Five basketball players to watch this year

Junior forward Alissa Pili missed 10 games with an injury last season, but still averaged 11 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. (Peter Gastis | Daily Trojan Horse)

Women’s basketball is back in training for the 2021-22 season under new head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. As the season approaches, here are five of the most important players set to make an impact this season.

Graduate student striker Jordan Sanders

USC will once again welcome 2020-2021 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention Jordan Sanders, who averaged 11.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 20 games last season. Sanders has doubled the scores in 11 games, including a nine-game streak with 10 or more points. She will be a cornerstone of the team’s veterans on the low block and a likely starter.

Junior striker Alissa Pili

Another honorable All-Pac 12 last season and the 2019 Freshman Pac-12 of the Year, Pili is entering his third season at USC. Even though she missed the first 10 games of last season with injury, she still averaged 11.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. In Pili’s Freshman of the Year campaign, she averaged 16.3 points and 8 rebounds per game in 31 games. Pili will be a likely starter in the backcourt and has the potential to be a main scorer for the Trojans.

Clarice Uche Akunwafo first year center

Second classified center in the country for the 2021 promotion, Clarice Uche Akunwafo is the most anticipated Trojan recruit this year. She averaged 20.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game during her junior year at Rolling Hills Prep and shot 56 percent from the ground. Akunwafo was a key player in three regional title races as well as a California State Championship. While there are other team veterans who will face off for minutes in the frontcourt, Akunwafo has a high ceiling and can impact play on both sides of the ball.

First year guard / striker Rayah Marshall

ESPN’s No.27 player in the 2021 class was first-year guard Rayah Marshall. Hailing from Los Angeles, Marshall has a good height at her position at 6’4 “, creating gaps for opposition defenses. She has averaged 23.7 points per game in her senior year. The Boy Scouts described it as having “extraordinary potential”, and Marshall has room to become a long-term play for the Trojans.

Graduate student guard Tera Reed

Reed is also entering his first season at USC as a graduate transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University. Named third-team All-Atlantic 10 last season, Reed averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. She was VCU’s top scorer in her first year and second year. Reed was also an 82.8% free throw shooter, which should help increase the team’s average by 74%. His collegial background will come in handy for a USC team with a mix of veterans and young talent.

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