USC Basketball Recruiting

USC Hoops appears to have found the Magic ingredient

May 29, 2018
2,180

When I visited Moorpark HS earlier this month to see big-time USC WR target Drake London, he told me he had an AAU Tournament Memorial Day weekend. After watching him in drills, run routes and catch balls during Spring Practice No. 1 for the Mesketeers, my mind was made up to see him hoop it up.

On Saturday London's BTI Hoops Select team played at 5:15pm at Westminster HS and I drove south to see the game. London is a uniquely special athlete in that he's truly a big-time D-I football and basketball prospect.

London's offer list might be more impressive for football, but he's holding basketball offers from schools Virginia, Oregon, Georgetown, Cal, Washington St. and others. And London hopes to play hoops and football in college, despite football and basketball nearly being year-round sports.

At 6-5, 200 pounds he can absolutely be an impactful shooting guard in college. He's physical, rebounds well and can shoot. While most of the highly-recruited shooting guards are around 6-5 like London, his size and athleticism makes him one of the top three in the state of California for me. If you categorize Mater Dei's Bru McCoy as an athlete, I would rank London right behind Kyle Ford from Orange Lutheran. Both Ford and London both play two sports full time. Ford is a baseball player for OLu.

Although Andy Enfield hasn't offered London a scholarship, Clay Helton has and London has had discussions with Enfield or his staff about playing basketball for the Trojans. 

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Considering the tournament I was at on Saturday was hosted by the Compton Magic and USC now having some significant ties to that club, I had to spend time watching them. Two Magic stars recently committed in Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu, plus 2020 five star big man Evan Mobley will almost assuredly end up a Trojan.

There were quite a few reasons to hit up Magic games over the weekend, including an opportunity to see top-25 2020 shooting guard Johnny Juzang (6-6, 205) from Harvard Westlake.

The Magic ended up winning their own tournament by blowing out the Las Vegas Knicks and Team Bradley on Monday. This was without Okongwu who sat out the wekend event. But I had an opportunity to speak with him, both Mobley brothers and Juzang after the Championship Game.

Before I even spoke to Okongwu, a few sources at the event told me there are a group of big-time players who want to stay home to play ball and shut up those not showing respect to the West Coast hoopsters. 

"SC basketball about to go big time," said one source with close ties to several elite basketball players on the West Coast, including Kevin Porter.

Last year after J’Raan Brooks committed to the Trojans, his mother Jen told me her son, Porter and Taeshon Cherry had all wanted to play together at USC. "It was their dream," she said.

So, after talking with folks with close ties to the Magic and AAU Hoops out here in SoCal, it became clear the Trojans are in position to sign players at an unprecedented level in the foreseeable future.

We're not talking a one and done every so often, USC is in position to possibly have basketball recruiting classes ranked as high or higher than the football team. If you're a USC fan waiting for the Trojans to show some life, it appears to have started with the 2018 recruiting class. And the 2019 recruiting class has two five-star players committed, with another in Cassius Stanley heavily leaning to USC. The folks I talked to last weekend would be very surprised if Stanley doesn't end up a Trojan.

Okongwu sort of confirmed what we'd heard about many of the top SoCal prospects wanting to stay in Los Angeles. He told us in a few sentences why he chose the Trojans.

"Since the eighth grade I knew I was going to stay home and at the end of the day I knew it was going to be USC or UCLA," said Okongwu. "I just fell in love with the USC campus and the coaching staff. Even before Coach (Eric) Mobley was hired I knew I was going to USC. Now the situation is just going to be even better for me. I'm really excited that I'm going to be a part of the USC program and helping it become something really great."

The high interest in the Trojans began with close relationship Okongwu developed with USC assistant Jason Hart.

"When I first started liking USC a lot I had a close relationship with Coach (Jason) Hart," said Okongwu. "I've known him and he's been recruiting me since I was a sophomore. But since then I've gotten really close with Coach (Andy) Enfield."

Obviously the hiring of Eric Mobley didn't hurt USC's chances with his own kids, but they both did have serious interest in the Trojans before that happened. We asked him what was behind his interest and if he's had an opportunity to tour the campus.

"We took an unofficial visit around two weeks ago with Johnny Juzang," said Mobley. "We saw the school and we saw the environment. We were there during finals and we saw people who were into their studies, but still having fun. They're all just preparing to be successful at whatever they do at USC, and that's also the goal for everyone who goes there."

