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Raising The Bar

C653p50WYAAP5al.jpgLast season, USC men's basketball put itself on the map by going undefeated in nonconference play, earning a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and pulling off two comeback wins while there.

Yesterday, head coach Andy Enfield confirmed that guard Shaqquan Aaron would return for his redshirt junior season, keeping last year's roster nearly intact for 2017-18.

The return of Aaron, Jordan McLaughlin, Elijah Stewart, Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu and all of USC's underclassmen, plus the addition of three incoming freshmen and Duke transfer Derryck Thornton, has the national media buzzing about the Trojans.

FOX Sports slotted the Trojans at No. 5 on its way-too-early Top 25, noting that USC returns its top eight scorers from last season.

According to The Big Lead, which also listed USC at No. 5, "nobody had a better two months than the Trojans and coach Andy Enfield."

The Trojans went from unranked in ESPN's way-to-early Top 25 to No. 13 in its post-NBA Draft deadline Top 25. Writer Myron Medcalf noted that USC is the only team on the West Coast that will return a nearly identical roster from last season, as Arizona, Gonzaga, Cal, Oregon and UCLA all lost significant contributors from last season's squads.

Sports Illustrated also has USC at No. 13. Lindsay Schnell wrote that the Trojans' scoring talent "could enable USC to push Arizona for the league title," and explained that the Trojans could get a big boost if rising sophomore forward Nick Rakocevic -- the unsung hero of USC's comeback win in the NCAA First Four -- has as big an offseason as Metu did last year.

After a 26-10 season, the Trojans certainly have high hopes for 2017-18 -- a season that includes a tilt against Oklahoma at the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 8 and a slew of Pac-12 powers at the Galen Center.

Click here for tickets!


Shaqquan Stays

USC_Basketball_Omaha_mcgillen_2016_2934.jpgUSC men's basketball guard Shaqquan Aaron will return for his redshirt junior season, he announced today.

Aaron averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in his first season at USC after transferring from Louisville. The Seattle native appeared in all 36 games for the Trojans, starting 20.

Aaron's return means the Trojans will only lose two players (seniors Charles Buggs and Sam Dhillon) from last year's squad. USC is one of just two teams that won an NCAA Tournament game in 2017 to return all five starters for the upcoming season.

Rising seniors Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart opted to forego the NBA Draft, as did rising juniors Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu prior to Aaron's announcement.

USC also welcomes three new freshman to the Galen Center this fall: Charles "Chuck" O'Bannon, Jordan Usher and Victor Uyaelunmo.

Click here for tickets to the USC men's basketball 2017-18 season!

Bennie's Back

USC men's basketball leading scorer Bennie Boatwright has announced that he will pull his name out of the NBA Draft and return to school for his junior season.

"I have decided to return to USC for my junior year to further my education and work on developing my basketball skills," said Boatwright.  "I look forward to an exciting 2017-18 season with my teammates."

After a record-setting campaign, the Trojans return the entire core of the team with Boatwright back in the fold. Despite a pair of injuries costing him 17 games last season, Boatwright still averaged 15.1 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game and 91% from the free throw line.

The rising junior was immense in the NCAA Tournament, leading the comeback over Providence with a career-high 24 points. Over the three tournament games, he averaged 18 points and 5.7 rebounds on 54% shooting from the field.


Elijah Returns

USC men's basketball guard Elijah Stewart announced that he will be returning for his senior year earlier this week, opting not to turn pro. The sharpshooter is on pace to become the school's all-time leading three-point maker with one more season to go after canning 78 triples as a junior.

Stewart hit perhaps the biggest shot of last season, burying the game-winning three-pointer to lift USC over SMU in the NCAA Tournament. In 2016-17, he was the team's fourth-leading scorer (12.3 ppg) and second-leading shot blocker (1.2 bpg).


Coming Sooner

USC men's basketball will play Oklahoma in a marquee non-conference matchup at STAPLES Center on December 8 as part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.

Click here for the official release.

The Trojans played in the same event last season, defeating BYU. The game is half of a doubleheader with Arizona State and St. John's squaring off on the same day.

While USC is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, including two wins in the Big Dance this March, Oklahoma spent last season rebuilding after a Final Four run in 2016. The Sooners had one of the youngest teams in the nation last season, but they are expected to be Big 12 contenders in the coming year.

