The legacy Evan Mobley, 2021 Trojans leave at USC
Mobley and his teammates left their marks in the USC history books.
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — INDIANAPOLIS — Evan Mobley didn’t have to go to USC. He could have played at any blue-blood program and been part of a collegiate superteam. Or he could have followed several other high-profile recruits to the G-League and made some money before the NBA Draft.
But he did choose USC, to play with his brother Isaiah and with his father, Eric, on staff. And in the process, Evan Mobley carved out a legacy he would not have on any other path he could have chosen.
Mobley and his teammates helped produce one of the most memorable seasons in USC history. The plays that will stand out will be the thunderous dunks from the 7-foot freshman, like his soaring two-hander over a helpless Oregon defender in the Sweet 16. Or the way Mobley racked up blocks to the point that it stopped opponents from even attempting to get to the rim.
He garnered all the individual awards you would expect. More, actually, becoming the second-ever player from a major conference to win player of the year, defensive player of the year and freshman of the year awards all in the same season.
But it also led to team success, with USC making its fourth-ever Elite Eight, and only second since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 32 teams.
“I’m glad I came and chose this school to play for. It was everything I hoped it would be. We fell a little short but I’m glad we even made it this far,” Mobley said. “Just a great atmosphere, great team. Just the whole entire experience was great.”
A day removed from Tuesday’s season-ending deconstruction at the hands of undefeated Gonzaga, it might be a little easier to appreciate what this USC team accomplished. But first you need to remember how it started.
Head coach Andy Enfield and his staff put together this roster on the fly over the off-season, looking for transfers they felt would fit around Mobley for his one year of college. But it wasn’t until September that everyone arrived on campus due to COVID-19 restrictions in California.
When they first worked out together, it was outdoors with individual basketballs, not any kind of real practice.
And still, this team got out to the best start to a season (18-3) since 1974, despite last year’s starting point guard Ethan Anderson missing six weeks with a back injury. After splitting their first two games back from a COVID-19 stoppage, the Trojans won 13 of their next 14 games.
There were growing pains. The offense was borderline unwatchable the first month of the season as these guys figured out how to play with each other. But once graduate transfer Tahj Eaddy tore through the Pac-12, everyone started to eat on that end of the court.
“I’ve never seen a team develop a chemistry and a culture on and off the court like this team has,” Enfield said. “We became a very good basketball team. Off the court, they have a very strong bond, and they’re just a lot of fun to be around.”
And much of that success went back to Mobley and his decision to come to USC.
“Evan is the most unselfish superstar we’ve ever coached,” Enfield said. “He’s gonna have a bright, bright future in the NBA because one thing about Evan Mobley is he’s a flat-out winner. He’s gonna be a Trojan forever.”
Who’s leaving after the 2020-21 season: Mobley’s departure for the NBA has been the assumption all season. Eaddy, 24, has spoken openly about coming to USC for one last season before going pro, and there’s no doubt his time as a Trojan has brought his stock up considerably.
Who’s on the fence: The biggest question mark is what decision Isaiah Mobley makes.
The sophomore got the opportunity in the NCAA Tournament to show that he can be a spread-the-floor forward who is a good defender and capable passer. So does he decide this is as high as his stock will ever be and leave for the NBA?
Seniors Isaiah White and Chevez Goodwin technically have one year of eligibility left due to the NCAA’s blanket policy for players who participated in this season, but the question is after five years in college, do they want to come back for one more or start their professional careers?
Who’s on the way: Guard Reese Waters enrolled midseason, but USC also has Damien guard Malik Thomas, Mater Dei forward Harrison Hornery, Nicolet (Wisc.) guard Kobe Johnson and East Los Angeles College forward KJ Allen committed for next season.
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