Bennie Boatwright provides missing piece

USC's 6-foot-10 freshman forward Bennie Boatwright provides an element that the Trojans were missing last year.

Known for their recruiting abilities, the USC men’s basketball coaching staff, led by Andy Enfield, did not disappoint with their latest class. Even though it is just a two-man class, they have brought in a solid recruiting class that will likely contribute right away for the second year in a row, .

Both freshmen Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu plan to slot into the Trojans’ rotation in some fashion immediately. Metu has the chance to be the rim protector that the team so sorely needed last season while Boatwright could quickly become a household name in the Pac-12. Not only could he soon blossom into one of the top Pac-12 freshmen this season, but he may soon be the Trojans’ top playmaker with the potential to be an All-Pac-12 performer sooner rather than later.

Boatwright is a walking mismatch. Opposing coaches are going to be wondering aloud, “Who the hell am I going to guard him with?”

He presents significant match-up problems because he is a knock down three-points shooter that stands 6-foot-10, 220-pounds. At Sun Valley (Calif.) Village Christian, Boatwright averaged 27.7 points and 13 rebounds per game, earning CIF Southern Section Division 1AA Player of the Year. When the pressure was on in the Southern Section title game, he produced a 30-and-13 night. It was just one of 10 games where he scored 30 points. He also grabbed 27 double-digit rebound performances with season highs of 50 points and twice nabbing 23 rebounds.

Boatwright showed his shooting abilities during the Trojan Tip-Off event at Galen Center last Sunday when he claimed the three-point shootout title. He bested Katin Reinhardt on the men’s side before beating Women of Troy freshman Aliyah Mazyck despite having the women’s basketball team yelling in his ear and trying to swipe at the ball while he was shooting to try to distract him.

Bennie Boatwright 3-pointer

“They’ll be great additions to our teams. They’ll be able to help us a lot,” sophomore captain Jordan McLaughlin said of the newcomers. “Boatwright can shoot the ball, so he’ll be able to space the floor out.”

And Boatwright isn’t your European big man that can only stand in the corner and shoot. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor. He has good ball handling skills, allowing him to keep defenders honest.

Those handles also allow him to go by any defender that matches up to his size. If a team tries to defend him with a tall power forward or a center, Boatwright is capable of putting the ball on the floor and getting into the lane.

So maybe teams are better suited to put a more nimble small forward on him? Try that if you want, but then Boatwright can shoot over the defender without being bothered.

“I try to be an all-around player,” Boatwright said. “But I would say shooting is my best asset. Definitely.”

For now, Boatwright is just trying to fit in with his teammates and learn all the fundamentals of Enfield’s offensive and defensive schemes. He’s searching for his exact role as he and Metu attempt to fill in the pieces that were missing last year.

“Things have been going great. I’m happy to be here just to be a part of the team and be part of this institution,” he said. “I love all of my teammates. It’s fun being with them. They accepted me into the program, so it’s fun.”

The freshman forward said he’s hoping to provide “a new spark, a new energy to the team.” His outside shooting should do just that after the Trojans shot just 32.9 percent as a team last season. Katin Reinhardt is the only player returning that shot better than 35 percent on the season and he had plenty of struggles throughout the year as he tried to be the go-to-guy on the perimeter when USC needed a 3-pointer late in games.

An added weapon on the wings should make the Trojans’ offense more effective all around. Defenders have to play the wings more honest and in late-game situations can’t necessarily go flying out at Reinhardt or another shooter because an extra pass or two could result in an open look for Boatwright.

“We didn’t have a guy that could play that four position and pick and pop last year to stretch the defense,” Reinhardt said. “That adds a huge, huge piece to our team.”


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