The premier episode of The Dunk City Pod from USCBasketball.com features the latest USC basketball news, plus an introduction to Mark's BUSCAR analytics, a roster analysis, a look at incoming players, which players will improve the most, and the class of 2024.
The Dunk City Podcast is the podcast of record for the USC basketball community. You can find all episodes at DunkCityPod.com, USCBasketball.com or on Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon. Contact us at USCBasketball.email@example.com.
Speaker 1: Hello everyone and welcome to the premiere episode of the Dunk City podcast. I'm your co-host, Chris Huston. My other co-host, Mark Backstrom, will be along in just a second. We're about five months away from the start of the 2023-2024 season. If you're like me, you're really excited about the prospects for the Trojans this year And we hope you come along for the ride. As we talk Trojan basketball all season long, you get a chance to review us on Spotify or any of the places where you stream podcasts. Give us a good review, we'd appreciate it. Uscbasketball.com is the only website on the internet that is devoted solely to USC basketball. There are some other sites out there that do talk about USC basketball, but they talk about other sports as well and other subjects, but we like to focus only on Trojan basketball, and that's what we're going to do here as well.
Speaker 1: Okay, it's been a very busy offseason for USC. There's been a lot of worry out there that USC wouldn't be able to get all the players it needs to fill out its roster, and I think what a lot of people need to understand now is that it's going to be very hard in this day and age of the transfer and with so many players clamoring for playing time and such competition for playing time out there to fill all 13 spots on the roster, and so we've got 11 players heading into this season. Looks like this is going to be the amount of players we have for this year and that's okay. We do have two roster spots empty, but USC made some big moves. Of course we all know about Isaiah Collier, the number one player in the country. Coming in from Marietta, georgia Wheeler High, he's a big, strong point guard, number one player. He's got a lot of consensus. There's been a couple spots where he's dropped to number two, but I'd say the overall consensus is that he's the number one guy. There's also Arrington Page, his teammate, who's a big, 6'9", very skilled power forward. He kind of reminds me a lot of Chemezi Metu and his skill set. His offensive game will probably need to do a lot of work on defense and get stronger, but he's a very exciting prospect. And then, of course, the one everyone's talking about, Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, who is a five star prospect in his own right. Played very well at the McDonald's All-Star game And he is the kind of guy who can shoot from outside and de-up and he's going to give USC an outside presence, which I think USC very much needs.
Speaker 1: And then, lastly, we were able to get a transfer to come into the USC. There's been some complaints in some quarters that we would not be able to get a transfer, but USC did get a transfer and it's DJ Rodman, the son of Dennis Rodman. These incoming players, plus the returning players, will be going to Europe this summer, august 5th through 15th, playing in Greece and Croatia. I think they're going to be playing three exhibition games against probably some club teams there in Greece and Croatia. It should be a really exciting time.
Speaker 1: I went to a similar excursion back in 2019 when the Trojans went to France and Spain. I was able to see Onyekio Kongwu playing up close in a really hot, cramped French gym in the south of France in front of friends and family. So it was a great chance for the team to build up some camaraderie and have some fun together, and I think this year it probably won't be friends and family so much as much larger crowds. Considering Bronny James will be in tow, it's time to bring on our co-host here at the Dunk City podcast, mark, tell us a little bit about your background with USC.
Speaker 2: Yeah, i graduated from USC in 1992, from the School of Accounting. I'm a CPA with active license, amateur applied mathematician. in my spare time, as I like to say, love numbers, love college sports. I'm probably one of the most dedicated USC basketball fans, you know. I've been going since probably about 91. The year I graduated was the year that I'll just say Harold Miner's last year, just to keep it a little positive.
Speaker 1: What a year that was. I think for a lot of people who are USC basketball fans, the minor years were sort of these formative, kind of influential years that turned them into just diehard fans. I used to tell people that I was big of a USC football fan, that I was. I would always say that my favorite USC team of all time in any sport was that team, because there were so many interesting and fun and magical moments, to be sure. So one of the really exciting elements of this podcast, and actually of USCBasketballcom as a whole, is the addition of Mark's analytics that he has developed proprietary for USCBasketballcom. He has developed a system that will rank USC players, the USC team, in a way that I think will really intrigue a lot of listeners and a lot of readers of the website. We're really hoping to give people more reason to read the website, and Mark's efforts here are a huge part of it. So, mark, let's go over what are these elements in your ranking system. What are like, say, the main two or three categories?
Speaker 2: Yeah, i've got two main metrics. The first one on I call BPO 100. Yes, bpo stands for buckets, for opportunity. That I multiply by 100, just for comparability stakes. So instead of looking at 0.511 versus 0.499, which doesn't seem significant yet, 51 versus 49 makes a little more comparable. Right, there'll be more detailed explanation about this in what I call some footnotes to the podcast on the website. So if you're not catching this all real time, you don't have to pull the car over and take notes. You can just check this out later. But big picture, this is just saying for every opportunity, how many buckets is a player responsible for?
Speaker 2: So BPO is one. And that's basically saying if they score a bucket, if they, you know, every two points they score. So it rewards good free throw shooting, good three point shooting. If they create a turnover there's going to be a little bit of a minus and we'll get to that in a moment And we just take that over the total opportunities and all division one. The average BPO is about 48. Usc was at 49.4. Just for random reference, the top power team was Gonzaga at 55.8.
Speaker 1: Well, that's a really fascinating metric. So Gonzaga is 55.8. USC is 49. So just to give an idea of like how much separation that is, where does Connecticut land in between them?
Speaker 2: Connecticut is at a 52.2. So actually they're about halfway between Yeah.
Speaker 1: Well, that's very interesting, so really you just need to. I mean, just for the sake of last year, being around 52 was enough to win an international title. Okay, what's the next metric? that's kind of the sticks out for you.
Speaker 2: So BPO is more of an efficiency metric And the other one that wanted to is more of a cumulative metric, kind of an analog to baseballs of winds above replacement.
