Vince Iwuchukwu makes USC basketball debut with family in attendance versus Colorado

There had been some speculation earlier this week that Vince Iwuchukwu, the latest elite USC big man to be successfully recruited by Andy Enfield, might be medically cleared to play for Saturday’s game against Utah.

A Trojan surprise emerged Thursday night against Colorado.

Iwuchukwu was given the green light to play against the Buffaloes. Without much of any advance publicity, Iwuchukwu made his debut in the Galen Center and received a standing ovation from the crowd when he made his appearance.

This first game for Iwuchukwu at USC was not important for any stats or team contributions. The main triumph — and purpose — of this game was that it marked Iwuchukwu’s recovery from cardiac arrest in July. One wondered if the five-star big man would be able to play this season. Clearly, he made medical progress and satisfied doctors who established a set of guidelines and protocols for him to follow.

Iwuchukwu played five minutes against Colorado, essentially getting his feet wet in a slow process which should not create any expectations of instant, large-scale production. Iwuchukwu is being thrown into the middle of the Pac-12 schedule. He isn’t getting any cupcake games against Long Beach State or Cal State Fullerton in which he can play with comparatively less pressure. Each Pac-12 game is hugely important for the Trojans as they try to improve their NCAA Tournament odds. It’s a juggling act for Andy Enfield as he tries to get Iwuchukwu integrated into the rotation and the flow of the season while not overly disrupting the roster balance and chemistry this team has established.

USC obviously needs Iwuchukwu’s size, defense and rebounding, but getting him into the flow of a Pac-12 season could cause disruptions. Each game USC can win while Iwuchukwu gains more experience is a real step forward. Consider the Colorado game the first step in this complicated journey.

The best part of Thursday night: Iwuchukwu’s family was able to be there supporting him, an emotional moment for a family which endured the trauma of seeing Vince suffer in July:

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USC’s next game is Saturday night against Utah. Iwuchukwu will face another minutes restriction, but merely being able to play basketball — after all he has been through — is a signifcant and wonderful development for him and his family.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire