In dire need of a point guard to replace recently graduated Jio Fontan, new USC coach Andy Enfield landed Pe'Shon Howard in June and then prayed the NCAA would grant the Maryland transfer a waiver allowing him to play immediately.
On Monday night, Enfield finally got his wish.
USC announced Howard won his petition allowing him to play his final year of eligibility next season. The Los Angeles native transferred closer to home in part to make himself available to his ailing grandmother, who is suffering from a form of cancer.
“We are happy that Pe’Shon will be able to spend time with his grandmother who helped raise him here in Los Angeles,” Enfield said in a statement released by the school. “On the court, Pe’Shon will provide leadership and we expect him to have a terrific senior season.”
It's likely Howard will start at point guard for USC since unproven freshmen are the only other options on the roster, but he'll have to show dramatic improvement to maintain his grip on the position all season.
Howard lost his starting job as junior at Maryland, averaging only 3.3 points per game in 22.8 minutes and shooting only 29.1 percent from the floor and 24.1 percent from behind the arc. He lost confidence and became a scapegoat as the Terrapins faded from NCAA tournament contention despite the presence of future lottery pick Alex Len.
There won't be nearly as much pressure on Howard at USC because expectations are low for the Trojans next year and interest is more tepid anyway on a football-crazed campus. Still, USC has a much better chance to be competitive in an improved Pac-12 next season if Howard can improve on his shooting and maintain a high assist-to-turnover ration in Enfield's high-octane system.
With talented 7-footer Omar Oraby and promising wings J.T. Terrell and Byron Wesley returning from a team that went 9-9 in the Pac-12 last season, USC has enough talent to push for a top six finish in the league. A better senior season from Howard would make that goal more realistic.