LOS ANGELES, CA – USC started three freshmen in its 2019 season opener against Florida A&M Tuesday night. Two of them, Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu, entered USC as highly touted national prospects. Rounding out that group is Ethan Anderson, an L.A. City Section Player of the Year ranked as the No. 4 point guard in California by 247Sports.
“I was a late recruit, so, coming in, I knew I had to prove my worth,” he said.
In his first three games as a Trojan — one preseason and two regular season — Anderson’s made quite an impression. He starred in USC’s preseason exhibition victory over Villanova, scoring nine points on 3-of-3 shooting in 18 minutes off the bench.
“He wasn’t afraid of the moment,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said of Anderson after the Villanova game. Senior guard Jonah Mathews added, “I’d say he’s just different.”
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound point guard dunked one of his first collegiate touches, slicing down the left lane and launching off two feet after jab stepping a Villanova defender off balance.
Enfield took Mathews out of the lineup for the opener for disciplinary reasons and inserted Anderson straight into the starting five. Anderson didn’t shoot the ball well, but dished out seven assists. Mathews returned to the starting lineup Friday evening as USC beat Portland, 76-65. Anderson put together another strong performance, this time from off the bench.
“He had a really controlled game, I thought he made the right reads,” Enfield said. “He left his feet late for that second turnover, but anytime you get 10 assists in a game it’s impressive, especially for a freshman.”
Through two regular season games, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 17-4. He collected two steals in the opener. Anderson’s shooting percentage — 17 percent — is worrisome thus far, but he showed he had the ability to knock down shots in the Villanova exhibition. He was also a proven scorer in high school, averaging over 20 points per contest as a senior, a season in which Fairfax captured an Open Division Championship and compiled a 27-2 record.
His court vision and body control are excellent, highlighted even more on this particular USC roster because of the Trojans’ lack of control elsewhere on the roster. USC has no shortage of solid guard play this season, but Anderson’s done the best job of taking care of the ball through two games.
“My seniors, like Jonah [Mathews], and the coaching staff give me confidence when I have the ball to be able to make my reads and make my proper decisions,” Anderson said. “It’s a little easier when you have a lot of talent around you. I’m able to get into the paint and just find open guys.”
He’ll mature into an efficient shooter and scorer with game experience. Anderson’s explosive first step, possibly the most impressive aspect of his game, is truly something else to watch.
“The way he reads ball screens as a freshman, just different,” Mathews said of Anderson. “The way he plays hard every possession, doesn’t take any plays off. He has a complete game.”
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.