Junior guard Byron Wesley, the Trojans’ leading scorer and rebounder last season, announced Wednesday on Twitter that he will graduate from USC this summer before transferring for his final season of basketball eligibility, sending shockwaves throughout the USC community.
“First and foremost I would like to thank the Trojan family for all of the love and support they have given me these last three years. I’d also like to thank my coaches for helping me become a better player, my teammates for all of the great memories, & fans for the support,” Wesley said in a series of posts. “This was the opportunity of a lifetime & I couldnt [sic] be more thankful. I will be a Trojan for life & I’m most proud of that! Fight On Forever!”
After playing in all of USC’s games in his first two seasons — and starting all but one — Wesley was suspended for two games this February for a violation of team rules and was left out of the starting lineup for three other games. He averaged 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in head coach Andy Enfield’s first season at USC, which yielded just an 11-21 record, including a 2-16 mark in Pac-12 play and a first-round loss in the conference tournament.
The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native also served as team captain and led the team in minutes per game, with 34.6. He scored a career-high-tying 31 points in the Trojans’ victory over Washington State in March.
Wesley’s announcement comes several weeks after freshman forward Roschon Prince declared his intention to transfer to Long Beach State. With Wesley and Prince gone and center Omar Oraby, guard J.T. Terrell and Pe’Shon Howard set to graduate in May, USC will enter next season without five out of its top seven scorers from the 2013-14 campaign.
“We wish Byron well and we thank him for his valuable contributions to our program,” said head coach Andy Enfield in a statement. “He had a very productive career here and I am sure he will do well wherever his career takes him.”
Before coming to USC, Wesley was rated the No. 1 player in California.
Wesley’s transfer also means that freshman guard Kahlil Dukes and sophomore guard Brendyn Taylor are the only USC high school players recruited by former coach Kevin O’Neill to not switch schools during their collegiate careers. O’Neill was fired in January of 2013, midway through Wesley’s sophomore year, and was replaced by interim head coach Bob Cantu.
Since Wesley is graduating a year early, he will be able to play immediately for whichever school he transfers to, per NCAA rules. Wesley’s departure also means that USC will have no seniors on its roster next season, barring any incoming transfers. Instead, the Trojans will have to rely on junior forward Strahinja Gavrilovic and junior guards Chass Bryan and Brendyn Taylor for veteran experience — even though the trio had just eight starts combined last season, and Bryan is a walk-on.
There’s a possibility that Wesley’s vacated scholarship could be given to Bryan, who provided speed and a steady hand off the bench last season while averaging 9.2 minutes and 1.6 points per game.
Sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt, who’s set to make his USC debut this fall after transferring from UNLV last year, tweeted, “I just wanna wish my brother @byron_wesley the best of luck in the rest of his career! Hate seeing u [sic] go bro but just know I support u [sic] 100%!”
It’s unknown where Wesley will transfer, although it seems likely he desires to go to a successful Division I program after suffering through 65 losses compared to just 31 wins during his USC career.
Wesley also expressed discontent with the Pac-12 conference when the organization released its list of honorees this season, leaving Wesley off completely. Wesley was the sixth-leading scorer in the conference and was 14th in rebounds per game.