Speaker 1: I call this BUSCAR stands for How do you spell that?
Speaker 2: B-U-S-C-A-R. Okay, so the BUS is from buckets, the C is from created A above, so buckets created above. Instead of replacement, i went with Rico, as in Rico Heinz, former UCLA Great question mark The great Rico Heinz, amazing from the Steve Laven era.
Speaker 2: Yes, blast from the past, and Buscar also is Spanish for to seek which kind of works here, because every coach is seeking more offense, right And again it's a cumulative statistic, so it's saying, for every opportunity, that are the total opportunities that players have has had over a period of time. How many more buckets has that player created versus Rico or the replacement, rico shorter? It's fun, more fun to say.
Speaker 1: OK, now, with these analytics in mind, let's talk a little bit about the roster changes that we're seeing right now. We've lost a few players from last season. Malik Thomas is one. He went to USF restyx and waters has gone over to San Diego State. Drew Peterson is graduated, trey White has transferred over to Louisville and Yuriy Slavnyagu is transferred I forgot where he ended up.
Speaker 2: I think, Charlotte.
Speaker 1: Charlotte, that's right. I knew it was back east, so he's gone. Let's talk about just kind of like where what USC is losing from the perspective of your metrics, with those guys's departure Starting with with with the two who ranked towards the bottom, thomas and Yago.
Speaker 2: They actually ranked 11th and 12th in both, both BPO 100. Overall the team, you mean Overall the team, yeah, pardon me. And Buscar. Yago actually had a negative Buscar, so he couldn't keep up with Rico, poor guy Who can. Yeah, well, said So their, their departures make sense, you know. Then, kind of moving up the rankings restyx and waters. This surprised me. His BPO was only 43. And the team, as I mentioned earlier, was at a 49. He ranked ninth on the team in BPO 100, which was shockingly low when I ran this. But it makes sense. He was just not the same shooter as he was the prior year. His BPO dropped about five or six points from from the prior season. He actually ranked sixth on the team in Buscar with 40. And that's again a surprisingly low number. The average on the team was 74. And literally a third of that that Buscar was in that one awesome game he had at Poly Pavilion where he I think he missed only one shot.
Speaker 1: So he had three years at USC And I think it's pretty fair for him to say, hey look, it hasn't really happened for me how I wanted it to happen. And now Boogie's back again And and Isaiah Collier is coming in And you know, at the time he thought Silas, demery Jr And who knew who knew? you know, in this kind of era of college basketball he didn't know who else was going to come in And obviously he was a guy who the coaches they had to I don't feel like the kind of guys who are going to get on him much verbally but that he had to have sensed their disappointment.
Speaker 2: I think so, and I think he might have just put a little pressure on himself. You know, the way he started this season as a starter just was was not, you know, a starting caliber player, and that seems to just kind of put his brain in the wrong spot. For most of the season it seemed like.
Speaker 1: There's also sort of a misalignment with with fans now and how they perceive kind of the timetable for players and how players perceive their timetables And because of the reality is college basketball. You're just look, you're just not going to have a full 13 scholarships anymore. Guys don't want to come to your program and be the 12th or 13th player, so they go, they leave until they find a place where they're not the 12th or 13th, where they're like the fifth or the sixth or seventh, at least at worst. And so so what ends up is you end up having two extra scholarships all the time, and I'm sure this is going to happen in a lot of places because you're going to have some rare situations Harrison Hornery, guys who come in who are like obviously being practical about the situation and are they like it there? They have a genuine desire to be at the program.
Speaker 1: But I think a lot of people saw Reese and said, wow, you know, just one more year he would have. You know, he probably would have had a great year this year because he's playing with all these great players. But the way you know, and they're thinking in terms of, oh, he's got four years or five years to develop, from Reese's standpoint it's shoot. I haven't done. You know I had a disappointing year this year and I'm not going to get the opportunities next year to rectify that. I really need to change a scenery And I think it just makes sense now And I know fans are very magnanimous with transfers now because everyone benefits and everyone hurts from it. But I think there's still some element of people just like not quite getting yet that these guys really have to kind of make their move or they won't get another shot.
Speaker 2: They do And I think that you said it perfectly that that seven you put kind of gets it over under and seven and a half in terms of like the number of actual you know players that you can have that fit in your program. Anything more than that you're kind of getting to a water seeking its own level. You know nobody wants to be, you know, on the roster pass that accepting, like you said, for a guy like Hornery to use a really cross program, cross sports analogy. Lou Holts made a great point. He said you know, when I had my best teams at Notre Dame, half the roster was all Americans and half was kids that would kill to play in a Notre Dame uniform. Right, and I think that if you're going to fill out your roster it's going to be with the latter.
Speaker 1: Let's look at the next player. So you had Reese left about Trey White.
Speaker 2: Yeah, trey White is. Bpo for the season was 46.8, which is really really solid for a true freshman, ranked six on the team in BPO 100, fourth in Biscar with 80, which is a little bit of the team average of 74. I don't see him as irreplaceable. It just really, you know, from a practical standpoint, it just stinks to see how much time we invested in him And then we don't get the payoff next season. Especially he was. He was fantastic through the I want to say, the Washington or the Washington state game at home And then, boy, he just kind of hit the wall hard. We stuck with him and it just it kind of stinks to to, you know, stick with him And then he leaves. Not going to fault him, you know he has to go where he has to do. It's best for him, but that's a tough one.
Speaker 1: Yeah, i agree It seemed like a headscratcher to a lot of people, but that is unfortunately the reality of the situation and him going to Louisville I mean one of the worst teams in college basketball last year, one of the worst teams in recent memory, and but they are. You know Louisville has been in on a lot of players recruitment in recent months, so they've been going hard after it And I'm sure their NIL deals are flying fast and furious because Louisville does have the fan base that cares about the sport. So I'm sure they are stepping up and trying to turn things around there. But Trey White the great thing about Trey White is that I thought he was a very good player and and losing him hurt, but I will say that he didn't have any particularly special skill set. That is irreplaceable And in fact, bringing in DJ Rodman in essence pretty much replaces his points and brings some defense where you didn't really see it as much with Trey White, and brings, of course, the savvy veteran experience as well.
