This is the second in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.
If the 2017-2018 USC Trojans had a movie title, it might be “Back to the Future.”
The program enters the season with a new-but-not-new coaching staff, a sixth-year senior, plenty of upper-class leadership and a bevy of young talent. With experience and a fresh approach, they aim to better the 14-16 overall finish they had last year, which also tied them for last place in the Pac-12, with a 5-13 showing.
One day after USC’s conference tournament first-round loss last March, coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke was let go. After almost a two-month search, the school re-hired Mark Trakh, who coached the Trojan women from 2005-2009. Senior guard Sadie Edwards said Trakh wasted no time in establishing team goals upon his arrival.
“From day one coach Trakh and our new staff were very clear about their vision for our program moving forward,” Edwards said. “I think every single day, we’re taking a step towards that goal. The foundation we’re building right now is very strong, and it’s founded on togetherness and unselfishness. Giving your best effort every day, every second. Being consistent is a big thing for them.”
Something else that is major is that senior guard Jordan Adams will be back for a sixth season, after being granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA last spring. Adams tore her ACL after playing – and starting in – only five games last season. Trakh said his return coupled with hers was ironic.
“I’ll tell you a story about Jordan,” Trakh said. “I started coaching her and she came up to me. She said, ‘coach Trakh?….you realize that you recruited me when you were a coach the first time here.’ That’s how long she’s been at SC.”
Edwards (9.2 points per game) returns to the starting five, as does senior forward Kristen Simon (14.6 points, 8.7 rebounds per game), and three others who started most games between them after Adams was out. Sophomore guard Minyon Moore (11.7 points, 3.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds per game) is poised to electrify fans again with her hustle play. Junior guard Aliyah Mazyck (6.6 points per game) and sophomore guard Ja’Tavia Tapley (5.7 points, 3.2 rebounds per game) will likely pick up where they left off, as well. Moore’s sister, senior guard Mariya Moore, transferred to USC from Louisville last spring and will sit out the year due to transfer rules, but she practices with – and helps – the team.
Also returning to the Trojans are sophomore forwards Asiah Jones and Dani Milisic, and junior forward Marguerite Effa. USC has one new international player in junior guard Candela Abajon, from Spain, and one true freshman: guard Shalexxus Aaron.
The team worked all summer and is focusing on consistency. Simon said they should not be underestimated.
“We’re ready for this year, we’re ready,” she said. “I think we’ll shock a lot of people.”