As much as the Trojans would have liked to add Shabazz Muhammad and Alex Oriakhi to the basketball roster for 2012, it just wasn’t in the cards, as expected. Shabazz signed with UCLA on Wednesday, while Oriakhi chose to transfer to Missouri on Friday.
Shabazz is going to be a game changing player across town for UCLA, but for as riveting as his play has been against high school and AAU opponents, he’s not the savior of UCLA hoops. And, more importantly, he wouldn’t have been USC’s savior either.
Need proof? Look to none other than
O.J. Mayo and DeMar DeRozan, who were two very good Trojans but combined for a 1-2 record in the NCAA Tournament and left the Trojans without a solid footing after their one-and-done years.
O.J. Mayo scandal cost the Trojans a chance at taking advantage of the brief success of the two Trojan superstars, but it’s not an explanation for USC’s Class of 2009, which saw the Trojans sign just one player, the two-star Evan Smith.
Smith signed his letter of intent before Tim Floyd resigned in June of 2009, so the Trojans went from back-to-back years with top recruits, to winning a Pac-10 title, to signing one two-star recruit. Yes, that happened. Elite programs would have never let that happen.
When you look at all of the success the Trojans had in the last decade plus, they did it without elite talent giving USC a lopsided roster. The 2001 team got to the Elite Eight with Brian Scalabrine, Brandon Granville, David Bluthenthal, Sam Clancy, Desmond Farmer, the Craven twins and even Rory O’Neill. That team had incredible depth, when you compare it to this past season. Then again, USC has more running backs than healthy basketball players, but that’s beside the point.
The 2007 Trojans that had North Carolina on the ropes in the Sweet Sixteen had a powerful trio of Nick Young, Lodrick Stewart, Gabe Pruitt, and Taj Gibson, among others. Again, they had depth.
So the point is, that having one star one-and-done player has yet to turn around any program and take them to the national title, or making a program like USC, relevant on the national stage for a prolonged period. Kentucky does it with whole teams full of one-and-dones, while USC has only got lucky with two players, in back-to-back years, striking out since.
With the return of Jio Fontan and incoming transfer J.T. Terrell, the team that Kevin O’Neill has assembled for 2012-13 is easily the most talented team he’ll have at USC, considering that the Trojans have settled with a smattering of good players, than going for one or two future NBA prospects. Will they win a national title? No. But, they’ll have a solid team, depth and experience. And you know what? That wins games, just ask Roy Williams.