Speaker 1: So for at least one season, you know it's, it's potentially an upgrade. But then it's the following season where you might have had Trey White in your three, where you might feel it OK. So now, that leaves us Drew Peterson.
Speaker 2: Yeah. So Drew's BPO was 51.3, a little bit above the team average. He ranked third. This Buscar was 161. He ranked second on the team in Buscar. And what's interesting is for Peterson, white and Waters all three of them their Buscar their cumulative ranked higher than their efficiency. So you might wonder well, what does that mean? Well, to me, i look at that and as a math guy, i think that you know ideally, you want your most efficient person to have your highest usage. The fact that that, basically this isn't insinuating more usage than than than efficiency for each three of these indicates that their departure, while not the best thing in the world, makes them hardly replaceable and probably presents a pretty good opportunity for better usage of talent. Well, all right, that covers the players who are leaving.
Speaker 1: Now let's talk about the players who are coming in. There are four new Trojans, starting with point guard Isaiah Collier, who was rated not only the best point guard in the country coming out of high school but also the consensus number one overall player. You have Arrington Page, his teammate, who's a six nine, six, nine and a half power forward very skilled. You have Brony James, who everyone has heard of, i'm sure, the son of LeBron James, who is a six three combo guard. And you have DJ Robin, who is a transfer coming in from Washington State, six foot six wing, the son of Hall of Fame basketball player from Chicago Bulls and other teams, dennis Rodman. So what I'd like to do now is maybe compare some of these incoming players to players we've had in the past at USC under Enfield preferably, or maybe some other players who played for other teams.
Speaker 1: First let's do Isaiah Collier. The way I see Isaiah is that he's a big, strong, athletic kid, maybe not the most athletic kid, but athletic enough He's not going to jump out of the gym. I would say he is kind of a Jason kid slash Baron Davis hybrid, where he is more athletic than kid, but maybe not as physical, and he's more physical and savvy than Baron Davis, but maybe not as athletic. How about you? Well, i want to say Todd Licty of Stanford.
Speaker 2: No, I'm joking. Another blast in the past.
Speaker 1: I limited this to the Enfield era for this exercise.
Speaker 2: And I couldn't come up with one just because he is such unique. I mean, you mentioned two kids that just you know they don't come up with one, they don't come around every day and they were really highly recruited And I believe both of them played just two years in college, if I'm not mistaken. Is that correct?
Speaker 1: Yes, that is correct, Yeah.
Speaker 2: Yeah, so there's not going to be a lot of comps. I think you nailed it, though I'm not going to disagree with either of those. I think those are very fair comps.
Speaker 1: So let's go on to Arrington Page And my comparison for him from the Enfield era is a comparison that a lot of people are also making which is Chamezi Matu, maybe an inch or inch and a half shorter than Chamezi but, like Chamezi, very skilled offensively And I think he's actually ahead of Chamezi as a freshman coming in from the office of standpoint. He can shoot with both hands, he can bring it out to three point land, he's got a array of moves down low. He's got really nice hands. He's got a lot of work to do on the defensive side of things, but he is a definite X factor for the team this year.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that was who I thought of as well. But when you said basically where he's a little better than Mehto, now this guy didn't have the outside shot and he's definitely a much better defender than what you described me, but it seems like there's maybe some elements of Oñeka. Is that fair compared to Mehto?
Speaker 1: Well, i think Page has a better offensive game as far as the refinement Maybe not as good of a scorer as Oñeka, because Oñeka was probably arguably the greatest finisher we've ever had at USC down low. If he had the ball down low he was probably going to dunk it. If he had position he was going to dunk it or get fouled. And there might have been one time all year in that freshman year of his where he had position down low and in position to either dunk or get fouled, and I think only one time did they actually block the shot. Also, oñeka had a very unorthodox offensive game. It's little up and unders and he didn't really have a proper turnaround. Page has a really refined footwork and does some really graceful things with his shooting. All right, let's go on to Brawny James. I will compare him to a guy from the Enfield era And I think it's actually a pretty close comparison.
Speaker 1: D'anthony Melton is the white whale of the Enfield era in the sense that he was a three star recruit who was grabbed out of the valley without a lot of fanfare And I remember watching his tape and saying to my friends hey, this guy is like really good, and I called him Magic Melton because he was like a six. He was like a six two Magic Johnson. You know he didn't do all the other things that Magic did because he wasn't six nine, but he did a lot of things and to me in a very similar style, and just made all these things happen on the court and was a stat stiffer. And you know, he had that one kind of really intriguing freshman year and then he was suspended the entire sophomore year and then he left for the NBA. And I think in the back of the staff's mind is that they are always looking for a player like D'Anthony Melton, like they would love to have.
Speaker 1: They will take like a D'Anthony Melton any day of the year, which is why I think they saw Silas Demary and said, hey, this could be our next D'Anthony Melton. Well, i think they might have gotten their D'Anthony Melton with Brony James, because while Brony is a much better I want to say much better but while Brony is a significantly better three point shooter than D'Anthony Melton was as a freshman, they kind of bring a lot of the same things to the table being good teammates, offering shooting but also playing defense, tipping balls, the passing lane, blocking shots at a pretty high rate for a guard and just sort of like making smart moves and never making bad plays or never being in the wrong place, always being in the right place, and to me, i think that's what Brony is going to bring to the team. Exactly the kind of thing that Melton brought to the team, and you know, melton averaged about eight points a game as a freshman. I think that's about what Brony is going to average.
