Despite bitter ending, Trojans’ season was a success

first_imgDespite a last second defeat at the hands of Providence in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the USC men’s basketball team can hold their heads high. Throughout the season, the Trojans defied expectations and returned to the national stage.Coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in the Pac-12, the Trojans were expected to once again struggle this season in a deep conference. Preseason polls projected the Trojans would finish in 10th in the conference, just ahead of both Washington schools. USC responded by winning its first five games of the season, including a stand out victory over Wichita State.The Trojans continued their hot play into early February, boasting an 18-5 record, before they started to fall off. The Trojans dropped five of their next six games and dropped in the standings. After starting the season as one of the conference’s top teams, the Men of Troy had to settle for the seventh seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. USC handled UCLA in the first round before falling to eventual runner-up Utah in the second round.After drawing an eighth seed in the NCAA Tournament, their best since 2008, the Trojans faced an experienced squad in Providence. It looked like the Trojans were going to move on and face North Carolina in the second round before a series of mental lapses allowed Providence back into the game. The Friars scored the winning basket with 1.5 seconds left after USC left a Providence player unguarded right under the basket. Junior guard Julian Jacobs missed a desperation heave and the Trojans were knocked out.The Trojans had quite a successful season, especially considering the team only had one senior. The Men of Troy boasted wins over Wichita State, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon State, all of which were NCAA Tournament teams. The highlight of the Trojans’ season may have been defeating the UCLA Bruins three times in one season. The Trojans defeated the Bruins by an average of 19 points per game and blew them out by 24 in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament.USC was one of the most well-balanced teams in the Pac-12 this season with five players averaging double-digit scoring. Jacobs and sophomore Jordan McLaughlin had breakout seasons, with the former being named First Team All-Pac-12. The duo boasted a combined average of 25.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game.Freshmen Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu contributed immediately to a team that deeply needed outside shooting and interior defense. Boatwright shot 36 percent from 3-point range and averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Metu chipped in 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while anchoring the Trojan defense.The Trojans are expected to return almost their entire roster next season. The only confirmed departure will be senior Strahinja Gavrilovic, who averaged only 2.6 minutes per game. The Trojans’ incoming recruiting class is led by four-star shooting guard Jonah Mathews. Mathews is the No. 72 overall prospect and the No. 1 shooting guard in California, according to Scout. Three-star recruits De’Anthony Melton and Harrison Henderson will also join what should be an experienced Trojan squad.After sitting out a year due to NCAA regulations, Louisville transfer Shaqquan Aaron will be eligible to play. The former Cardinal transferred to USC after a disappointing freshman year under Rick Pitino. Aaron was a four-star recruit out of Seattle. Washington and ESPN ranked him as the No. 33 overall prospect and No. 1 prospect out of Washington. Aaron will look to fill a void on the wing for USC next season.After two sub-par seasons under Andy Enfield, the Trojans took a giant leap forward this year. The Trojans set a school record by winning their first 15 home games, beat crosstown rivals UCLA three times and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. The Trojans will now look to build upon this season’s success and prove that they can continue to compete in the Pac-12. With most of their roster returning next year, expect the Trojans to make some noise on the national stage.last_img read more

Paintsil thrilled to be back in Ghana squad

first_imgJohn Paintsil is happy to have rediscovered his form of old and believes that has played a big part in his return to the Ghana setup.The Hapoel Tel Aviv defender John Paintsil is preparing with the team for the weekend’s final round qualifier against Malawi for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.Paintsil, 31, is making a return to the national team after his last outing for the Black Stars came in March this year in an international friendly against Chile.And he credits his club form for helping him win another national team call-up.“When I went to Leicester, things didn’t go well. In three years, I played one season, playing six games and that wasn’t enough and as a national team player, you need to be getting more playing time to be ready for the nation.“Playing, playing, playing and play time is what I want. And now I am happy that I have found my way and found my self with Hapoel Tel Aviv [and] playing every week, playing in Europa Cup, two or three times in a week, which is good, which is going to polish my game. Now I can see that my style of game is changing, is coming up. I am seeing myself like everyday John [Paintsil] is changing his style of play, the confidence, the fitness, everything is getting well so I am so happy,” the Ghana full-back explained. After his time off the Black Stars, Paintsil, who is closing in on a century of caps for Ghana, says he was made proud with the reception accorded him on his return.“I am very happy to get back to the [Black] Stars team,” Paintsil said.“There guys were so happy to see me and I feel so proud that I have people who were looking forward to seeing me back to the national team so I feel very happy.”Paintsil is working under Kwesi Appiah for the first time since the former Ghana international was made the substantive coach of the Black Stars and he is quick to point to the positive change that the new coach has brought on board.“I can see that the motivation and confidence is very, very high. The new coach has brought new things to the group, new technique, the training and everything has changed. And I am very happy to see that,” the Israeli-based player explained. “I believe that with this coaching aspects that Kwesi Appiah is bringing up, it will help the boys. When you come to training you will not notice who is a local boy and who is a professional [foreign-based].“This is what I wanted to see,” Paintsil added.“The love is there, they unity and the respect and discipline, I am very happy to see that.”last_img read more