Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — When Tahj Eaddy hooped at Santa Clara, his favorite vacation spot was Los Angeles. Many of his teammates were from L.A., so when they had a long weekend, they headed south to enjoy the beaches.
“I was always in L.A.,” Eaddy said.
When Eaddy made the decision to transfer for his final year of eligibility, it wasn’t such a big deal that he couldn’t visit USC’s campus when the Trojans came recruiting. But USC wasn’t the only finalist for his services with whom Eaddy was familiar.
Connecticut, his home state school, made a push for the 6-foot-2 guard, and that was an option he had to consider. His college career had taken him far from home, and his family rarely had the chance to see him play in person.
But the Trojans offered something that the Huskies could not: A wide-open competition for playing time.
“I didn’t want to go into a situation where there was already a lot of upperclassmen guards who were already solidified roles. I wanted to really come into a spot where I was kinda depended on,” Eaddy explained. “I never had that throughout my career and I was looking for that challenge.”
The senior guard has risen to it as USC’s second-leading scorer with 13.7 points per game, starting all but one game and playing an average of 31.6 minutes per contest.
He’s proved to be the perfect complement to the Trojans’ leading man, Evan Mobley. Eaddy spaces the floor by making 37.3% of his 3-pointers, providing the freshman center more space in the post.
And Eaddy doesn’t need to play within the flow of the offense. He’s capable of creating his own shot and feeding off his own energy when he sees a couple attempts go through the rim, an ability that he says draws frequent comparisons to Clippers sixth-man scoring connoisseur Lou Williams.
Eaddy was on full display in the first half of USC’s win over Arizona State on Wednesday. On the opening possession, he went opposite the direction of a screen and drove to the top of the key to sink a lunging jumper.
Two minutes later, Eaddy drilled a catch-and-shoot 3. The next possession, he took the in-bounds pass the length of the court, finishing with a left-handed finger roll despite the efforts of two defenders.
It was the start of a 15-point half, and just another in a string of scorching performances for Eaddy this month. In February, the guard is averaging 17.4 points per game on 48.5% shooting.
“He’s done an amazing job of knowing when to score the ball himself and also getting his teammates involved,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said after Eaddy’s season-high 29-point performance against Washington State last week. “We need him to continue this if we’re going to keep winning games.”
The 17th-ranked Trojans have been winning a lot. At 18-3, USC is off to its best start in 47 years and holds a one-game lead over UCLA for first place in the Pac-12.
And in addition to the expanded playing role Eaddy expected when he committed to USC this summer, there was also the hope that this team could give Eaddy a chance at his first NCAA Tournament appearance.
“I kinda knew. I understood that we had Evan coming in, I knew we had some talented guys coming back who were gonna make that sophomore year jump,” Eaddy said. “With the talent we had, I knew there was a good chance to do something special.”
And Eaddy has played an outsized role in that success.
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