USC last played Oklahoma in 2009, falling in Norman by a point after beating Blake Griffin and the Sooners the previous season at the Galen Center, 66-55. Oklahoma leads the all-time series, 6-5, over the Trojans.

The full non-conference schedule has yet to be released, but the Trojans have beefed it up with Oklahoma joining SMU and Texas A&M as major conference opponents. USC is also entered in the Diamond Head Classic, which features a top field, including ACC power Miami.


Good Luck Chuck

Charles O'Bannon Jr., the No. 28 prospect on ESPN's Top 100, has joined USC men's basketball's incoming 2017 recruiting class.

Click here for the full release!

O'Bannon Jr. prepped at Bishop Gorman HS (Las Vegas, NV), averaging 21.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG and 4.0 APG his senior year, while leading his team to a 22-9 record. He scored 36 points and grabbed 11 boards in the 2017 4A state title game, which Bishop Gorman won for the sixth year in a row.

"Chuck is an excellent all-around basketball player who is a great fit for our system" said USC head coach Andy Enfield. "We are excited to add his offensive explosiveness and his size and length at the guard position. Chuck has a great passion for the game of basketball and Trojan fans will enjoy watching him play."

O'Bannon Jr. was a 2017 McDonald's All-American, posting a 10-point, three-rebound and two-assist effort in the McDonald's All-American Game last month. He is USC's first McDonald's All-American signee since DeMar DeRozan in 2008.

O'Bannon joins Jordan Usher and Victor Uyaelunmo in USC's Class of 2017. With Chimezie Metu returning and Derryck Thornton Jr. joining the team after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, the Trojans looked stocked for the upcoming season.

More Metu on the Way

USC men's basketball sophomore Chimezie Metu announced that he will return for his junior season after being named the Pac-12's Most Improved Player in 2016-17.

"We have a great opportunity to do something special next year," Metu told Trojans Live. "It honestly wouldn't feel right to leave at this stage. We're right on the cusp of becoming a great team."

Last season, Metu led USC in total points (14.8 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and blocks (1.5 bpg). He was immense in the NCAA Tournament, including 28 points against Baylor in the Second Round.

Metu will be joined by rising senior PG Jordan McLaughlin as the leadership core of next year's team. Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart are still exploring their draft possibilities, but they could return as well.


Photo Gallery: USC MBB Awards Dinner

Last night, USC men's basketball celebrated its record-setting 26-win season at its annual Awards Dinner.

USC photographer Pierson Clair was on hand to capture every moment of the night:

Enfield Extended Thru 2023

Fourth-year USC men's basketball head coach Andy Enfield, who has guided the Trojans to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths and the most victories in a season in program history, has had his contract extended through the 2023 season, USC athletic director Lynn Swann announced today.

"With Andy Enfield as our head coach, we have built consistency and stability in our men's basketball program," said Swann. "Extending Andy's contract will allow that consistency and stability to continue. The record-setting season we just had is proof that Andy has established the USC program as an annual contender on the national level."

Enfield led the 2017 Trojans to a 26-10 mark, the program's most wins in a season. In 2017, USC got off to a 14-0 start, its best start since the 1971 season, and Troy went undefeated during non-conference play for just the sixth time in school history. The Trojans, who made consecutive NCAA trips for the first time since 2008-09, won a pair of games in the 2017 NCAA tourney.

Enfield has seen his USC teams increase their win totals each season. In 2016, USC was 21-13 and earned its first NCAA berth in five years. USC's 47 combined wins in the last two seasons is the most in a two-year stretch in school history.

In addition to the success on the court, the USC's men's basketball program has excelled in the classroom and three times has established the team record for highest grade-point average in a semester.

"Our coaching staff is proud of our players' development and accomplishments both in the classroom and on the court," said Enfield. "With the core of veteran returnees and incoming talented freshmen, we are excited about the future of USC basketball."


Never Too Early to Get Excited

Mere seconds after the college basketball season ended on Monday night, every media publication raced to release its way-too-early Top 25 ranking for next season and many of them looked favorably upon the Trojans.

