Two of USC’s top three scorers decided to enter the NBA draft amid another offseason of upheaval for Andy Enfield and the Trojans, who have been through their share of upheaval in recent years.
Drew Peterson became the latest to announce his intention to leave USC, declaring on Monday his intention to enter the NBA draft, while maintaining his eligibility to return to USC this summer if he chooses.
Isaiah Mobley took a similar route last spring, impressing through the NBA draft combination process before finally deciding to return to the Trojans. Peterson is expected to follow the same path, working for NBA teams and seeking feedback from scouts before playing one final season at USC.
For Mobley, one more season was enough to convince him it was time to move on. The junior, who led USC in scoring (14.2 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) last season, announced in a social media post on Saturday that he plans to participate in the draft and hire an agent, bringing his three-year term. at an official close.
What awaits Peterson during the drafting process is less clear. But if he decides to return, he will be one of the few in the team with 26 wins from last season.
Forwards Chevez Goodwin and Isaiah White had previously made their exit plans known. Since USC fell to Miami, Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, three other scholarship holders from last season’s roster — guard Ethan Anderson and forwards Max Agbonkpolo and Boubacar Coulibaly — have left the team. Anderson and Agbonkpolo have since signed with Wyoming.
Only guard Boogie Ellis remains in the Trojans’ starting lineup last season, after a long period of speculation that he, too, was considering leaving USC.
A top-flight recruiting class, ranked sixth overall in the nation, should help ease some concerns about USC’s roster turnover as five-star center Vince Iwuchukwu and four-star forward Kijani Wright are likely to assume immediate roles.
But a lot of work should be done before next season through the NCAA transfer portal. Enfield and his team have navigated the Portal deftly in the past, adding crucial pieces in the spring and summer.
Peterson was one of those off-season additions two springs ago. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, the lanky 6-foot-9 guard has pledged to transfer from Rice to USC without setting foot on campus. He has been a crucial cog in the Enfield attack ever since.
Last season, he also took on the role of general on the ground, initiating the Trojans’ offense as a de facto point guard. Peterson averaged 12.4 points per game last season.
Although his consistency was often scattered and his confidence dwindled at times, he tended to save his best performances for the biggest moments.
Peterson sidelined UCLA in February with a career-high 27 points. He nearly played the hero again in USC’s tournament loss to Miami, scoring eight points in the final minute to just miss a buzzer-beater to even the score.