Kijani Wright is making meaningful contributions to USC late in the season
The USC bench isn’t nearly as developed as it needs to be, but one player on that bench has slowly been coming along in recent weeks. Kijani Wright hasn’t made a huge splash, but he has quietly improved the outlook for this team and could become a surprisingly large key for the Trojans in March.
With Vince Iwuchukwu on a minutes restriction, Wright had to play when Josh Morgan got hurt a few weeks ago. Wright was a foul magnet, unable to stay out of foul trouble. However, he did play with energy and passion and could be relied on to grab a few rebounds. His contributions weren’t enormous, but he gained some experience and saw what he needed to improve.
Thursday, in USC’s win over Colorado, Iwuchukwu was ineffective in a short nine-minute stint. Enter Wright, who played nine minutes and helped the Trojans avoid overextending both Iwuchukwu and Morgan, who was back in the lineup and played a modest 22 minutes.
Wright scored four points and pulled down three rebounds while collecting one steal in his nine minutes. That’s not a huge statistical footprint, but in only nine minutes, it’s very impressive and valuable. Notably, Wright didn’t pick up any fouls in this game.
Against Colorado, USC and Andy Enfield gained 40 minutes from the combination of Morgan (22), Wright (9) and Iwuchukwu (9). This brings up an obvious but important point: If Enfield can rotate three bigs — Morgan, Wright and Iwuchukwu — he can get maximum energy from each player when he is on the floor. He might even be able to throw a two-big lineup at smaller teams if the situation calls for it. USC can mix and match combinations with more flexibility than in previous months, when Iwuchukwu was unable to play and Wright had no meaningful experience on the floor.
If Kijani Wright can continue to provide impactful 10- or 12-minute game appearances, and Enfield can rely on him to give the Trojans good defense and rebounding, this team’s ceiling will rise in March.
We’ll see if this backup big man retains the Wright stuff.
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