USC’s other Mobley: “Lead by example as well as use my voice!”

Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 27, 2021 – In two games, Isaiah Mobley scored 22 points in the Paycom Wooden Legacy. Not exactly the stuff of legends in a college basketball tournament.

It didn’t take long, though, to figure out who the MVP of the tournament was after USC beat San Diego State in a 58-43 victory in the championship game at the Anaheim Arena.

The 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior from Murrieta, Calif. was already a solid part of a Trojans team that reached the Elite Eight of last season’s NCAA Tournament, though he might have been overshadowed by younger brother Evan, who was the third pick in the NBA draft and is emerging as a standout with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Isaiah, meanwhile, has found his own way to emerge with the No. 24 Trojans in the 2021-22 season, and it has a lot more to do than with his performance on the court. Of course, 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in the tournament final helps, but there’s a reason why he turned aside the chance to apply for the NBA draft.

There’s a little bit of work to do with USC, which is off to a 6-0 start with Pac-12 Conference play already looming. The Trojans are searching for a way to not only make up for the loss of Evan, but point guard Tahj Eaddy as well.

“Last year, I had to lead and use my voice,” Mobley said. “My brother obviously being a huge talent, Tahj Eaddy, we had some other weapons. So it was me just trying to get the guys familiar, kind of me like being the glue.

“This year I have to lead by example as well as use my voice, still keeping the guys together but being aggressive, taking charge, especially in games like this. Being unselfish but at times, knowing when to be more selfish. Just finding that happy medium.

“I had to pick up some more of the scoring, keep the rebounding going, outside shooting, free throws as well – as you can see, I’m still working. I have that goal just to be consistent throughout the season and just keep staying strong.”

He’s part of a team that is not only one of the tallest in the country, but one of the longest. If they stretch their arms out in a straight line, they might reach from downtown Los Angeles to Denver.

Here comes the stifling defense. Here come the rebounds. Here comes the praise from coach Andy Enfield, who watched Mobley grab 23 rebounds in two games in Anaheim.

“Isaiah, he’s a great offensive and defensive rebounder,” Enfield said after USC became the first team to win the Wooden Legacy twice. “He’s got those long arms, he’s got the body and he anticipates where the ball goes. So watching him these past two games … it’s been really impressive.”

Mobley won’t knock people out with his scoring abilities, yet he knows when to strike. In a first-half defensive struggle, he knocked down a shot clock-beating 3-pointer, then helped a defense that held the Aztecs scoreless over the final 5:29 of the first half.

And he could also turn his attention elsewhere.

“One key adjustment they did was they went inside more often,” said San Diego State guard Lamont Butler, who was named to the all-tournament team. “Mobley got it going down low and it was hard to guard because we had to stay on their shooters as well. He was one-on-one down there and he made some big plays.”

Expect more from Mobley and the Trojans.

Isaiah Mobley, 2021 Paycom Wooden Legacy MVP