USC is so good that McDonald’s All-American Charles O’Bannon Jr. might not even start for the Trojans, and they are so tall that the 6’6″ guard has a whopping 5 teammates who are 6’10” or bigger. 1 of those star forwards is Bennie Boatwright, who declared for the draft in April before deciding to return to campus. Despite missing half the season due to a variety of injuries, he still scored 15.1 PPG last year including a career-high 24 PTS in a 4-PT win over Providence in the NCAA tourney. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Bennie about making free throws and his general health.
Growing up your father Bennie Sr. served in the LAPD and brought you and your siblings to a gym at 6AM to take 500-1000 shots each morning: how much of an influence has he been on you either on/off the court? Words cannot describe how much he means to me: he has been there for me each and every day.
You play for Coach Andy Enfield at USC: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have learned from him? He is a great guy first and foremost who cares about his players. He has been around the sport for many years and is a guru when it comes to X’s and O’s.
In the 2016 NCAA tourney you scored 11 PTS but Rodney Bullock made a layup with 1.5 seconds left in a 1-PT win by Providence: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career, and how sweet was it to beat them in the rematch last March? That was the toughest loss of my career because we were up the whole game until losing at the buzzer. We battled back in the 2nd half last March and it felt good to beat them.
In the 2017 NCAA tourney you scored 16 PTS/4-9 3PM in a 4-PT loss to Baylor: what did you learn from that game that can help you this year? I learned a lot of things from that game. I knew that I had to get stronger when playing against guys like Johnathan Motley: he was a beast.
You shot 73.8 FT% as a freshman but improved that to an outstanding 90.7 FT% as a sophomore (including a streak of 34 in a row): what is your secret for making FTs? Just staying loose and concentrating. My dad always tells me to hold my follow-through.
Last April you declared for the draft and then withdrew your name a few weeks later: why did you declare, and why did you return? I wanted to get some feedback from NBA scouts and was going to go through the process, but thought it would be better to return because we can make a good run this year.
Your godfather Francois Wise was an All-American basketball player at Long Beach State: who is the best athlete in the family? That is a tough 1 but you know that I have to go with myself! We have a pretty athletic family: my dad played at Oregon for a year and my little brother is coming along as well.
You missed 17 games last year due to a variety of injuries: how is your health at the moment? I am feeling great: this is the best I have felt during my career and I worked extremely hard this summer.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against Vanderbilt/Texas A&M/SMU/Oklahoma: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? There are a lot of great teams out there and those are all big-time schools, as well as Miami in the Diamond Head Classic.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We will take it 1 game at a time but we are expecting to win the Pac-12 title and contend for a national title. We are focusing on winning games and I think that this is our time.