Speaker 2: Yeah, i had two players you know that I was drawing a comp to here. One was Melton, the other is would be his classmate, jonah Matthews. In that I think Melton was. You know, i don't know if Brony will average that much, i just don't know. Matthews was a really good shooter too. Matthews actually wasn't as amazing a defender as Melton was And I think maybe, maybe a more fair defensive comp for Brony in year one assuming there's more than a year, one might be Jonah Matthews, you know, i think he might be between the two of them.
Speaker 1: Yeah, no, i think it's actually a really good comparison because if you look at what Jonah brought to the table by his senior season, there are pretty much the types of things that Brony will bring to the table this year which are outside shooting, decent ball handling, but not necessarily be your primary ball handle He'll. He can get you out of a game if your point guard is down, perhaps right, and Jonah was a pretty good defender. He was more of like a good ball defender, whereas D'Anthony was was a better off ball defender, like he did a lot of things away from the ball that just kind of disrupted the offense is. I think that Brony's defense is more like Melton's defense and his offense is more like Jonah's offense, so it's like almost like a combination of the two.
Speaker 2: Yeah, it's. I mean, you know obviously from aside from LeBron's obvious skills, just just seems to be just an awesome teammate. you know in a team leader And I can't imagine that just that's not just a genetic thing. I think if you're around that every day, you know and you watch your dad play, you know what it means to be a good teammate.
Speaker 1: That's a great point. I mean having one of the best players in the history of basketball as your, as your teacher, mentor, tutor. This is really mature player And you know, dianthony Melton was very mature as a freshman as well. I think being able to handle the moment is important when you're a freshman And I think I think Bronnie James is going to be able to handle the moment. So far he's shown he can do it And it'll be easier for him to do it because he's not going to be the guy So. So it's going to be. It's going to be.
Speaker 1: You know, the more and more I've thought about it, the more excited I am about what Bronnie can do as a freshman this year. Okay, now let's talk about DJ Rodman and do our comp. So my comfort DJ Rodman from the Enfield era is Isaiah White, from his rather unorthodox sort of set shot, three point delivery to his team defense and sort of being in the right place at the right time and the energy he brings to the table. I think these are pretty, pretty good comparisons when you're looking at the Enfield era.
Speaker 2: It's fair. I think I see that physical resemblance. I'm going to go full on math nerd here. I know that there's probably some concern about replacing the production of a certain department player and I want to massage the agony that is the sciatic nerve of concern about, you know, losing Drew Peterson. Now, you know, physically the games are a bit different. but I just wanted to kind of lay out, you know, metrics, comparison between the two. And again, this is another thing because I'm reading off a bunch of numbers. If you want to see this in graphic comparison, this will be in the footnote or the podcast footnotes on the website.
Speaker 2: BP 100 comparison Peterson, as I mentioned earlier, was a 51.3. Rodman was actually a 53.2. So Rodman's almost a full two points better from an efficiency standpoint. Buscar, peterson was a 161. Rodman was 150. I think Peterson, like you mentioned earlier, was just such a high usage person, so that player. So that doesn't really surprise me. It just kind of a little surprising that Rodman, in so many you know, so fewer units, actually had a Buscar that's within range of Peterson.
Speaker 1: And I bet you, if you break it down just to pack 12 games as well, rodman would come out much better because he was among the conference's leaders in three point shooting in conference games And I actually like the conference game metric because everyone's playing the same games, same teams Exactly, so you can compare apples and apples. So I think Rodman, when you compare him to almost any player that USC left or is bringing back this year, was probably right up there when it comes to things like three point shooting and offensive efficiency.
Speaker 2: Yeah, he was. in total over the whole season He was, you know, almost two and a half percent better than Peterson from three. Wow, actually, a better rebound, or two, seven point four for 40 minutes versus seven for Drew. Even the Rodmans, i think. what two or three inches smaller.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think he's listed at six. Six I would guess he's. You know, the standard sports information deviation is an inch and a half at USC, or it was an inch and a half at USC for many years, But I think other schools it's probably a little different. I would say he's probably an inch shorter, But everyone's an inch shorter, so it doesn't really matter.
Speaker 1: So yeah, so it's not like he's the only one who's in it shorter, and you know everyone else, you know, suddenly gains an inch on him. So so let's just call him six. You know he's six. Six. Drew is listed at six nine.
Speaker 1: Yeah, when they do the when they do the breakdown of whatever combine he's at it's going to be. You know, i would even I bet you it's. We'll see. If it's six, eight, all right. Well, that's a great look at how some of these incoming players compared to some previous end field players. So let's talk about some of the current players and which ones are set for the most improvement next season.
Speaker 1: Just as a as a reminder, here are the players that are returning to USC next season. From the previous season, you have Kobe Johnson, who will be a junior. You have Vincent Uchuklu, who will be a sophomore. You have Oziah Sellers, who will also be a sophomore. You've got Boogie Ellis, who will be a fifth year senior. You've got Joshua Morgan, who will be a fifth year senior. Harrison Hornery will be a third year junior. Kejani Wright will be a sophomore. So, out of those guys, who do you think, based on your analytics and based on the trends that you see when you look at all the data, who do you think has the best chance to make the most improvement?
Speaker 2: So I'm going to go large man at the buffet here and pick three different dishes. Two I'll put on one plate. You know, if I look at it Oziah and, surprisingly, harrison Hornery I've seen that they were actually fourth and fifth on the team in BPO. They didn't play a ton of minutes but you know they got pretty regular. You know rotations. They'd get, like you know, one, two or three stints per game. You know, i think, just one little point on each of them. Before we get into the deeper dive on the stats, you know Oziah shot 26.3 on his three pointers and over 50% in his two pointers. I got to think the three pointers going to come around next season. Just, you know Enfield laid praise on him that I had not. I didn't remember him saying about any true freshman in terms of how good a shooting was.
