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Trojan signees Harrison Hornery and Malik Thomas shine in big games

Article written by:On3 imageadmin.usc
Kansas v USC
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 22: in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 22, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

By Rich Ruben

Two of the players who will join the Trojans this summer had big games this week. 6’10” forward Harrison Hornery led Mater Dei to a win over Trinity League rival St John Bosch on Wednesday night. On Friday night 6’4” guard Malik Thomas was a one man scoring machine but his Damien team lost to Baseline League rival Etiwanda on a buzzer beater three. Both incoming Trojans’ high school teams are ranked in the top ten in Southern California and played two other top ten teams.

Harrison Hornery Had A Big Game For The Monarchs

Mater Dei held on to beat Bosco 57-54 and Harrison led the way with 24 points. He has a very smooth shot from outside and made six threes. He uses the same form from the line and made all four of his free throws. Mater Dei remained undefeated at 17-0 and are ranked second in the Southern Section.

Harrison leads the team in scoring at over 17 points per game and leads with over 3 1/2 assists per game. He is also second on the team in rpg. The Monarchs have two other front court players who have signed with Division 1 schools and they play inside allowing Harrison to roam the perimeter on most possessions. His two teammates man the inside positions on free throws.

Originally from Australia, in the post game interview Harrison spoke with a pretty strong Aussie accent. He appears to be a leader and cheerleader by walking up to individual teammates when the ball is not in play to deliver a message or encouragement.

His game is similar to Bennie Boatwright’s game when Bennie arrived at USC. Harrison prefers to look for opportunities to take a spot up three and is less effective creating his own shot off the dribble. He is not particularly quick with the ball or getting off the floor for rebounds.

It will be interesting to see how Andy Enfield uses Harrison. He can be a matchup problem for most teams because he can shoot over smaller defenders from outside. On the other end he doesn’t appear to be strong enough to play inside on defense or quick enough to guard small forwards outside. With three returning wings and four big men (assuming Isaiah Mobley returns as expected) Harrison may find it hard to get on the court this season unless he can move ahead of Josh Morgan or Boubacar Coulibaly in the rotation.

Malik Thomas Put On A Show

Damien is now 20-2 on the season, both losses to rival league rival Etiwanda. Malik scored 17 points in both halves but it was not quite enough in the 56-53 loss. Etiwanda has several players who will likely be on Division 1 rosters in the next few years including a 6’6” guard/ small forward who is on his way to Tennessee. Malik’s team does not have near the same overall talent and for most of the game it was Malik vs Etiwanda.

Although he is listed as a combo guard by most recruiting services he did not play the point until the last six minutes when everyone knew he would be looking for his shot. He brought the Spartans back from a late seven point deficit to tie the game with 20 seconds left but the Eagles got an open three at the top of the key to win by three.

Malik is listed at 6’4” but with the poor camera angles in high school basketball he didn’t appear that tall. We’ll know for sure soon. He scored in multiple ways, tying the game on a contested three and making several difficult shots inside for 34 points, finishing 12-24 from the floor and 7-11 from the line Although he missed three four free throws in the first half he made six of seven after the break. Most of his scoring came from drives inside or on put backs after offensive rebounds.

Malik is not an uber quick guard like Remy Martin but he can change pace to get inside. He is strong, can finish after contact and has very good body control. Etiwanda played man defense but changed defenders on Malik to give him different looks though he had success against everyone. He creates his own shot, gets off the floor quickly and draws fouls.

Malik shot up the recruiting rankings in the last nine months after a tremendous AAU season followed by a big season for the Spartans and is now ranked in the top 75 nationally. He has scored over 2000 points and is the Damien all time scoring leader.

There are a couple of questions about his game. First, how well will his offensive game work in college? Will he be able to get the same shots on drives inside against bigger PAC 12 level players? His physicality, body control and ability to create shots in the air are skills that can’t be taught. He would be more dangerous if he can develop a floater from 6-8 feet to provide another option. Second, he appeared to take some plays off on the defensive end. That won’t work at USC; Enfield and staff won’t keep him on the floor without constant defensive effort.

This season the Trojans will have five natural guards in Ethan Anderson, Boogie Ellis, and the three freshman, Reese Waters, Kobe Johnson and Malik. Although there will be a lot of competition for playing time it’s reasonable to anticipate Malik to be in the backcourt rotation as a freshman and play meaningful minutes.