August 6, 2021
USC basketball looks to young players for improvement
Jordyn Jenkins and Madison Campbell should be ready to make a big impact
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The USC Trojans are going to look a little bit different this upcoming season.
For starters, they will have a new coach. Mark Trakh, who had been the team’s head coach for the past four seasons, announced his retirement back in April. He will be succeeded by Lindsay Gottlieb, who is returning to the Pac-12 after two seasons as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.
The Trojans will also be without Endyia Rogers and Shalexxus Aaron, both of whom entered the transfer portal. Rogers opted for Oregon and Aaron chose Syracuse. Both were promising young players who could have made a big impact on the team.
During the 2019-20 season, Rogers was an immediate starter as a freshman and was named an Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention. This past season, she was named a Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention. Aaron never really got to show her ability on the court as she dealt with lingering injuries during her time with the Trojans.
But there are a couple of players on the roster, notably sophomore forward Jordyn Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Madison Campbell, who should be ready to take another step forward and make a big impact on this team.
Jenkins came on strong towards the end of this past season, especially when it mattered most in the Pac-12 Tournament. She ended the 2020-21 regular season with a then-career-best 14 points against crosstown rival UCLA.
She followed that up with a new career high of 16 points to lead the Trojans to a win over Arizona State in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Jenkins was a highly touted recruit who missed the first eight games of the year due to injury, but she was able to catch her wind as the season went on.
The Trojans will add two players with size in the frontcourt in incoming freshmen Clarice Akunwafo and Rayah Marshall, and Jenkins believes their presence will allow her to showcase a little bit of her versatility.
“We have two freshmen that are [6’6] and 6’4; they’re pretty tall. I’m like 6’1,” Jenkins told The Next. “This will kind of help me being more of a stretch four and being on the outside and being able to get [the ball] in to bigger posts and just playing well all together.”
During her first season playing college basketball, Jenkins was able to show what made her a five-star recruit coming out of high school. She was an efficient scorer, shooting 50.7 percent from the field, and she was a solid presence on the glass as well.
Jenkins has already spoken with Gottlieb about how she might fit into the new system and she’s excited for what the new coaching staff will bring. The team showed some real promise in the Pac-12 Tournament, and Jenkins believes Gottlieb will help continue that momentum.
“I think getting a new staff definitely is going to help us playing more as a team and just playing together,” Jenkins said. “Coach Gottlieb worked with the pros. She’s going to help us … when it comes to team chemistry and everything like that.”
Campbell’s college career got off to a similar start to Jenkins’. Campbell was a solid recruit who ended up redshirting her freshman year in 2019-20 due to a back injury. She made her Trojans debut this past season as a reserve guard and showed promise to build on in her sophomore year.
The team has a couple of returning upperclassmen guards in Alyson Miura and Desiree Caldwell, but Campbell appears poised to earn a bigger role in the backcourt rotation. She’s been primarily known as a shooter, having knocked down 33.3 percent of her long-range attempts last year, but she wants to be known for more than that.
“I’m hoping to have more of a role as an all-around player rather than just a shooter,” Campbell told The Next. “I’m hoping to get more shots in general. I’m just excited … for whenever I get to play, whatever opportunity I get.”
Campbell played sparingly towards the end of the year and also missed five games with an injury. She had an impressive debut in USC’s season opener against Loyola Marymount, when she led the team with 19 points and shot 41.7 percent from three, and remained a key player in the rotation for a good portion of the first half of the season. But after the brief injury, she never really was able to crack the lineup consistently.
She still is one of the better shooters on the roster, though, and from watching the team play in the Pac-12 Tournament, she believes she can make an impact next season and has high hopes for this group.
“That first game turned out really well. We won a hard game against a physical Arizona State [team],” Campbell said. “The game against Stanford didn’t end up like we wanted, but I think we showed a lot of moments of growth within our team. I think there’s a ton of potential for this year.”
Campbell echoed Jenkins when it comes to Gottlieb taking the reins. She’s seen the immediate impact that Gottlieb has had in summer practice sessions, and that’s one of the key reasons why she can’t wait to get out on the court next season.
“She’s bringing a lot of energy and a lot of competitiveness,” Campbell said. “We’re really liking it so far. We’re excited for what she’s bringing to the team.”