Much like JT Daniels, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Bru McCoy, Nikko Remigio and others had at Mater Dei, the Mobleys, Okongwu, Juzang and others playing for the Magic have known each other for four or five years. That's not a lot of years for an old fart like me, but for a kid who's 17-18 years old, that's a quarter of a lifetime. These young men have been balling together since they were 12-13 years old.

"The Magic is like a huge family and I've known guys like Big O (Okongwu) since seventh or eighth grade," said Mobley. "We were always around each other, we were cool off the court and it was a great thing when joined the Compton Magic. I've known Johnny (Juzang) from playing in camps. Then he came to the Magic and we've just been a family from day one."

I've made lighthearted remarks how USC or UCLA could possibly compete for Pac-12 Titles with simply signing the top players from Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, Serra and Corona Centennial. As I watched the Compton Magic and the combined 23 stars on the court at times, I day dreamed about being a coach of a Pac-12 basketball team full of former Compton Magic players.

Could you compete with a majority of Magic players and fill in the gaps accordingly? We asked several people if that was realistic thinking and the answer was always a resounding yes. I'll admit those I asked were all affiliated with the Magic is some capacity, but I told them I wasn't quoting them....accept Isaiah Mobley.

"Yes, definitely, especially with some of the core guys who are the caliber USC is looking for," Isiaiah Mobley said. "It's now me and Big O's job to recruit other guys, because we're already going there. And we do recruit guys all the time. We always tell guys no matter who they get offers from, don't forget about USC. You saw how fun it is playing here and I think we can do the same thing in college."

There's no question the Trojans are in great shape with the Compton Magic program, which means there are several age groups. It's a well-oiled machine and one of their family memebers will be coaching at USC in Eric Mobley.

But USC is a football school and UCLA is the basketball school. Is the high interest in the Trojans isolated to the Compton Magic, or has the interest in Andy Enfield's program spread throughout the southland?

"I definitely think the interest is growing and USC is on the radar of of a lot of top guys now," Mobley said  "People have always thought UCLA was the place to go for basketball and USC was the football school, but I definitely think USC is becoming a basketball school. Especially with the guys in the southern California area now."

Evan Mobley is the youngest of the two brothers and the top prospect on the Magic. This is a kid who could end up being as dominant on both ends of the floor as any players we've seen at USC. He hasn't committed, because he's in no hurry to make a commitment, but he conceded USC will be very tough to beat under the cirmumstances. I think most of us are thinking USC would have to stop playing basketball to not end up with both Mobleys.

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It was my first AAU Tournment ever and it far exceeded my expectations. My biggest takeaways from the weekend were how exceptionally talented the Compton Magic are, how well coached the kids are, the extraordinary team chemistry they have and how incredibly humble and respectful each player is. On top of that, they're all 4.0+ students who could go to school anywehere even if they didn't play basketball.

The time I spent with Eric and Nicol Mobley was limited, but they are two genuinely nice people. It was an absolute pleasure being around them, talking to them, learning from them and about their family. Although Eric will be coaching at SC, the Mobleys will remain at Rancho Christian, a school they're both very fond of.

If I were a high school basketball player and I had an opportunity to play for guys like Eric Mobley, Jason Hart and the Trojans, I would sign right now.

UCLA is also recruiting at a very high level and they have history and tradition behind that basketball program, but there's a lot of momentum building for the Trojans right now. Those thousands of empty seats at the Galen Center will be filled in the upcoming years barring something unforeseen.

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NOTES:

- Per several people Kevin Porter is a possible candidate to enter the NBA Draft after his freshman season. But even if he doesn't, the fact people think that highly of him bodes well for USC in 2018 with the loss of multiple key players.

- There's a pretty decent sized group of kids who feel they don't get the respect players from the East Coast get. They also want to see USC become a  major player in college Hoops and compete for a National Championship. The fact I'm even hearing big-time high school basketball players talk about the Trojans like that caught me off guard. I don't follow hoops, so maybe a group of top-ranked players have talked about USC basketball that way before, but I doubt it.

- The Elite Pangos All-American Camp is this weekend and we plan to be there. Another week off from football before USC's Summer Camps begin June 9 with the first 7v7.

 http://instagr.am/p/BjXznCejLNG

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USC Hoops appears to have found the Magic ingredient

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