With a new semester at USC underway, the spring slate of sports teams are set to begin their seasons within the next few weeks, and some are already in full gear. With that in mind, here’s a look at nine different Trojan athletes — each from separate teams — that are poised to make waves this spring.
Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu’s spectacular play this season is a big reason why the Trojans currently carry an impressive 13-3 record. The former 5-star recruit leads USC in a host of statistics, such as points scored (253), blocks (44) and free throws made (51). Okongwu is also second in the Pac-12 in blocks per game (2.9) and boasts the second highest shooting percentage (62%) of any player in the conference.
Okongwu is projected to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft and is expected to continue his indispensable role on head coach Andy Enfield’s squad as USC attempts to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
Despite an underwhelming performance thus far for the USC women’s basketball team, freshman forward Alissa Pili has proven to be an unexpected spark for the Trojans game after game.
Recruited out of Anchorage, Alaska, Pili was a three-time Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year before joining the Trojans. Now, the freshman leads USC in points scored (201), free throws made (42) and rebounds (120). Though an 0-5 conference record isn’t the start Trojan fans hoped for, Pili’s play has provided reason for optimism as USC closes out the second half of the season this spring.
After a career best season, senior outfielder Brady Shockey looks poised for another strong year as he and his team — led by first-year head coach Jason Gill — hope to make the College World Series and win the Pac-12 for the first time in almost 20 years.
Last season, Shockey recorded 14 RBIs, scored 24 runs and had a career-high slash line of .295/.331/.403, while also tacking on four stolen bases. If USC hopes to begin its return to prominence, it’ll need Shockey to play a big role — starting when the seasons opens against Western Michigan in February.
After winning Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year as a sophomore in 2018, senior Kerrigan Miller put forth another All-American season last spring, generating a conference high 38 turnovers while garnering Pac-12 Tournament MVP honors and repeating as midfielder of the year.
As USC looks ahead to the upcoming season, watch out for Miller to be a force.
Junior Daniel Cukierman, ranked No. 1 in the Oracle ITA Division I National Fall Rankings, started 2020 with a tournament win at the Oracle Pro Series last week. Cukierman also paired up with senior Riley Smith to win doubles at the competition.
In September, Cukierman took down No. 7 junior Keegan Smith from UCLA to win the Oracle ITA Masters. As Cukierman continues to dominate in both singles and doubles play, look out for him to excel as the Trojans head into the NCAA Tournament later this spring.
Senior captain Angela Kulikov is currently No. 60 in the nation in singles and No. 29 in doubles with her partner sophomore Danielle Willson, according to the ITA. She won singles in the Milwaukee Tennis Classic last September and made it to the Round of 16 for doubles with Willson at the ITA All-American Championships.
Kulikov also made it to the doubles semifinals of the NCAA Tournament last season with her former partner Rianna Valdes. As the women’s team prepares to return to the court this spring, watch for Kulikov to build upon her legacy at USC.
Men’s track and field
Although this is senior distance runner Isaiah Jewett’s second year with USC after transferring from UC Irvine, the San Diego native has made a major impact during his tenure at USC.
Jewett is the reigning indoor 800m school record-holder with a time of 1:46.91 and holds the Pac-12 title for the 800m as well. The All-American finished last season placing 7th at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the 800m while also serving as anchor for USC’s Pac-12 winning 4x400m relay team. Keep a close eye on Jewett when USC competes in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invitational later this month.
Women’s Track and Field
Redshirt senior sprinter Angie Annelus is arguably the best 200m female runner in the NCAA. The team captain has won back-to-back 200m NCAA championships (2018 and 2019), while breaking the USC school record with a time of 22.16.
Annelus does not only dominate in the 200m, but she is also a critical part of the 4x100m relay team, which also won the NCAA championship and broke the school-record last season with a time of 42.21. Annelus is poised for more success as she heads into her final collegiate season.
Women’s Water Polo
With the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo on the horizon, many of USC’s top scorers from last year’s team have opted not to play with the Trojans this spring in order to prepare for the Games.
In light of the absences, sophomore utility Bayley Weber looks poised to have a breakout season. Weber was part of the 2019 MPSF All-Newcomer Team as a freshman and scored 34 goals last year. She’s also part of the U.S. Junior National Team and was the top scorer at the 2019 World University Games. Pay close attention to Weber as the Trojans, who fell one game short of an NCAA championship last spring, start the season against Cal Baptist later this month.