USC adds Gardner to stellar class with James and Collier

Brandon Gardner, a forward who previously signed with St. John's, committed to the USC Trojans on Friday.

Forward Brandon Gardner, a four-star prospect, will add length and bounce above the rim to a freshman class built around Isaiah Collier and Bronny James. He began his official visit to the Southern California campus on May 30.

USC Trojans: Who arrived?

USC is coming off its busiest off-season in years. The Trojans’ blockbuster arrivals are undoubtedly five-star guards Isaiah Collier and Bronny James. They played against each other — in a Wheeler vs. Sierra Canyon game — at Galen Center this January.

Collier, who arrived on campus at the start of the summer after finishing school in his home state of Georgia, is widely considered the no. 1 point guard in the 2024 NBA Draft. He’s a playmaking steamroller once he gets downhill and has worked hard on his jump shot, his biggest improvement point, over the last few months.

Bronny, arguably the highest profile recruit in the history of Trojan basketball, is in consideration for the best two-way guard in his high school class. He could be a high first round pick next summer and will bring immediate value on the college court with his three-point shooting, transition play, and versatility on and off the ball.

Arrinten Page, teammates with Collier in high school at Wheeler (GA), continues filling out USC’s freshman class. The bulky 6-foot-9 forward has shown flashes of budding skill in terms of rim protection and touch, but he projects as a multi-year player for the Trojans.

DJ Rodman, son of Dennis Rodman, transferred to USC from Washington State. He is using his extra year of eligibility granted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rodman was born in Newport Beach and attended high school in the area at Corona del Mar and, later, JSerra in San Juan Capistrano. The former Wazzu man is able to rebound, defend bigger attackers, and play the 3 and the 4, which USC needed after downsizing across its roster.

Silas Demary Jr., a four-star guard, was formerly commited to the Trojans, but he requested his release in April and subsequently signed with Georgia. Demary’s father told SI All Trojans that the move was related to Demary’s expected playing time dwindling after Boogie Ellis announced his return to USC.

USC Trojans: Who left and who is coming back?

Feb 23, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; USC Trojans head coach Andy Enfield calls out in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at the CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Boogie Ellis is the Trojans’ most important returner, opting to play another year in college over pursuing the NBA Draft or other professional options.

Ellis averaged about 15 points per game in his first two seasons at USC on 38% shooting from three. A guard triumverate with him, Collier, and Bronny provides Andy Enfield with tons of firepower and playmaking. Ellis is not the most adept passer, but that’s where the other two guards will come in. He will score from the midrange and from deep.

Drew Peterson, who played 89.2% of the team’s total minutes last minutes per Bart Torvik, will be the biggest hole to fill. Peterson was trusted to start and finish possessions for the Trojans and could play multiple positions. He averaged 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers as a fifth-year senior.

Wing Tre White transferred to Louisville in somewhat of a shocking move. He is someone who will have plenty of eyes on him, as he showed real promise as a freshman. Reese Dixon-Waters, a fixture in the Trojans’ rotation his sophomore and juniors years, also moved to San Diego State. His three-pointer dipped last season, but he shot 46% (on just 50 attempts) in his second year of college hoops.

Guard Malik Thomas, who has two years left of eligibility, transferred to the University of San Francisco. Russian big Iaroslav Niagu, who signed with the Trojans last year out of the NBA Global Academy in Australia, left for Charlotte.

Importantly, the Trojans are returning Pac-12 All-Defensive Team members Kobe Johnson and Joshua Morgan. Centers Kijani Wright and Vince Iwuchukwu, as well as scorer Oziyah Sellers, will also be back. Iwuchukwu incredibly played in 14 games last season after suffering cardiac arrest in July 2022. Wright was teammates with Bronny James at Sierra Canyon.

USC Trojans: Upcoming schedule

USC will embark on a pre-season summer tour in Greece (Athens and Mykonos) and Croatia (Dubrovnik) from August 5 to 15. The Trojans will face Serbian club Mega — who developed Nikola Jokic, among other prospects from the region — in Mykonos.

Jon Rothstein also reported that USC will tip off its college season on Nov. 6 against the Kansas State Wildcats in Las Vegas.