When Galen Central reported Maryland point guard Pe’Shon Howard announced he was transferring to USC to be closer to family last week, the Trojans wrapped up a year of recruiting with seven incoming prospects.
While there is a mix of freshmen and transfers in this recruiting class, each of them has the chance to make an impact for head coach Andy Enfield.
Some will contribute immediately. Others may have to wait, whether it’s through player development or transfer rules. In any case, the Enfield era is in its first offseason, and these newcomers need to be evaluated.
After analyzing film and statistics on each recruit, here are the new faces of Trojan basketball.
Howard posted an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.12 in the uber-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Leading the team at 3.6 assists a contest, he helped guide the Terrapins to the NIT semifinals.
Due to Howard’s family circumstances, he’s applying for a hardship waiver, which would relieve him from having to sit out a year. If approved, he should take over for the departed Jio Fontan as USC’s starting floor general.
If his waiver is denied, incoming freshman Julian “JuJu” Jacobs will be the front-runner to man the point. The 6’2” Jacobs has hops, court vision and keen defensive awareness. His speed fits well into the up-tempo style of play Enfield will implement next season.
However, the most anticipated and talented of the bunch is transfer Katin Reinhardt of UNLV. Wanting to have a more involved role in a college offense, the shooting guard will be a pivotal playmaker once he is eligible after the 2013-14 season.
The Mater Dei product has above-average passing skills for playing the 2, averaging 2.5 assists per game in a non-passing role at UNLV. That will come in handy in Enfield’s offense, which calls for both guards to be able to find the open man.
Reinhardt can also stroke it. He averaged 1.9 three-pointers per contest with the Rebels as a freshman.
The final transfer is former Charlotte forward Darion Clark (below), who played with Howard in high school at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy. As a freshman at Charlotte, the power forward was productive in a reserve role, posting 6.2 points and 4.6 boards in fewer than 18 minutes a game.
Though undersized for his position at 6’6”, he’s incredibly strong and should give USC an immediate boost in rebounding. Offensively, Clark is effective in the low block with his back to the basket and can expect to be the recipient of several alley-oop passes should Dunk City take over the Galen Center.
Complementing Clark’s bruising style is freshman signee Nikola Jovanovic. Originally from Serbia, the 6’10” Jovanovic played his high school ball in Florida.
While he lacks strength (only 215 pounds), he has an incredibly diverse offensive skill set. He shoots it consistently, handles the ball and has an arsenal of post moves. A fluid athlete, Jovanovic runs the floor well for someone his size.
In short, he's another player who fits with Enfield’s style of play. If he puts on enough weight and isn’t a liability on defense, Jovanovic’s game could resemble another Eastern European Trojan—Nikola Vucevic. For now, however, he will have a minor role.
A second freshman who may not see much time early is 5’11” shooting guard Kahlil Dukes. A prolific scoring guard, he is very undersized for the 2 and must learn how to run an offense if he expects to get big minutes.
If he struggles in that role, however, there’s still a case for optimism. Here’s a snippet from his ESPN scouting report (subscription required):
He has good quickness, handles the ball well, can get to the rim north to south or east to west, knows how to create space for his pull-up, and can also knock down open threes. He plays the game with the flair and confidence of a big game player, and relishes having the ball in his hands down the stretch.
He has the possibility to thrive in a Nate Robinson-type role coming off the bench. Only time will tell if he reaches that potential.
The last signee is small forward Roschon Prince (above). The Gatorade California Player of the Year his senior season, Prince has a chance to become the Pac-12’s best perimeter defender. He also uses his athleticism well in finishing around the rim, especially on the fast break.
In order to become a complete player, however, much of his offensive game needs polishing. His jumper is streaky and he needs to work on his handles. Nonetheless, his relentlessness on defense should earn him immediate playing time.
Due to such a high turnover of players this offseason, many of these newcomers will be called upon to contribute in their first year. The combination of the transfers’ experience and the freshmen’s talent should lead to a significantly better record than last season. In all, this recruiting class is a step in the right direction for USC.