Here's a list of where USC men's basketball stands in the perception of the national media entering the offseason:

No. 6 The Big Lead

No. 10 Fansided

No. 11 USA Today

No. 11 Jon Wilner

No. 12 CBS Sports

No. 12 FOX Sports

No. 13 Jon Rothstein

No. 13 Sports Illustrated

No. 14 Yahoo! Sports

No. 14 NBC Sports

No. 14 SB Nation

The Trojans earned their moment in "One Shining Moment," but they'll looking for more screen time next year.

It Runs in the Family

Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

usc-mens-basketball-2017-asu-mcgillen-2327.jpgAt the end of every USC men's basketball practice, the players have to make a plethora of foul shots and jump shots before they can leave. Most guys hit their shots and then either head to the locker room or hang around with their teammates. But if you linger around, you'll see some of Southern California's finest putting in extra work, which typically includes freshman Jonah Mathews.

Mathews has a work ethic you cannot teach. The 6-foot-3 combo guard from Los Angeles came into USC with expectations to be an immediate contributor and he did just that. Mathews, who has a smooth and natural feel for the game, played over 20 minutes of action per game in his first season at USC. He was an integral part of this Trojan team that racked up 26 wins, a new program record.

While he suffered from the inconsistency that afflicts most freshmen, Mathews had his shining moments. The freshman poured in a career-high 26 points in an overtime thriller against Wyoming, and scored nine or more points in 10 Pac-12 games. Mathews has the intangibles to impact a game whether his shot's falling or not. And that's because, well, he's a Mathews.

"Jonah brings it every single day. In practice, off the court, he's a great guy to hang out with," said USC captain Jordan McLaughlin. "I played against his brother my first two years when he was at Cal. They go about it one way: when I step on the court I put in my hardest and give it my all."

That's the demeanor that Jonah and his older brother Jordan, readying for the Final Four at Gonzaga, got from their father Phil Mathews, one of the most decorated coaches in Los Angeles with over four decades of coaching experience.

"Everybody in LA knows Phil Mathews. He used to be a head junior college coach prior to being the head coach at San Francisco," said USC assistant coach Jason Hart, a Los Angeles native. "Phil's a straight forward, no nonsense guy. If you know who he is, you know what he stands for: family and basketball. You can't help but respect his body of work."

What Phil Mathews passed down to his kids from his decades of basketball experience is a strong work ethic and the ability to shoot. They're not exactly the Currys, but the Mathews family can really stroke it.

"They all shoot. Dad's good at shooting, Jordan (Mathews) is good at shooting too. Jonah shoots well. That's one of the key things," said McLaughlin.

Thumbnail image for usc-basketball-arizona-McKale-mcgillen-2017-0662.jpg
But Phil's shooting genes aren't nearly as valuable as the strong character and belief in hard work that he's passed down to his sons. That's what was appealing for USC's coaches. They weren't just getting a Top 100 high school player in the younger Mathews brother, they were getting a coach's son, and a great coach at that.

"He knew where to go at all times, he had good instincts, and good feel for the game," said Hart. "We knew that coming in, but we didn't know how far along he was. His skill set goes without saying, but his feel and knowledge of the game is strictly from being a coach's son. He knows the game of basketball. He's been a surprise and he's only going to keep getting better."

Truth be told, Jonah wasn't always a basketball player despite growing up with a coach for a father and a brother who was obsessed with the game.

"Basically ever since I was born, my dad was a basketball coach, but when I got to fifth grade I was never forced to play," Mathews said. "I hung out with my friends. I didn't really get serious about it."

All that changed, though, when Phil Mathews' career took him to the University of Nebraska to be an assistant coach in 2006.

"In Nebraska there's nothing else to do, so one day I was playing basketball in the gym with my brother. He was like, 'You should start playing. Trust me, you'll love it,'" Jonah recounted. "So I started playing and my dad brought me in and said, 'If you want to play this game, it's going to be serious. It's not going to be for fun.' And I said, 'Okay.' Ever since then, it took off and he's been coaching me through it every day."

From that moment on, Mathews' love for basketball grew stronger and stronger. Mathews said his dad taught him how to shoot before anything else. Phil worked with his kids non-stop and not even his laborious coaching schedule got in the way of developing his sons' games.

"My dad did a great job of balancing his job and helping us with basketball. We played AAU basketball while he recruited, so he'd come to our AAU tournament and watch us play," said Mathews. "Offseason is when we got to training and got in the gym. During the school year, he came to whatever game he could and after the game he'd tell us what we need to do."

