USC welcomes new talent and new expectations

Ethan Anderson brings up the ball up the court in a game for USC men's basketball.
Junior guard Ethan Anderson had an injury riddled sophomore season, but had a key role in USC’s 2021 Elite Eight run. Anderson shot 38.6% from three last season, third-best on the team. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan file photo)

Men’s basketball team will play its first game of the season Nov. 9 against California State University, Northridge. This will mark the inaugural game for a multitude of new players, many of whom are expected to thrive in their time at USC. 

The teams’ veterans have taken notice of the high skill level of the new additions, praise was given out to Memphis transfer Rejean “Boogie” Ellis by junior guard Ethan Anderson, in an interview with the Daily Trojan.  

“We have a lot of talent out here from Boogie Ellis, he can really score the ball,” Anderson said. “[He] plays defense with high intensity and high energy that can really help us.” 

The Memphis guard spent last season with the Tigers and increased his role throughout the year, beginning the season as a bench player. Eventually, Ellis propelled himself into a key role, helping lead Memphis to a National Invitation Tournament championship, scoring 23 points with 4 three-pointers in the championship game against Mississippi State.  

“I have a lot of individual goals: Just to dominate, be one of the best players in the Pac-12 and to help my team win,” Ellis said. “I’m here to be a leader [and] to] have great communication. I bring a lot of scoring to the table too.” 

Although Ellis is a transfer and has not been with the team for long, Ellis said he feels as though he has found himself in a good situation and is getting along well with the other players on the team. 

“I’m glad to be here,” Ellis said. “I’m really excited for this season, I feel like it’s really home. I’ve been meshing pretty [well], and we’ve been playing really well together.” 

Freshmen guard Malik Thomas and forward Kobe Johnson garnered attention during practices as well. 

Thomas, a guard from Fontana, California, was the 2020-2021 California High School Boys Gatorade Player of the Year. Johnson is a versatile forward from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who averaged 26.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.4 steals his senior year. 

“Malik [Thomas] and Kobe Johnson really surprised me,” Anderson said. “Malik makes a lot of tough shots, he’s very skilled offensively. Kobe’s IQ is really high, and he shoots really well.”

Another freshman, forward Harrison Hornery, has gotten noticed for his clever play. Hornery is originally from Australia, however he came to the United States to play for Mater Dei High School. Hornery lived with a host family during that time and did not see his family for nearly 15 months due to the coronavirus. Regardless, he still managed to lead Mater Dei in scoring and three pointers. 

“Harry is really intelligent, he’s one of the [smartest] guys we have out here,” Anderson said. “All these [freshmen] in the future are gonna be really great, and this year I feel like they can all help us.” 

Despite losing two key players from last year in forward Evan Mobley and guard Tahj Eaddy, Head Coach Andy Enfield believes the team’s depth will help replace its losses, much of which comes from the newly added players. 

“Evan averaged 17 points and Tahj 13.5 points, so we have about 30 points to replace and quite a few rebounds, blocked shots and assists,” Enfield said. “Our team understands that they have an opportunity to have bigger roles and some players that just joined our team will have a chance to contribute as well.” 

After their Elite Eight run last year, the Trojans hope to build on that success. The energy in practice is high, and Anderson believes if everyone performs to their potential, they will have another great season.

“I feel like [the new players] will all have a great season,” Anderson said. “We have all seen great practices from each and every one of them. I love that they ask me questions about what to do which means they’re willing to learn. We got a really great group and the coaches did a great job recruiting.” 

Above all else, Enfield stresses the importance of playing as a team and that no player is more important than another. He feels the new players should be immediately molded in the team’s mentality.

“We have probably our deepest team we’ve had here in the last few years because we have 13 scholarship players and all of them could contribute this year,’ Enfield said. “We feel great about the depth of this team, and it’ll be a team effort whether we win or lose.”