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Andy Enfield has his team, but wants more

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first_imgAndy Enfield knew things would be different as early as last August, when the men’s basketball team took a trip to Italy and went 4-0 in three exhibition games and a scrimmage.Then they came back to prepare for the season and Enfield grew even more confident.“In the preseason we had a couple of scrimmages and liked what we saw as far as the commitment of our players to being a team, to sharing the ball offensively, to playing team defense, to really having an attitude and a commitment to putting the team before themselves as individuals,” Enfield said.The pieces are starting to come together for USC in Enfield’s third season, with the team sporting a 17-5 record and a 6-3 mark in conference play, good enough for second in the Pac-12 conference.Regardless of how this season ends, it will be a vast improvement from the 23-41 overall record from the previous two seasons, where the Trojans managed just five conference wins combined and a mere .500 record at home. This season, the Men of Troy are a perfect 13-0 at home — the first time that has happened since 1943.“We’re excited that we’re competitive this year,” Enfield said. “We know we can win games. We didn’t make goals before the season — how many games we wanted to win or how many league games or out-of-conference. We just decided to focus on the process versus the results.”Seeing results as the process moves along is a bonus. It hasn’t always been this way for USC, where basketball is generally an afterthought and the Galen Center is more often than not half filled during games. The last time the Trojans won their conference was more than 30 years ago. They’ve had two Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past half-century and last made the Final Four during the Eisenhower administration.But Enfield makes it clear that there is much work to be done.“We have a long way to go,” he said. “We’re young. We have one senior on our roster. All the players have room for improvement —— significant improvement. As a team, we can get a lot better.”That senior, Strahinja Gavrilovic, is averaging 1.6 points and hasn’t played in the last nine games. Suffice to say, the Trojans are still young, raw and learning how to embrace a winning culture.“When Andy Enfield came to USC he made a conscious decision to build the program from the bottom up, bringing in high-level recruits and developing them for the future,” the Trojans’ 2015-2016 media guide reads. “The belief is that the future is now.”In other words, don’t judge Enfield by the 5-31 conference record in his first two seasons. Start judging him now, with his recruits, his team and his system running in full force.“We didn’t have a time frame,” Enfield said, when asked if he thought it would take a couple of years to start winning. “Our goal as a coaching staff was to try to come in and make this a better program every week, every month we were here. We continually try to do that.”Enfield came to USC from Florida Gulf Coast, where he had coached just two seasons, but burst onto the national scene when the Eagles — nicknamed “Dunk City” — went on an improbable run in the NCAA Tournament in 2013, becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen.He was immediately hired at USC to transform a struggling program that was going through its second coaching change in a year.But the Cinderella magic in Florida wasn’t going to transfer to California, at least not right away. The chemistry wasn’t right and it showed on and off the court. The Trojans finished last in the Pac-12 with just two conference wins in Enfield’s first season.“My freshman year we had a lot of negative energy with certain players and so it seemed just strenuous,” junior guard Julian Jacobs told the Los Angeles Times last month. “There were multiple times during my freshman year when we really didn’t want to come to practice because we were in last place and guys didn’t really get along.”Enfield understands the frustration but lauds his players and coaching staff for staying the course, even through some rough periods.“Whenever you first start something, you go through some down times,” Enfield said. “You have failures and you hope the successes come later. Sure, it’s not fun losing a lot of games but our players and our staff have not lost sight of our main goal. Sometimes it’s not fun to go through the process of getting better. There’s frustration that sets in. Everyone wants to be a champion as soon as possible, and it doesn’t always work like that.”Enfield praised Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, both juniors, for playing key roles into committing to the process. Because of that, Enfield and his staff have been able to build around them in their two recruiting classes with a few standout additions in sophomore Jordan McLaughlin in 2014 and freshmen Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu this season.One sign the environment has changed is the camaraderie on the team. Instead of being a toxic environment, practice is now something everyone looks forward to.“The last thing you want to do as a player or a coach is show up to practice and be miserable,” Enfield said. “We’re on the other side. We really enjoy it.”But Enfield makes it clear that the team’s work is far from over. He doesn’t want to send the impression that the team “has arrived” or “accomplished something” because he doesn’t believe they have. He acknowledges the upset over No. 20 Wichita State, the four-overtime signature victory against No. 7 Arizona and the convincing win at UCLA, but he is careful to note that nine conference games remain, and each opponent is only worth one win or loss.What he will say, though, is that he is proud of his players for being committed and building a winning team culture, working toward the same objective.“Our players want to be great,” Enfield said. “They want to have something special. It’s not hard when you have a goal that everyone wants. You just have to figure out how to get there.”last_img read more

Backup linebacker suspended indefinitely

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first_imgRedshirt senior defensive end Jabari Ruffin has been suspended indefinitely for a student conduct issue, head coach Clay Helton announced on Sunday.On Monday, his name was taken off USC’s football roster on its website. Ruffin is the third football player to be removed from the team this season after Osa Masina and Don Hill were disciplined in September for their alleged participation in a sexual assault incident.Helton told the media on Sunday that Ruffin’s status was ambivalent. “I don’t have a crystal ball on when or if he could return,” he said.A backup linebacker, Ruffin has made one career start in four seasons at USC. He has appeared in six games this season — including in Saturday’s win at Arizona — and recorded two tackles. He primarily played on special teams and on defense backed up junior Uchenna Nwosu at linebacker. On the depth chart, junior Olajuwon Tucker will take the place of Ruffin. Ruffin was suspended for the first half of the Utah State game earlier this season after he stomped on an opponent’s groin in the season opener against Alabama. He also had to write a letter of apology.In a statement after the September incident, Helton said there would be “zero tolerance” for Ruffin in the future. “Jabari is a good kid who made a poor emotional decision,” Helton said at the time. “I am sorry as the head coach, [and] he is also. I know that it will not happen again.”last_img read more