The University of Southern California, more commonly known as USC, is a notorious destination for some of the nation’s top high school athletes. Many of those athletes turn their scholarship into a ticket to lucrative paydays at the professional level.
Oh, you thought I was only talking about football, didn’t you?
While USC has a long-standing history of developing professional football talent, they’ve quietly built themselves a fortuitous pipeline in the other revenue sport – with multiple basketball alumni currently reaping benefits in the NBA.
Basically, USC basketball hasn’t been this legit since Quincy McCall committed to the Trojans in Love and Basketball.
Currently, the group of former Trojans in the NBA includes DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Taj Gibson, OJ Mayo, Nick Young, and DeWayne Dedmon.
DeRozan is a two-time NBA All-Star, Mayo is the former No. 3 overall pick and a valuable offensive bench asset for the Bucks when healthy, Nick Young is and will forever be Swaggy P, Taj Gibson was on the All-NBA Rookie team and starts for the Bulls, and Vucevic and Dedmon are on the Orlando Magic — with Vucevic leading the way as one of the league’s rising stars in the post.
I would take that squad in a rec league tourney any day of the week. And if you really want to get technical, that USC basketball alumni roster is better top to bottom than anything Arizona, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, or Indiana has in the NBA right now.
Find me the next person willing to throw the USC Trojans in a college basketball conversation with the likes of the Jayhawks, Wildcats, Tar Heels, or Spartans.
Those teams have gone to a combined 38 NCAA Tournaments in the past ten years. USC? Four.
And I haven’t even mentioned USC basketball’s greatest alumnus ever, Brian “The White Mamba” Scalabrine.
But thanks to former head coach Kevin O’Neill doing his best to run the program into the ground, that trend nearly ceased to continue.
Now the Trojans are led by Andy Enfield – former coach of 2013 NCAA Tourney darling Florida Gulf Coast – and USC has bounced back in year three of his tenure.
The 2016 USC basketball squad is currently 15-5, making a brief appearance in the Top 25 a week ago before two losses to the state of Oregon. Despite that, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi still has them projected as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
And as they move forward into the future, they have the feel of a budding Pac 12 mainstay. With a hotbed of young hoops talent in LA, Enfield pointing to USC’s randomly significant crop of NBA players should make recruiting a little easier.
Think about it: How many 18-year-old recruits would know that USC basketball has produced guys like Vucevic, DeRozan, and Gibson?
Enfield appears to be re-establishing that pipeline already, as top players Nikola Jovanovic, Julian Jacobs and Jordan McLaughlin all look like NBA prospects. In fact, USC has six players that average at least 10 points a game — and none of them are seniors.
Perhaps Jovanovic is the best of the bunch. The 6’11” Serbian forward is averaging 11.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, and can stretch the floor from the power forward spot. He’s very Vucevic-like, and not just because they have the same first name.
The whole fact of this is that USC quietly – and surprisingly – breeds NBA players. And between Jovanovic, Jacobs or McLaughlin, you’re likely going to see the trend continue in the near future.
As they tend to say a lot at USC football games: Fight On.