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Andy Enfield makes splash on recruiting circuit with assistant hires

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Andy Enfield will be immediately competitive when it comes to recruiting the West coast. (USATSI)
Andy Enfield will be immediately competitive when it comes to recruiting the West Coast. (USATSI)

Despite finishing well behind UCLA in the Pac-12 this season, USC has everything going its way right now.

With coaching jobs available at each school, both schools had chances to make major splashes in the last few weeks with their hires.

USC won the race for headlines at head coach, nabbing Andy Enfield, the red-hot Florida Gulf Coast coach who just finished guiding his team to a Sweet 16 appearance as a No. 15 seed. He also won over the nation with his “Dunk City,” fast-paced, highlight-reel of a team.

UCLA has a more established coach in Steve Alford, but it's unclear if he's truly an upgrade over Ben Howland.

Enfield has spent his first couple of weeks on the job winning press conferences and making appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Alford has been defending -- and then apologizing for -- his defense of former player Pierre Pierce while at Iowa.

And now, it's clear Enfield won when it came to hiring assistant coaches -- especially from a recruiting perspective.

Tony Bland was the crown jewel of the spring assistant coaching carousel. He's the best young recruiter on the West Coast, visible at high school and AAU games throughout the region and known to every major coach in the area. The former Syracuse player has done a terrific job at San Diego State over the past two seasons, helping them steal quality recruits from under the noses of higher-profile schools.

High school prospects know who Bland is, and he won't need to start relationships from scratch with the top players in the region.

And USC got him.

Jason Hart has been developing a reputation on the high school scene as well. He played nine seasons in the NBA after starring at Syracuse, and then he got into coaching. Within two years, he went from coaching on the AAU circuit to Taft High School (Calif.) to Pepperdine.

Because of his pro basketball history and ties to the Southern California area, he's going to be an attractive option for many of the top prospects.

And USC got him.

The biggest question about Enfield was whether he would be able to get the high-major prospects from California to come to USC. He boosted his profile during Florida Gulf Coast's run, but people wondered if his reputation would be enough to woo top players. He solved that problem with his hiring of Hart and especially Bland. Enfield will immediately be a factor in the Golden State's recruiting scene.

From a recruiting perspective, USC's staff blows away UCLA.

Gary Parrish reported earlier Tuesday that Enfield is expected to round out his staff with a familiar face: Kevin Norris, who coached at FGCU with Enfield.

Alford is obviously a bigger name than Enfield, and he's going to have to make recruiting Southern California a priority as well. He does have experience in the region, but competing with USC is going to be a much more difficult task now.

Alford hired Ed Schilling, Duane Broussard and David Grace. Schilling is a terrific workout guy and has ties to the Midwest and Adidas. Broussard came with Alford from New Mexico, and Grace has done a good job helping land players at Oregon State.

But none of their hirings had the pop of USC's staff -- and the Trojans now have a leg up when it comes to West Coast recruiting.

Midnight Madness is still six months away, but USC is getting all the attention right now.

 
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