Speaker 1: Yeah, and he definitely had the stroke. You saw it toward the end of the season. He had 11 points in a game late in the season. The issue with him was just he just couldn't get any clean looks at the basket. It seemed, And part of that was just the result of not having a really reliable facilitator on offense in the half court, And of course that is an issue that we will likely not have this season. So people like Oziah Sellers have to be licking their chops.
Speaker 2: Exactly, and he's just got that spot. you know, at the very minimum, just the backup three spot, i think, is just waiting for him to sink his teeth into. He just seems like a natural fit there.
Speaker 1: Well, certainly he's going to have his chance. And this is, you know, given how the slow start that he had last season, i feel like he can only go anywhere. There's really not much. I don't think he can get any worse, so to speak. I think I think, as the sample size increases, he's going to get a lot better.
Speaker 2: Well, yeah, and we'll come back to just some some stats on that in a second.
Speaker 2: On his start this season last year Yeah, going to Hornery, because we're going to dig into their stats both at the same time The one thing I think that sticks out to me for Hornery is I think that his development was really held back last year. When, you know, going to the season I liked our guys but the roster didn't really, i guess, geometrically make sense. The fact that you had Drew as kind of a four who's also running your offense, you really just you didn't really have your two bigs, traditional bigs that I think have been signature of Enfield's best teams, and that scheme didn't change for the most part. So you really just had, you know, just one big spot for the most part. And so I think that Hornery would have had a lot more minutes, a lot more development last season. So just from a non statistical, statistical standpoint, i think that you know he's kind of just, he was ready to make a move, he just didn't have the opportunity because just the pieces didn't line up to facilitate that.
Speaker 1: Yeah, yeah, and it's definitely hard when you're not getting the minutes and you're not getting the opportunities. It's hard to really kind of be ready to perform. And there are some times when he did come in and he did perform. So you definitely saw glimpses of quality play from Harrison. So I think I think he's just kind of a guy who's on standby, ready to come in whenever they need him And who knows, maybe he'll get a chance to contribute a lot more this season.
Speaker 2: You know, when we look at this from a metric standpoint, i went through all the players of the end filled era and I grabbed, based on you know, minutes for the season and opportunities for the season. you know all the players that were underclassmen first of all, and it looked like they were getting based on their playing time and usage. you know they were getting like one, two or three you know stints per game to play and show what they got. There were five players who had seasons that stood out above everybody else in terms of their BPO. Hornery and Sellers were actually two of the top three on that list. This really surprised me. Sellers was first on the list. His BPO was 49.0 last season, first among that whole population. Hornery was third at 48.2. Here's who else was on that list And I really like to, you know, give context about what they did later. So second on that list is Khalil Dukes. I don't know if you remember him. He was at the very beginning of the end filled era.
Speaker 1: Yes, I do remember him.
Speaker 2: So in 2015, he's second on this list is BPO was 48.7. He transferred after that season. He wound up at Niagara. At Niagara, his BP is BP. On the two seasons There were 52.3 in the 56. So so he did pretty well, very well Actually. You know, he was at Connecticut level, although in the Niagara conference right, right, pretty interesting, hornery said was third on that list. Fourth on the list, malik Marquetti in 2016. Right, i remember seeing him and thinking, wow, you know, this guy just doesn't make mistakes And I think he only had one turnover that season, if I remember correctly. It was crazy. He just he was solid, he just, you know, didn't have, you know, the opportunities, so he transferred.
Speaker 1: He didn't. He didn't make mistakes and he didn't make unmistakes.
Speaker 2: Okay fair.
Speaker 1: He didn't really do. he didn't really do much of anything. is what I, what I remember. I can't really think of any Low usage.
Speaker 2: Senior sure plays Low usage, but 48.0 was his BP which actually put him, you know, mid pack on this team. He transferred to Louisiana And there he had a 52.4 BPO. Then this, his last season, 51.1,. He was injured And I think that drug is down, is number down a little bit And he missed the last part of the season. And then, fifth on this list is Kobe Johnson, who was a 44.6 in his freshman year And he jumped to last season to a 53.8. Now, huge It is And I'm not saying that that both these guys are Kobe Johnson. But you know, if I look at the other three in that top five, you know the fact pattern is there that each of the other three made pretty, you know decent jumps.
Speaker 1: So then, who is the guy that the metrics say is going to improve the most?
Speaker 2: So those two you know, ozaia and and Hornry, i've got making a good leap just based on the entire body of work for last season. I've got a little different kind of look at it for the guy I'm going to put, you know, on the main plate here And people might just kind of do a spit take if you're, if you're drinking liquids at this time Kejani Wright. Yes, kejani Wright. I know that a lot of people are disappointed in him. I'm just going to basically look at this in terms of two segments His first 20 games and his last nine games, completely different And to my eye, i kind of saw it, but I didn't see it to the level of the numbers are bearing out here. So Kejani is first 20 games as BPO 100 was a 42.8. Last nine games that went up to a 57. For reference for the season, josh was at 48.8, vince is at and Vince best, vince was at 48.6. More context are our leading BPO for the season was boogie and he was at 54. So over this nine game stretch nine games, understand that was more effective than boogie and the composite over the whole season from an efficiency standpoint.
Speaker 2: Now I need to couch this in a couple of things. He has the backup of doing that often against, or the benefit of doing that often against backups. Very fair, but so did Vince. Vince was a starting for a lot of that time. Small sample size, as you said, so there's not a lot of usage. But I almost want to pound the table here. Something that is so important for freshmen that you see, for example, we didn't see with Trey is knowing what you can do and knowing what you can't do as a freshman. We see it again and again and again with freshmen and it just like the light went on for him and suddenly figured out oh, this is what I can do, this is what I shouldn't do. If you remember the beginning of last season, don McLean on every telecast would say Josh Morgan should do this. And it's almost like Kejani, right after 20 games, kind of got that message as a lightning bolt to his head and he just turned into a different player.
