Gold: Andy Enfield joins rarified air with Bronny James' commitment
Andy Enfield, take a bow.
On the same day as the coronation of King Charles III — not to mention the Kentucky Derby — this was a crowning achievement second to none: Bronny James made official what had been rumored for quite some time on Saturday afternoon, announcing his commitment to USC via an Instagram post.
The Trojans long ago eclipsed Oregon as the favored destination of the prodigal son, but now it is (semi) official. LeBron James’ progeny will be staying home.
Breaking: Bronny James has committed to USC, he announced on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/XuZDwLYuY6
— ESPN (@espn) May 6, 2023
Four years after securing the commitment of Evan Mobley, at one point the top-rated player in the Class of 2019, and six months after landing No. 1-ranked Isaiah Collier, Enfield cemented himself as one of the game’s great recruiters with the commitment of the Sierra Canyon guard.
Not because James is ready to lead the Trojans to the promised land.
James is a 4-star prospect, albeit one on the ascension, having moved up more than 25 spots in the national recruiting rankings after putting on some muscle and weight and consistently performing well over the last season. He is considered one of the top perimeter defenders in his class and a solid finisher.
But he is not expected to be a go-to player for USC.
And the good news is he won’t have to be.
While this news is indeed earth-shattering, a pair of other USC commitments this year also ranked as 10s on the college basketball Richter scale.
First, back in November, Enfield scored a commitment from Collier, the nation’s top prep point guard and arguably the top player overall. The Naismith Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, Collier chose the Trojans over a list that included UCLA, Cincinnati and Michigan.
Point guard Isaiah Collier, the nation's top recruit per 247, commits to USC on Instagram Live. Massive statement from Andy Enfield to close out the early signing period
— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) November 16, 2022
But when Enfield convinced star guard Boogie Ellis to return to the Trojans for his super senior season back in early April, USC did not just vault past Arizona and UCLA, it announced itself as a formidable force on the west coast.
Truth be told, they have been for some time. The Trojans have averaged nearly 24 wins over the past 4 seasons, advancing to 3 straight NCAA Tournaments, with an Elite 8 run in 2021.
But the re-commitment of Ellis, in a year when the Pac-12 is totally up for grabs for the first time in ages, was seismic for the Trojans.
Source: Boogie Ellis is returning to USC next season and will use his additional year of eligibility.
Significant Pac-12 News.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 8, 2023
Ellis averaged 17.7 points per game and shot 38.6% from deep as a first-team All-Pac-12 honoree as the former Memphis Tiger blossomed into arguably a top-three player in the conference. With league stalwarts like UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis exiting this year, Ellis could be the conference preseason player of the year.
“If you would have seen boogie last year compared to what he did this year, especially the second half of this season, it’s a really dramatic improvement,” Enfield said of Ellis before the Trojans’ opening-round NCAA Tournament loss to Michigan State. “And he spent so much time focusing on how to lead a team how to make plays for his teammates. His assist-to-turn ratio went up, his scoring went up, his shot selection became more efficient. So we have a lot of improved players. But he’s a key part because even though he’s a senior, he improved as much as anybody else.”
Between Ellis, Collier, Kobe Johnson and now James, USC is absolutely loaded in the backcourt. All four will share the floor at times, and if the Trojans can get some added production from big man Joshua Morgan, they’ll be a legit Final Four candidate.
Of course, James’ commitment means so much more than just one season, though, even if some are projecting him to join Collier as a one-and-done.
Bronny James is now a projected top-10 pick thanks to the significant jump he's made at Sierra Canyon, developing into arguably the best perimeter defender in his class while making strides with his shooting and playmaking . Full 2024 mock draft on ESPN: https://t.co/Cw5AcgxiKy pic.twitter.com/4DNo1TOtDx
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) February 22, 2023
USC has not always been thought of as a destination program, and it certainly has not drawn crowds commensurate with some of the country’s top programs. The Trojans’ average men’s basketball attendance was horrendous in 2022-23, an average of 4,160 paying customers per game, the middle of the Pac-12 and fewer than half that of its crosstown rival, UCLA.
It’s hard to imagine the allure of the Bronny Show not doubling those numbers for the Trojans next year. More eyeballs, in turn, will increase enthusiasm and institutional support for a program that has lacked it, giving Enfield even more security and ambition. If the Trojans can achieve another deep NCAA Tournament run, Enfield will solidify himself among the class of west coast coaches.
That’s the exciting thing about this commitment, for both Enfield and for USC.
James’ commitment doesn’t feel like the end of something special.
It feels like the very beginning.