team in the country. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Brooks made his mark on both ends of the floor. He’s noted as a tenacious rebounder and rim protector with a high motor. He is also a skilled offensive player, with a capable mid-range jumpshot and good footwork and touch around the basket.
Brooks lacks an elite skill. He’s not an amazing athlete or a one-on-one scorer. He’s solid in every area of the game, but he might not be a difference-maker. The best way for him to improve would be extending his range to the 3-point line, as it would help the Trojans’ spacing immensely.
Brooks’ return, along with Porter, gives the Trojans the two best players in the class from Washington. Unlike Porter and Weaver, though, Brooks has a clear shot to start; unlike the backcourt, the Trojans lack depth in the frontcourt, especially after losing Metu.
The most important thing to know about these three is that they can all be culture setters. All three are competitive and work hard, important qualities for freshmen. They may show it in different ways — Porter is fiery and emotional, Weaver is cool as a cucumber, and Brooks puts his emotion into cleaning the glass — but all want to win badly. If they can channel that in the correct way, the Trojans can continue to compete in the Pac-12.