Speaker 1: He realizes sometimes you can improve not by necessarily doing things, but by not doing things Exactly. And he figured out that, ok, look, if I try to, if I get the ball in the post, i'm not really confident in my shot. I don't know if I'm going to get it off. And if I go and shoot, if it doesn't go in, i'm probably going to be pulled the next time out, so I'm not going to do that. At the same time, i can't just sit here and try to hide. So what can I do? that plays to my strengths. And he realized OK, i think I understand how to play defense. Now I think at some point look, he's a really smart kid. If you ever heard him talk, you could have gone to Stanford. This is a kid who cares about academics.
Speaker 1: And he was able to pick up, i think, the defense very well. The light went on at a certain point this season and you could see him in some games late, which I can't recall exactly which ones, but he had some stretches where his hedging and everything on defense, all the switching he had to do and his ability to get back and hold his position down low, he was playing some really good defense, post defense down low and learning how to use his body. And one of the things he did have great confidence in was his passing out of the post, and I remarked during the season is that one of the things I remarked about during the season is that I think he's one of the best young post passers that I've seen in a while, because if you watch him pass that ball out those passes they almost look like they're so crisp and fast, moving and precise You almost think that he was that he just got lucky. Well, he did it enough times. He threw enough of those types of passes.
Speaker 1: Where I was, like wow, i guess he wasn't just pulling that out of his butt. Those were his real passes So he could play defense. He learned how to play defense and he did that And he was always passing pretty well And he you know he wasn't a great rebounder but he did improve, i think, rebounding-wise as the season went on And he finished okay down low, like when the ball came to him. Down low he was able to get the ball off and get the ball into the basket on occasion To your point, just to kind of fill in some numbers of what you're saying.
Speaker 2: exactly right, on the rebounding and the blocks, you know you hit on the off-encil which I discussed already. The rebounds per 40 minutes went from 6.6 to 9.3, which is more than Josh over the season and about a half short of peak Vince The blocks. this surprised me because Ghajani's not. you know he doesn't have Vince's body, so he's got to be smart. He's a pretty good shot blocker.
Speaker 1: He is.
Speaker 2: He is. He's got to be from 4 per 40 to 3.3 in the last 0.9 games, which is, you know, that's just off Josh's pace of 3.6. And and it's.
Speaker 1: yeah, he had a really nice. he had a really nice sequence in the NCAA gaming. it's Michigan State that I recall, and I was right there watching it about 20 feet away, and I was really impressed by the timing The timing in his shop, yeah.
Speaker 2: Because he's not seven feet tall. You can tell he is smart and knows how to use. You know all of what he has.
Speaker 1: Exactly Another example of a smart player and a great teammate to have. He's the guy who's. I don't think they're worried about him leaving, not because they don't think he's going to be good, but because he's not the kind of guy to kind of cut and run. I don't think For lack of a. he wants to succeed. He wants to succeed at USC, and if he doesn't succeed at USC then I think he's got other things going for him.
Speaker 2: Yeah, clearly.
Speaker 1: Okay, to recap, mark thinks that Ghajani Wright is the player who should improve the most from last year into this year, followed by Osia Sellers. Is that the next? Yeah, yeah. And then Harrison Hornery. And one player we didn't cover is Boogie Ellis. Do you think that he will improve upon his performance last year, or do you think it will just be sort of diluted a bit because of the arrival of Collier? And do you think that maybe he doesn't produce as much but he's just more efficient?
Speaker 2: Yeah, I think he's more efficient. I give it, he won't. You know, a lot won't be asked of him as much in terms of, you know, ball handling. You know, the thing that really stood out to me too was like he already had a surprisingly low turnover ratio. He was second on the team behind only Osia, which was really surprising for how much he handled the ball last season. I think that you know that, on the other hand, that kind of limits exactly you know how many buckets he need to be responsible for, since Isaiah is distributing it. But if he can just be more selective and just, you know, not be as tired from handling the ball so much, he could just be scary good, like you know. the thing that comes to mind is Collier Reeves, long ago, when he was on Arizona. He would just, sometimes, when he would just go into another dimension and he, just he couldn't miss and he just had these 28 or 30 point games in, you know, in a matter of moments.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I remember a very frustrating thing to be a part of for sure.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: Yeah, or are going back even further. Headache Smith for for ASU. I don't know if you remember that infamous headache game in the Lyon Center. Of all things were in 19,. I believe it was 1993 where ASU I think USC was up by 25 at the half. Asu came back and Stevens Smith, everything he threw up, went in. It was really, it was really bizarre. It was very much like Boogie's performance against UCLA this past season. So, yeah, i think Boogie, he's either going to well, there's it's not really, it's not really making much of a prediction to say, look, he's either going to keep on the trajectory that he's been on and now average 20, 21 points a game, or he'll be in a situation where Collier comes in, sucks up a lot of those points and and he just maybe his his point production levels off, but he's doing it at just a really high efficient pace to the point where it just makes us that much of a better team.
Speaker 2: Yeah, the one thing, too, when you talk about him and I think about him coming back, is I wouldn't be surprised if he leaves more in the tank for the post season, since he had two really rough tournament games. And I think if there's one thing he wants to do more than anything else, aside from just, you know, create himself into an NBA player, is redeem himself in the tournament.
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely, and it's kind of crazy when you think about it, but he would certainly have to go down. I think when you, if you look at the trajectory, this team is on and the program is on, if Boogie Ellis has the kind of year we think he's capable of and if USC has the kind of year we think the team is capable of, then you have to look at Boogie Ellis as one of the all time great Trojans And in in in go looking back at his first season at USC, where I think he averaged 12, around 12 points a game. But he was very inefficient and had a lot of the bad habits that he showed at Memphis and they hadn't yet kind of weeded out of his his play?
