USC Is Building A Super Team

WHN | May 21, 2024

LOS ANGELES – When you think of the University of Southern California women’s basketball, a few names come to mind….

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LOS ANGELES – When you think of the University of Southern California women’s basketball, a few names come to mind. Maybe Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie, and Cynthia Cooper just to name a few. The Trojans, known back then as a power house program, filled with stars in the heart of Hollywood. I mean, the program was known for its dominance so much that HBO has a documentary based on them titled “Women of Troy.”

The documentary highlights star players from the 80s and 90s. Of course the 80s was where they won their only NCAA Championships {83,84}. The Trojans haven’t made a consistent NCAA Tournament appearance since the 90s, and twice in the early 2000s. Now, Coach Gottlieb, affectionately known by players as “Coach G” is working on bringing the winning culture back to Troy.

“I feel like one of the challenges was to bring it back {culture}, but also to do it in a modern way. These players today get to be themselves”

Gottlieb panned over to a mural that is in her office of what she calls the Mount Rushmore of USC women’s basketball. The players displayed are Pamela and Paula Mcgee, Cherly Miller, Lisa Leslie, Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson.  Something she wanted to do to remind herself of how great the program has been, and can be again. Of course with landing the number one recruit in the 2023 class in JuJu Watkins, the culture is finding its way back.

Ticket sales and attendance have been at a high, celebrities have been spotted courtside, and JuJu has been living up to the hype. Watkins currently holds the record for the most points scored by a freshman women’s college basketball player. It seems that JuJu came at the perfect time. Last season the Trojans made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014, and they were able to continue rolling this season. 

Coach G’s incoming freshmen are the no.1 recruiting class in the country after signing 5 ESPN top 100 caliber players, with the highest recruit in the class being no. 6 Kennedy Smith. That’s not all the Women of Troy have happening next season, they’ve also gotten some huge names in the transfer portal. Former Stanford standout, and Katrina McClain Award winner KiKi Iriafen has committed to USC, as well as former Oregon State Beaver Talia Von Oelhoffen.

“People are lining up to want to play with her because she’s a winner. She’s a humble superstar. They see what LA is and what USC is and what it could be.”

The team announced that they’ll face the UCONN Huskies in December for a rematch of this year’s elite 8 matchup, where the Trojans fell 80-73.

This season’s conference opponents will look a little different, as USC will head to the BIG Ten after the Pac 12 shutdown. Oregon, UCLA and Washington will also head to the BIG Ten. Gottlieb mentioned that she found out about the conference change just 15 minutes before it was announced to everyone else. Although she says she’s sad to see such a great conference go, she’s looking forward to the positive things like national coverage for her team, something that wasn’t as accessible before. 

“We intend to come into a new conference with humility for what these other programs have done and how good they are. But come in and raise the level, and be a team that others have to come and contend with.”

The Trojans are busting narratives across women’s basketball, and it’s really huge because they’re doing it in Hollywood. Gottlieb says she’s excited that people are paying attention to women’s basketball.

“I think the biggest lesson is, magic can be made when everyone’s aligned and you have the right people.”

Fight On!

Brandolyn Hellams is a journalist and producer in Atlanta, who covers sports and entertainment.

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