Unwilling to finish his college career without ever playing in the NCAA tournament and unsure rebuilding USC would improve enough to be in contention next season, Byron Wesley decided to transfer last week in hopes of latching on with a winning program.
So far it appears the 6-foot-5 senior-to-be will have plenty of options.
Dozens of high-profile coaches from across the nation have called to express interest in Wesley during the past week alone. He is still in the process of setting up in-house visits for later this week but he has tentatively whittled his list to eight prestigious programs: Cincinnati, Baylor, Indiana, Providence, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State.
"It's really exciting," Wesley said. "I didn't get to go through this experience when I was in high school since I committed so early to USC my junior year. Now that I'm really getting a chance to hear from a lot of the schools I always dreamed of going to, it's a blessing."
The torrent of interest in Wesley is no surprise considering he is coming off a strong junior season and he will likely be eligible immediately at whichever school he chooses. Wesley, who averaged a team-high 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds for USC this past season, is on pace to earn his psychology degree this summer and would not have to sit out a season if he is able to graduate.
It may take Wesley a few weeks to select a new school because he plans to use this week's set of in-house visits to help him determine which schools he wants to go see in person. Wesley said he has no favorites at this early stage in the process, but his father gives a slight nod to Gonzaga, Pittsburgh and Michigan State at this stage because those three schools are best set up to win next season and have playing time available.
"My favorite right off the top is Gonzaga," Byron Wesley Sr. said. "They have a lot of seniors back next season and speaking with the coaches I know they have a need for his skill type.
"I think Pitt is definitely intriguing because they have a mature nucleus coming back and they know what they need as far as a player they can slot right in to help them. And Michigan State, they always compete at a high level every year. They're losing both their starting guards, but they have other pieces coming back. So right off the top, those are the three that stand out to me, although my favorite would probably be Gonzaga."
Any program with available playing time at wing could benefit from landing Wesley. The three-year starter at USC needs to take better care of the ball and be more consistent from behind the arc, but he excels at attacking the rim, scoring from different spots on the floor. Plus, he's a capable perimeter defender and an excellent rebounder for a guard.
Wesley's decision to leave USC is a short-term setback for a Trojans program that won only two Pac-12 games in Andy Enfield's debut season. There is longterm optimism for the Trojans thanks to the arrival of former UNLV guard Katin Reinhardt and a strong recruiting class highlighted by guard Jordan McLaughlin, but it's difficult to envision the Trojans climbing into the upper half of the Pac-12 without any seniors on their roster.
A previous report suggested concerns about playing time influenced Wesley's decision to leave USC. Both he and his dad scoffed at that idea, noting Wesley has started for USC since he was a freshman and insisting that the presence of Reinhardt and McLaughlin actually made returning more appealing because it gave the Trojans a better chance to be more competitive next season.
"He really enjoyed going to school at USC, but he didn't think USC would be able to compete at a really high level next season," the elder Wesley said. "He saw it as another rebuild with young players coming in. He knows the conference well and he understands what wins. He didn't feel like USC would be horrible or anything like that but he didn't feel like they were an NCAA team."
Added the younger Wesley, "I think USC is definitely headed in the right direction. We made some strides even this year. We struggled in the Pac-12, but I still think Enfield is going to do a really good job bringing in his recruits and getting his teams to play the style he wants. I just think next year they'll be really young and I had to do what's best for me."
Now Wesley turns his attention away from USC and toward finishing his degree and finding a school that's an ideal fit.
Distance from home is not a concern for him. He simply wants a program that is set up to win next season and will give him a chance to contribute to that.
"My main focus is finding a program that has a culture of winning first of all and second of all is still going to let me come in and be a big part of the team," Wesley said. "I want to show on a national stage that I can compete with the best players in the country."
- - - - - - -
- Sports & Recreation