Speaker 2: Yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 1: I mean, who would have thought that one year later he would be this all-packed 12 player, but not only just like a marginal all-packed 12 player, like a you know, probably a top three player in the league. And and then you have him coming back for another season with an absolutely loaded team that could potentially, i think, reach the final four, and it would all be under Boogie Ellis, of all the players, to be the one to finally, to finally see it through. And you know not, not, uh, demar DeRosin, not OJ Mayo, not Harold Minor, boogie Ellis. And that's why, uh, that's why the title of this episode is who's ready to boogie? I think USC fans are ready to boogie.
Speaker 1: Okay, now we've talked about the players who've left. We've talked about the players who are coming in. Let's take a quick look at roster construction moving forward and what we will need to replace after this year. I'm just gonna list the players who are officially Scheduled to return next year. That is erranton page Kobe Johnson, vincent Iwuchukwu, brony James, osia Sellers, harrison Hornery, kejani Wright I don't list Isaiah Collier because there's just no way he's gonna come back for a second season at USC. We have seven scholarship players coming back next season. Now, obviously Brony James could leave, because everyone's talking about him leaving and I think, of the rest of that bunch. As far as Declaring for the draft, i think Vincent Iwuchukwu has the potential with the big season to go pro. The rest of them, i think, barring any, any Moves to the transfer portal, are likely to come back. Do you agree with that?
Speaker 2: I agree with that. You know, the Vince thing is interesting. I think everything else is kind of written in stone, it's. It's one of those I Would call it a high-class problem You hope to have. I think if he leaves it'll be because we had an exceptional season. I Can't imagine that if he's good enough to make the NBA, that we don't make a really deep run into in the tournament right.
Speaker 1: Yeah, and and I think a lot of it's based on you look at his, his size and His skill set and some of the things that he flashed, especially early on in his brief stint last year I think before he had his back injury, whether it was the Oregon State game when he pretty much carried the team, or some of these These moments against Arizona State which were to me. He did some things offensively, which I was rather surprised because I didn't think he had that developed about offensive game.
Speaker 2: Yeah, i agree. I want to say, you know, i think Mobley came in as the most finished freshman big man that we've had, and yet I think Vince has Skills, that that that Evan Mobley didn't. Yeah, is that fair to say?
Speaker 1: Evan Mobley was a great at was an incredible athlete. It was a kind of a is a freaking nature at that position and his offensive game is developing and still developing. But Vince did things with his footwork that that Evan couldn't do as a freshman. Yeah.
Speaker 2: Yeah, i, so I wasn't the only one seeing that, then Okay.
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. Now There's no comparison as finishers. I would say Evan is right up there with on Yucca as far as finishing down low. Yeah, and Vince is was not yet to the point where if he's down low at the ball He's gonna, he's gonna dunk it. I'm hoping he gets to that point Because that would be really nice to have. But other than that, i think offensively he he was ahead of both of those guys as a freshman, even if he didn't really get much of a chance to show it.
Speaker 2: Yeah, i think I also, when I, you know, we think about Vince, obviously you have the heart issue where he just, you know he was on a, you know, i Don't say accelerated, but a very deliberate path back And that's going to hurt.
Speaker 2: And then, just, you know, trying to catch up in the middle of season from, you know, let alone from something like that, is so tough, especially because everybody's, you know, got the preseason, the early season, rough to rust off and You know you're at a different speed, you're acclimating to the college game as well. You could just see so many times where it's like you know He's in position to make a great finish and he does, doesn't understand that yet and there's a lob That's perfect for me He's just not expecting it. Or you know he's got great position but he's just not expecting to pass. That's that's been made to him and there's just miscommunications. Or you know there's so many things where he's just off a second. You can just see the wheels turning, just just you can almost see him thinking I'm gonna work on this over the summer and that's not gonna happen next season.
Speaker 1: Yeah, no, absolutely This. This is a guy that's definitely. I think he's definitely a hard charging type of player And this is, i think, why he was such a big fan favorite. His the energy. He just seemed to really bring a lot of energy out the court and it's rare to see That kind of energy from a big man. Usually it's from a guard, the point guard usually, who brings the energy, and next year there's gonna be a lot of energy because Collier is is a hard charging, downhill battering ram and Vince is gonna gonna run the court with him and and and be flying around, and then Kobe Johnson's very emotional and down in the dirt and so it's gonna be a really fun team to watch in that regard. So I think, looking at the roster next year, you have those guys, we, you know we can have this discussion later about brawny, whether Whether he's gonna return or not.
Speaker 1: I think people who say he's definitely gonna go pro after after one year are They don't really. No one really knows what's gonna happen. I, who, everyone, okay, look, people say, oh, he wants to play, or LeBron wants to play with his son, and maybe that's true. But he also said his son could do what he wants? does his son want to play with the dad? that much Maybe he does, without any information on this at all? just logically it seems like it's a 50-50 kind of situation rather than a 90-10.
Speaker 2: Well, it's not like. Dad is, you know, only playing 10 minutes a game and scoring two points because he's at the tail end of his career.
Speaker 1: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And the other thing, too, is is everyone's talking about LeBron having his option coming up, where he can basically Go anywhere and play, and they can, you know, they can draft brawny, and then he just go play with him as a free agent. So that would be the deal. You know, i don't know. It seems like just a lot of work To go, like a lot of machinations to go through, just just to play with your son for a year.
Speaker 2: Well, or he could sign a one-year deal and just do it one year later, two years later Yeah, that's true, he's kind of winning the battle with father time so far.
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely Okay. So next year, with Paige Kobe, maybe Vince, maybe brawny sellers, hornery and Kejani right back, i think we're going to probably need a combination of two bigs, two ball handler types, whether point guards or whether kind of combo guards, and then two shooting guards, or else they would certainly need a以ay pattern here or skewly pick, might be really looking like this And then do whatever you can, but It's not going to be still going. So That's fine. I flushed my celebrates miss. So those aren't gonna be a loss, right? so those ones are in the fake. But you know there's more in terms of a little bit ahead, talking aboutip who might have significant minutes You're looking at Aaron to Page, kejani, wright, maybe Harrison Hornery, depending on how his season shakes out, and potentially Vince back, but maybe he goes.