It wasn't just his father, though, as Jonah learned a lot from his older brother as well.

"My brother is a true lover of the game. He would die for basketball," Jonah reflected. "Watching him play excited me and made me want to be like him. He showed me the way and I'm just following in his footsteps."

Thumbnail image for usc-basketball-arizona-McKale-mcgillen-2017-0053.jpgMathews, his siblings (two sisters and a brother) and his mother moved back to Los Angeles just a couple years after moving to the Midwest. Soon after, his father began coaching at UCLA, then moved on to become the head coach at Riverside City College, where he remains today. Jonah continued to get better year after year, ultimately developing a strong reputation as a college prospect that could really play the game. Phil Mathews' kids weren't going to fly under the radar.

"We knew we were getting a player that was going to come in, work hard and continue to get better," said Hart. "That's who he is. He's been doing that since he was really young. That's what Phil's instilled in him."

That's what makes basketball families unique. They can be your biggest fans and your toughest critics, but what's undeniable is the love they foster for the game.

"I fell in love with the game through my family, through watching my dad coach and my brother play," admitted Mathews. "Without that influence I don't know if I'd be playing today."

But Jonah is playing today, and he's starting to build his own career close to home, carrying on the family name.

"His dad trained him and his brother their whole life and now they're in college, so it's time for Jonah to keep the family legacy going," Hart said. "And he's doing a hell of a job."

Jonah might be exceeding expectations as a key contributor as just a teenager, but he's taking a moment every now and then to take in a special year. For the first time in their family's history, after all those empty gyms between Nebraska and Los Angeles, Jonah, Jordan and Phil Mathews are all competing at the college level at the same time.

"It's really surreal because I was watching my brother play when I was a freshman in high school and he was a senior," said Jonah. "For all my family members and us it was crazy to see how much we've grown, and how crazy it is to think back on how we wanted to be at this stage and now we're here."

This weekend, Jonah and Phil will have the opportunity to watch Jordan on college basketball's biggest and brightest stage at the Final Four in Phoenix. Jordan hit the key shot to help Gonzaga survive and advance out of their toughest game in the tournament against West Virginia. As he readies to rise into his sophomore year and take on a bigger role within the program, Jonah will undoubtedly lean on his family again for strength and inspiration, starting with the hopeful vision of Jordan cutting down the nets to end his college career.

Join the Team

mbb-newseasondeposits.jpgAfter a record-setting season, USC men's basketball has proven that it is a program on the rise under head coach Andy Enfield. The next step is creating an atmosphere at the Galen Center to match the energy and excitement on the court.

Click here to put down a season ticket deposit for 2017-18.

The Kid

Coming off of an impressive freshman season, USC guard De'Anthony Melton has been invited to the USA Basketball U19 Junior National Team Training Camp this summer.

Melton started 25 of 36 games for the Trojans this year, and averaged 8.3 points. His 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game ranked second on the team.

The youngest player on USC's roster was especially impressive on defense this year, racking up 69 steals -- the third most of any freshman in the nation. He ranked in the Top 20 in rebounds and assists as well.

At the training camp, which takes place in Colorado Springs, Melton will have the chance to compete for a spot on the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup Team. The 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup takes place in Cairo, Egypt from July 1-9, 2017.


State of Troy: March 2017

Each month, we interview USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann to get his take on the hot topics around Heritage Hall.

Swann on men's basketball's NCAA Tournament run...

usc-basketball-Baylor-NCAA-tournament-2017-mcgillen-Lr-7086.jpgNumber one, I thought the season was terrific. The coaches and players would like to still be playing basketball and have a run at the national championship, but when you look back at it, and you see that they won more games in a season than any other team in the history of USC men's basketball, that is a significant accomplishment. They validated their tournament selection by beating Providence and SMU despite a lot of so-called experts suggesting that they should not have been there. I think the players saw that they had a good chance to beat Baylor and be in the Sweet 16, and so as an athlete, that is why they are disappointed. They are not disappointed in their season, but they know they could have gone further. I hope they all come back and improve and get better because I think there is room for improvement. This was a great experience for them and I was pleased to have been there with them.

Swann on hiring a new women's basketball head coach...

