On the way . . . Chimezie Metu

The question for 6-10 Chimezie Metu is what does the No. 44 prep player bring to USC hoops and when does it get here?

It seemed like a good idea.

USC basketball fans -- you know who you are -- have bailed a bit and are looking to next year already for the again under-water Trojans. And hey, with a couple of 6-foot-10 signees, both ranked among the top 56 players in the country by Scout.com, won't that finally get USC hoops over the hump next season?

So why not catch one of them, Chimezie Metu, this week and get a sense of what's coming Galen way. He's No. 44 in the nation, a 210-pound former soccer player who lived in Nigeria until the sixth grade now playing for Lawndale. And as luck would have it, he was going against another Top-50 guy, 6-11 Chance Comanche of Beverly Hills High this week.

But here's the problem and Lee Corso has the perfect line for it: "Not so fast my friend."

And maybe that's our fault. We're looking at that No. 44 ranking and his size and athleticism and thinking this is one of those kids Kentucky wouldn't be all that out of line recruiting. They recruit players ranked below 44.

And they can play right away. One and done it is for some of them but what a good one they give the Wildcats. But that's not always the case. And as Scout.com's West Coast basketball guy Josh Gershon describes it, there are no instant stardom guarantees attached to the ratings. A No. 44 means they think that Chimezie has the talent level and ability to be a productive Pac-12 player at a fairly high level although with no time frame necessarily attached.

But as we watched and wondered, and as the Arizona-bound Comanche dominated a come-from-behind Beverly Hills effort with an energetic 26 points and 17 rebounds, Metu may have a way to go to make that impact when USC most needs him -- Year 3 of the Andy Enfield Era.

That's because there are some things to get used to watching him. But then you also have to get used to a game in the half-underground giant 1920's Quonset hut that is the Beverly Hills gym with its flourescent lighting and a game played in significant shadows. Or young fans in the lower rows recharging their cellphones during the game from the outlets on the floor.

But the first play intrigues you as you're still wondering why Metu, an explosive leaper at times, doesn't jump center for Lawndale. The first time Metu gets the ball, he swoops past the basket and then from behind the backboard as an afterthought almost, flips a lefthanded floater that somehow goes in. Dr. J anyone?

More like Dr. No from that point. It's truly the only memorable thing Metu does in the first quarter and he's out of the game to start the second. By the finish, which has Beverly Hills rebounding from a 40-29 deficit for a 57-56 win, Metu will score 14 points with six rebounds.

For long periods, the game doesn't go through Metu. He's as much an observer as you are, it appears. He does hit a late three to get it to 57-56 but in the final 16.7 seconds, when Lawndale has the ball and a chance to win, Metu doesn't see it, touch it, demand it or rebound it. In fact, the ball doesn't come to his side of the floor, even.

At the other end, Comanche, ranked two spots below Metu at No. 46, got it, demanded it, made one low-post double move to score and get fouled after another, several in front of an excited BHHS fan base screaming "Overrated" at Metu.

"I think that game is an aberration," Gershon says. He'll be there for their rematch in a couple of weeks to see for sure. But he understands. Metu hasn't been playing basketball all that long and at Lawndale, they had him playing guard despite his size, when he started out. And that's the good news in a way.

He's comfortable with the ball in his hands. He likes to pass it. Maybe to a fault. And he'll admit that's who he is.

But he doesn't always meet the pass in the post. And with a 6-footer defending him, you'd think that would be automatic -- to post him up and get him the ball. But it's not.

"We couldn't make the plays when we had to," he says after the game. "I wasn't making myself available to the ball. I need to get better at that."

Metu has seen most of USC's home games this year and thinks he can help. "I see myself as a 3 of 4," he says, not a post player down on the blocks despite his occasional explosive shot blocks down low or sensational two-hand slam on a half-court lob in traffic.

But those moments were the exception. He jumps well but doesn't always quite get to the rebound, for example, but looks good trying.

"I like to get it in the mid-post area and face up," he says. "If they drop off me, I can shoot the jumper" but he'll put it on the floor and go with it if they come out on him. He has a decent touch, hitting on six of 10 including the late three.

"I probably have to be more active on offense," he says of the loss that Lawndale (11-7) shouldn't have suffered. And at 210 pounds with good quickness and hands and the occasionally explosive leaping, he thinks he can help USC right away -- and could help them now if called on.

"I do think I can," he says. And he's strong enough to play against Pac-12 players at his current weight, he thinks. "I don't think they're not big enough," he says of the problems USC's inside guys are having in the Pac-12 games like against UCLA when they were outrebounded 41-20.

His classmate next season, Bennie Boatwright, is considered among the best big man shooters in the country. And that will help for sure.

But it's quickness and athleticism USC needs, Metu agrees, from the big guys. And with his soccer skills, he thinks he can bring some of that.

But can he bring it right away -- and for the whole time he's on the floor? Those are the questions.

And as they say, the jury is very much still out right now.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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