Speaker 1: So on that list is there's a seven foot two player out of Kansas named John Ball. He's from Sunrise Christian High School in Bel Air. I've seen his tape. He's a very athletic player. He is another really skilled big man, the kind of guy that Enfield likes to recruit. But he is one of those guys who is kind of the whole world is after him. He's look, he's in Kansas. So obviously Kansas is after him, but USC did make his final eight. So, and then the rest of the bigs on that list are Jacob Kofi, who's out of Washington, aidan Sherrill, who's out of Michigan, who obviously is Michigan State, would seem to have the lead on him, but he did put USC amongst his finalists and is interested in visiting USC. And there was a big man out of Orange County, from Sierra Catholic, sebastian Ransick, who actually took an official visit for USC this past week. He's a six foot 10, croatian, i believe, and just a really skilled big who can pass it and shoot it and rebound it and really finish and run the court. So he's a really exciting player And I think some of the other teams around the country are starting to get in on him. Finally, like UCLA, but with USC sort of being the hot team of the moment, maybe there is a chance for us to go in and get him. But if we can get two of those four bigs or one of those bigs that I just listed and then maybe get a transfer from the portal as a big, that would be great for USC.
Speaker 1: Then you have Trent Perry from Harvard, westlake in LA. He's a point guard, very high priority for USC He recently visited. From what I've heard, he's very high on the Trojans And I think that of all the guys who might have a chance to commit early, he could be one of them. You've got Taj DeGorville, who's out of Las Vegas. He is from Durango High. He's another 6'4 combo guard. It appears that USC just recently offered him, so he is another potential player to come in as a ball handler. Then you have Jace Richardson, who's also from Las Vegas. He plays for Bishop Gorman, which of course is where Charles O'Bannon played.
Speaker 1: Jace Richardson, as some of you might remember, jason Richardson of Michigan State from the early 2000s, really athletic wingman. He is the son of Jason Richardson, so, but again, it's a situation where Michigan State definitely is recruiting him, but he's kind of a West Coast guy and he's definitely interested in USC as well. And then USC just offered Bishop Boswell out of North Carolina. He's another ball handler. And then so two bigs, two ball handlers. I would say, out of the the ball handlers that I mentioned, probably Perry and DeGourville at this point are the two most likely. And then USC probably needs two shooting guards or wings.
Speaker 1: And from that group right now we are going after Isaiah Elohim. He is from Sierra Canyon, of course. That is where Bronnie James went to school. It is where Kejani Ragh went to school. Word on the street is that LeBron pretty much controls all the guys that come out of Sierra Canyon And so you know, maybe he'll throw us a bone and bring Isaiah Elohim to USC because he is one of the top players in the country, a five star recruit, next class.
Speaker 1: Then you have Victoria Miller, who's playing at Compass Prep down in Arizona, compass High in Arizona. He's originally from California. He is the son of Little Romeo or not the son of the. He is the nephew or he's related to Little Romeo, let's just say, who played with DeMar DeRosan back. He came to USC with DeMar DeRosan back in 2009. So he is probably one of the players who again is USC has a really good chance of getting if they really apply themselves. Also in that group is Zoom Diallo from up in Washington. You have Liam Campbell from Idaho area and then Tyrone Wiley who is from Downey.
Speaker 1: So I think USC needs two bigs, two ball handlers and two wings Isaiah Elohim and Victoria Miller on the wings, trent Perry and Taj DeGorville at the ball handlers.
Speaker 1: Maybe Sebastian Ransick and a transfer guy coming in. That would be a really nice haul five new players. And then, of course, maybe if other players leave, you have to fill things in with the transfer portal. But it looks like USC recruiting is off to a great start for 2024. I think right now USC is one of the hot schools in recruiting. It remains to be seen what's going to happen with the kind of the brawny effect. I think one of the hopes has to be one of the hopes of the program is that with brawny coming in bringing invisibility, it kind of raises USC's profile even more on the recruiting front. And of course, with the clutch sports connection that LeBron has, maybe some of these players can decide that, hey, you know, might as well go play that one year in LA before I, you know, start working out in LA for my draft combine. So any thoughts on this recruiting list, mark, the only thing is two and two and two is six.
Speaker 2: So I think where you're saying two, i'd probably put the totals more at one and a half and hope that we get like four in total. I just wonder if we over sign, if that kind of hits that concept, go ahead.
Speaker 1: Well, I'm assuming that of the seven that I've listed that are going to return between Vince and brawny, one of those guys is going to be gone. You know, I would just say, And maybe there's one other guy who transfers, you know, just because that's just how, how college basketball is now, You know, maybe Harrison Horn. Maybe Harrison Horn, he graduates and says I'm just going to go play my last year somewhere. Or maybe Ozzie Sellers doesn't have as good of a year as he hoped this year And he's like I need to go somewhere else, Or so Okay.
Speaker 2: You bite your tongue on that, okay.
Speaker 1: But yeah, yeah, or maybe Coby Johnson has a great year, you know, maybe he shoots 45% from three point range and has the defensive player of the year in the pack 1012 when he goes pro. So just, we have seven guys you know who are who could return next year And I don't think I wouldn't bet on all seven returning is, i guess, is what I'm saying. So we will probably need some combination of six, five to six recruits coming in to get to back to 11 or 12 players. So that is my thoughts on recruiting. I'm really not worried about recruiting too much, but it's really fun to watch now on basketball because USC has really sort of entered this, this phase where it can go in across the country and bring in elite players And that's kind of exciting to see.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: And on that note, that is a wrap for the first episode of the Dunk City podcast. A big thanks goes to Mark Baxter for helping me get this show off the ground. Thank you to everyone who listens and reads on the website. We hope you join us again in the future. Fight on.