Trojans aim to improve in 2014 season

first_imgLeading the charge for the Trojans will be a pair of sophomores, captain Julian Jacobs and sharp-shooting big man Nikola Jovanovic. Both players saw a lot of time on the court as freshmen and will use those minutes to lead such a young team.Jovanovic gained some extra experience over the summer as well when he played on the Pac-12 All-Star Team. The forward played a key role on this team that competed in China; he helped lead the team to a 3-0 record by leading the team in scoring and finishing second in rebounds. Jovanovic will use his experience gained in overseas play to help lead  such a young team.“Out of all the players I’ve coached, he’s in an elite group of the right attitude and hardest working players,” Enfield said of Jovanovic.Jovanovic said his time in China helped him improve his game.“I was able to show my post moves,” Jovanovic said. “Going forward in the season, I knew I was going to be the tallest guy on my team. I was trying to be better in the post moves and also to be a more consistent shooter. I think I proved it well.”Jovanovic averaged 8 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman for USC; he started 24 games and played in all 32.The other prominent returner is Jacobs, a guard who figures to be the leader of this team. In the Trojans’ exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles, Jacobs came off the bench and stopped the bleeding after a terrible start by the Trojans, who found themselves down by 13 early. Jacobs entered the game and scored seven unanswered points to energize his teammates and get the Trojans back in the game. Jacobs has been touted as the captain of this young team and whether he starts or continues to come off the bench, he will play key minutes and lead by example throughout the season.“Leadership is by example in my eyes. Julian Jacobs is our captain right now,” Enfield said. “He played a lot of minutes as a freshman. You don’t need to be a junior or senior to provide leadership.”Jacobs averaged 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman, when he started 19 games for the Trojans.A lot of the attention coming into the season has been on the Trojans’ freshman class, which is ranked 16th overall by This freshman class is headlined by point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who is ranked 41st by McLaughlin is joined by guards Elijah Stewart and Malik Marquetti and forward Malik Martin.“Jordan [McLaughlin] is a terrific student-athlete,” Enfield said. “We’re expecting big things from him. I think he came to USC for that opportunity, to be relied upon as a freshman. He’ll have that opportunity. We’re excited for him.”McLaughlin will get the opportunity to lead the offense and show off his abilities that made him such a sought-after recruit. One of his main attributes is his ability to get to the rim, but he is also aware of the changes he has to make to his game now that he is in college.“That’s a big adjustment that I have is just working on my floaters and different types of finishes at the rim,” McLaughlin said. “You can’t just lay it up at the rim when you’ve got a 6-foot-10 guy coming across to block your shot.”Along with the four freshmen, USC also welcomes two new transfers to their roster this season. Redshirt sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt and redshirt sophomore forward Darion Clark do not have experience with the Trojans but both put up solid numbers with UNLV and Charlotte respectively in their freshman seasons. Reinhardt should be a staple in the starting lineup as he provides consistent shooting and toughness in the backcourt.“[Reinhardt] shoots the ball at an extremely high level. He’s learning how to come off ball screens, put the ball on the floor,” Enfield said. “If he can keep that up, I think with Jordan [McLaughlin], Katin [Reinhardt], the other guys we have on our roster, we should have a pretty good backcourt.”Though Reinhardt and Clark have yet to suit up for USC, they do bring in some experience through their 52 combined collegiate starts; 18 from Clark and 34 from Reinhardt. Clark should be a force off the bench for the Trojans; he averaged 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game as a freshman at Charlotte. Reinhardt  averaged 10.1 points and was second on the team with 86 assists. He also led UNLV with 65 three-pointers which helped the team to a 25-10 record and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.“I was just learning, watching a lot of film, picking the coaches’ brains — just working on everything that I haven’t been able to work on,” Reinhardt said. “Finally having a year off to just work on my game and get better, just looking at all the little things I was doing wrong and trying to improve.”Other returning members to this year’s squad include the three juniors, guards Chass Bryan and Brendyn Taylor and forward Strahinja Gavrilovic. A trio of sophomores makes up the rest of the team, guards Kahlil Dukes and Devon Pflueger and forward Samer Dhillon.This team has a tall task ahead of it if it wants to improve upon its last place finish in the Pac-12 during the 2013-2014 campaign. Defense will play a key part in the Trojans’ quest for a competitive season, something that has already been preached to the players.“Our three principles are active feet, active hands, active mouth,” McLaughlin said. “We just try to take that to the game and cause chaos.”The team takes on quite the ambitious schedule with matchups against Utah State, New Mexico and Boston College. USC heads on the road early into the season when they compete in the Charleston Classic from Nov. 20-23. Throughout the season, the Trojans are scheduled to face a potential 11 games against teams that competed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and an additional 10 games against teams that played in a postseason tournament.“The Pac-12 is an excellent conference. Reloaded this year with some very good recruits around the league and actually in coaching,” Enfield said. “That’s what we’re here for. We brought in some young, talented players, guys like Nikola [Jovanovic], Julian Jacobs, who played a lot last year as freshmen. That’s what it’s all about: competing at the highest level. We need to take that as a challenge and elevate our program to where some of the other teams in the league are.”The Trojans get to start off at home in the Galen Center on Saturday, Nov. 15 when they host Portland State. Portland State finished 17-15 last season and will return three starters to their lineup. USC won the only other meeting these two teams have ever had: 87-78 way back in 1978. Tip off for the season opener is at 7:30 p.m. The Trojan basketball team will start its season at home on Saturday as it hosts Portland State in the season opener. USC will be led by second-year head coach Andy Enfield, who welcomes a brand new group to start the year. USC only has eight returning players from last year’s squad, which finished last in the Pac-12 at 11-21 and 2-16 in conference play. The team lost its leading scorer and rebounder, Byron Wesley, who transferred to Gonzaga, and now welcomes six new players — four freshmen and two transfers. Of the team’s 14 players, there are no seniors, and the roster doesn’t feature a center. Eleven players are either freshmen or sophomores and the other three are juniors. Though the team is not all that experienced, the Trojans will look to lean on their talent to win games and compete every night.Super Serbian · Sophomore Nikola Jovanovic, who hails from Belgrade, Serbia, will bolster USC’s men’s basketball team this year. The 6-foot-11 forward averaged 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds while playing an average of 20.8 minutes per game in his debut campaign at USC last year. – Brian Ji | Daily Trojanlast_img

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