I am very involved with this process. The base skill set requires that any candidate be able to teach, manage, organize and recruit. Beyond that, I am looking for someone who can develop and build relationships to get the most out of the team. You have to be able to reach the student-athletes individually to get them to be better people and better players. Hiring a head coach in today's environment, under NCAA and Pac-12 rules, is not as simple as it used to be because there is so much more you have to do off the court that if you are not prepared and organized, you get behind and it is tough to catch up. So, I am looking for someone who has that experience, mostly former head coaches, but we are still looking for talent, and if I believe that someone who has been an assistant and not been a head coach has that ability, I would not hesitate to bring them in and talk to them.

Swann on No. 1 women's water polo's record-setting 48-match winning streak...

To maintain that type of consistency and excellence, there are two things you need. One, you need the talent to pull it off. But, you also need a coach who can keep that team together and knows how to utilize that talent. Jovan Vavic has so many national championship trophies in his office that it is unbelievable. He is the key. He knows how to recruit and train the right student-athletes to give them the confidence and game plan to succeed. Even when his team does not play its best, they still find a way to win because of their preparation, attention to detail and technique.

Swann on No. 1 beach volleyball...

usc-beach-volleyball-2017-zuma-ucla-mcgillen-7466.jpgI have seen coaches who were driven, and I have seen coaches who were talented. Anna Collier is both. She makes it fun and fresh for her players. I was fortunate enough to see them firsthand on the beach in Malibu defeat Pepperdine and UCLA. Our young women are competitive and willing to get after it 100 percent of the time. I am looking forward to the rest of their season and I expect them to continue to do well and make history.

Swann on spring football...

The first challenge for Clay Helton is to get everybody over the fact that we went to the Rose Bowl and we won. You have to refocus. That was January, and we are now moving forward. The goal is to win the Pac-12 championship. You have to do that first, so that is what we want to get accomplished. We are trying to build the depth with our younger players to get to the level of the playoff teams like Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State. We need to be able to rotate players in without losing a level of performance and play. That's what we are striving to do, so that our backup players are not backups but the next guy ready to go in and get the job done.

Swann on the rest of the spring competition...

I am impressed by men's and women's golf, both ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Women of Troy recently won a tournament in Palos Verdes, while I watched the men dominate the field in Las Vegas. Our men's tennis team is in the top 10, while the women have hit a bump in the road, but I expect them to overcome it. Our women's lacrosse team has done very well, going back East and challenging itself against top competition. People are going to see a West Coast team in the East and say, 'I want to be there.' I really like head coach Lindsey Munday's intensity, and she is doing the right thing in terms of her schedule. I see the track and field team every morning working out. The coaches are putting them through their paces, and you can see the enthusiasm about what they have in this team. They had a good indoor season, but the goals are even bigger as the outdoor season begins. And baseball, I enjoyed watching the Trojans at Dodger Stadium, down 3-0 most of the game, come back and beat UCLA in extra innings. If they continue to play with that kind of grit, they will have a great season. Men's volleyball continues to improve, despite some key injuries, and is building for the future. As for our rowing program, they just finished their training camp and I am looking forward to their season and being on the water with them for their competitions. Overall, spring is the busiest time of year, and I think football, women's soccer and men's basketball set the tone with their high-profile success. The enthusiasm is contagious and we are excited to see it spread throughout every sport.

Photo Gallery: USC Falls To Baylor

USC men's basketball ended its exciting NCAA Tournament run last night with a tight loss to Baylor.

The Trojans' 'never say die' attitude earned them respect from fans and media members alike throughout their run, and it was on full display against the Bears Sunday night.

Check out all of John McGillen's photos from the second round matchup:

Forty Minutes of Fight

Forty Minutes of Fight

Out With A Bang

USC men's basketball ended its NCAA Tournament run tonight with a second round loss to No. 3 seed Baylor.

The Trojans fought for 40 minutes before dropping an 82-78 decision.

Catch all the highlights of USC's final game of the season here:

Survived and Advanced

Survived and Advanced

Photo Gallery: Trojans Top SMU

USC men's basketball is on a wild ride through March Madness after a thrilling, last-second victory over No. 6 SMU.

Here are the emotional photos from John McGillen:

Comeback to Back

The Trojans topped the SMU Mustangs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a thrilling last-second finish.
Here are the highlights from the game:

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