Whicker: Usher is helping USC find its voice
By Mark Whicker
LOS ANGELES — He has two box-office names and enough juice to light up a valley.
Jordan Usher gets only 13.7 minutes a game to spend what’s bottled up inside. He is saving the rest.
“The coaches told me that they’re going to work with me on my pace this summer, on my offensive game,” Usher said. “But for now they just want me to play like I’m playing. This is what I do best.”
Usher is a 6-foot-7 freshman who comes in and puts USC games on a different turntable. He is shooting 46.7 percent from the 3-point line, but the numbers can’t catch up with him. The Trojans are a fairly placid group within the 94-by-50 confines. Usher plays beyond them.
“I remember when teams didn’t have him highly rated,” said Mario Mayes, the assistant coach of his Wheeler High team in Marietta, Ga. “I said, that’s OK. Just come back and play like you normally do, like an animal.”
Usher was not supposed to be the most influential newcomer on a veteran team. He got there by playing at game speed during practices. He and Derryck Thornton, the Duke transfer who was hurt earlier, have given the Trojans depth and flexibility that they lost when DeAnthony Melton was ruled ineligible. Usher gives them personality, too. When he comes in, you watch him.
USC goes to UCLA on Saturday, to Arizona State on Thursday, to Arizona on Saturday. Its NCAA tournament chances will be clearer after that. The Trojans are 8-2 in the Pac-12 and 17-6 overall, numbers you might have expected in October, but they’ve driven through potholes to get there.
This year, college basketball is a senior tour. Virginia, Villanova and Purdue, the top three teams at the moment, didn’t lose “one-and-done” players and don’t have any now. They win on maturity and […]