Isaiah Mobley looks to provide leadership for USC

Playing college sports during a pandemic may be the strangest time for any student-athlete at the moment. However, they might not have to traverse into the unknown alone. For one USC men’s basketball player, playing hoops during this time gives him a real opportunity to emerge as a leader.

Isaiah Mobley will be wearing the USC uniform once again but this time he will be having more of a leadership role for the young Trojans. An added bonus for Mobley as he seeks to lead the Trojans is the fact that he’ll have a chance to mentor his brother, incoming freshman Evan Mobley. The younger Mobley was the No. 1 recruit to come out of California, according to 247Sports. He was also ranked as the No. 4 power forward in the country.

If that wasn’t enough to think about, the two brothers will be playing under the watchful eye of their father, Eric Mobley. Eric Mobley is the assistant head coach for the USC men’s basketball program.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Isaiah Mobley said on playing with his brother. “I’m looking forward to everybody seeing how well we match and play well together. I’ve always enjoyed playing with him and I’m sure he’s enjoyed playing with me as well.”

Isaiah Mobley is one of only three players returning with playing experience at USC and is stepping up as a vocal leader for the team. Since he got to play last season, the eldest brother has been sending a message to Evan and the rest of the team to not take things for granted, motivating them to give it all they got. 

USC forward Isaiah Mobley is taking on a more leadership role this season for the Trojans. Photo by Mark Hammond

“Getting this opportunity is great and for me to get to play last season, getting cut short, I was really trying to express to him and the rest of our guys that each game could potentially be our last game,” Isaiah Mobley said. “It’s even more meaningful, makes me cherish these moments even more, and makes me want to play even harder. I’m extremely excited about it and I think we will be very successful this year altogether and individually as well.”

On a personal level, the Mobley brothers appreciate each other’s company and have a good connection which should mean great chemistry on the court. They spend a lot of time together as they live with one another at the moment in an apartment with teammates.

“We have a great relationship,” Evan Mobley said. “Most of the time we are always together going places. Anywhere, we are usually together. Sometimes we veer off or go somewhere else on our own, but it just depends on what we are doing, but most of the time we’re together.” 

From a basketball standpoint, it has been a while since the two shared the court at Rancho Christian School in Temecula, Calif. Evan Mobley said he is ready to ball out with his brother again.

“[Isaiah] has grown as a leader,” Evan Mobley said. “He’s leading our team really well this year because we don’t have a very old team. All of our vets are sophomores, so I feel like he is leading our team very well. I think he did a good job at coming and being a solid leader on and off the floor.”

Being a freshman on a team is not always an easy task, yet Evan knows Isaiah has his and the team’s back.

“We mess up on stuff because we’re freshmen,” Evan Mobley said, “But [Isaiah] does a good job of coming back and being a solid leader for us on and off the floor.”

USC men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield sees the growth in Isaiah Mobley’s leadership undertaking. 

USC opponents will get double their trouble this season when Isaiah Mobley (15) teams up with his younger brother, Evan Mobley, on the court. Photo by Mark Hammond

“Isaiah has made a big jump in his leadership skills, capabilities and leads by example,” Enfield said when speaking with News4usonline. “He plays hard, he’s practicing hard, he vocal at times when he needs to be. So we are looking forward to him being a leader for us all year. “We’re excited to see what Isaiah will do for us this year. He makes so many winning plays, he’s very unselfish, a great passer just like his brother Evan.”

One thing Enfield does like about Mobley’s play right now is his “uncanny ability” to size up the opposite big he is playing against but also seeing where the guards will be on the perimeter and making the right decisions with the ball. 

Isaiah looks to improve in guarding all five positions, shooting the ball at a consistent rate around the arc and the free-throw line. 

Enfiled hopes Isaiah will make a “huge jump this year” and replace what Nick Rakocevic did for them previously. 

“We think Isaiah will be much more productive than he was last year from points per game, rebounding, and blocked shots,” Enfield said.

Isaiah played in all 31 games last season (eight starts) for the Trojans and averaged 6.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. He scored in double figures six times and four times was within one rebound or one basket of a double-double.

Enfield likes that both brothers and the rest of the team want to play physical. Isaiah Mobley, however, doesn’t just rely on brute strength to rough it up in the paint. His knowledge of the game gives him a physical presence, Enfield said.  

“You don’t have to be big and bulky to be physical,” Enfield said. “Isaiah has a year of college experience, so he has been in the weight room.”

The whole USC program has to wait to practice together due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state, but Mobley is certain that the team will manage and quickly gel before the season.

“We’re just trying to make sure all the guys are up to speed,” Isaiah Mobley said, whose points per game last year made him USC’s leading returning scorer. “We kind of started late being in L.A. with COVID and all that stuff so we’re just trying to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, they know our principles offensively and defensively and give us the best shot to be successful this season.”

So far, so good. Evan Mobley scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his debut as a Trojan in USC’s 95-87 win against Cal Baptist at Galen Center. Big brother Isaiah came through with 14 points and 10 boards in the Trojans’ season-opening win.

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