Freshman Kevin Porter Jr. will bring his athletic talents to the men’s basketball squad in their upcoming season. (Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)The 2018-19 USC men’s basketball team has a lot of production to distribute. With the departures of starters Chimezie Metu, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, there are plenty of holes to fill on the roster.However, all is not lost. USC has improved its basketball recruiting in recent years, and its advances can be seen in this year’s crop of 2018 freshmen. Here’s what you need to know about the incoming recruits.Kevin Porter Jr.Shooting GuardSmall ForwardThe highest-ranked freshman in USC’s class, Kevin Porter Jr. earned a five-star ranking and was named the 28th-best player in the country by 247Sports. The Seattle native averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in his senior year, leading Rainier Beach High School to the 3A Washington state championship game.At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Porter is an explosive athlete. He’s fast, he’s quick and he can get up off the floor. This natural talent has made for a fair number of highlight dunks, and USC fans should get used to seeing Porter throw down this season.Porter also has the potential to be the go-to scorer the Trojans sorely missed last season. The lefty showed the ability to score at all three levels in high school, with the ability to finish at the rim with either hand and a nice shooting stroke off the dribble. Porter is also a crafty ball-handler, with a powerful ability to get to his spot against any defender.The biggest questions facing Porter have to do with his passing ability and consistent intensity. If head coach Andy Enfield can get Porter to move the ball and go all out on every possession, the Trojans could have a star on their hands early this season.Elijah WeaverGuardWeaver, a combo guard from Rockledge, Fla., is the 37th-ranked player in the nation according to ESPN, three spots higher than Porter. A four-star recruit, Weaver averaged 23.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.7 assists in his final high school season. He was honored as Florida’s Class 6A Player of the Year. Although he possesses the same strong, 6-foot-5 frame as Porter, Weaver fits the model of a pure point guard more than his new teammate. Also a lefty, he’s a talented passer, using his height to see over the defense and passing lanes. He’s also very adept at driving the lane and finding the open man. These could be a crucial skills in the absence of graduated point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who ranked fourth in the country in assists last season and ran the offense.Weaver also uses his frame to his advantage on defense. His long arms and smooth athleticism make his abilities hard to limit, and were certainly part of the reason he averaged 4.3 steals per game in his senior season.To unlock his full potential, Weaver will need to improve his jumper. It’s not that the shot is broken, but adding a deadly shot to his arsenal will make Weaver virtually unstoppable.J’Raan BrooksPower ForwardThe final of USC’s three four-star or better recruits, Brooks was a star at Garfield High School in Seattle, the school that defeated Porter’s in the 3A state title game. Brooks decommitted from USC following the FBI probe involving former player De’Anthony Melton and former assistant coach Tony Bland, but recommitted after Melton declared for this summer’s NBA Draft.Brooks, ranked 83rd nationally by 247Sports, was a key cog on a Garfield team that finished the season as the 11th-best team in the country. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Brooks made his mark on both ends of the floor. He’s noted as a tenacious rebounder and rim protector with a high motor. He is also a skilled offensive player, with a capable mid-range jumpshot and good footwork and touch around the basket.Brooks lacks an elite skill. He’s not an amazing athlete or a one-on-one scorer. He’s solid in every area of the game, but he might not be a difference-maker. The best way for him to improve would be extending his range to the 3-point line, as it would help the Trojans’ spacing immensely.Brooks’ return, along with Porter, gives the Trojans the two best players in the class from Washington. Unlike Porter and Weaver, though, Brooks has a clear shot to start; unlike the backcourt, the Trojans lack depth in the frontcourt, especially after losing Metu.The most important thing to know about these three is that they can all be culture setters. All three are competitive and work hard, important qualities for freshmen. They may show it in different ways — Porter is fiery and emotional, Weaver is cool as a cucumber, and Brooks puts his emotion into cleaning the glass — but all want to win badly. If they can channel that in the correct way, the Trojans can continue to compete in the Pac-12.
Share14TweetShare1Email15 SharesAugust 3, 2015; Portland Press Herald (Portland, ME)Sometimes public-private partnerships that enjoy the support of local government still manage to generate controversy among local communities.The city council of Portland, Maine, is about to give a nonprofit housing developer a 22-year tax break worth more than $700,000 to subsidize the construction of a four-story affordable housing complex in one of the city’s upscale neighborhoods. The project would provide 37 units of new housing for people with limited incomes, but according to the Portland Press Herald it has drawn opposition from some neighbors, both over the loss of parking as well as whether affordable housing fits the historic neighborhood.Avesta Housing says the project will provide workforce housing at a time of high demand and low vacancy rates, and that the waiting list is already long. Avesta’s executive director told the paper that the number of people who have contacted it for housing in the past six months is up 27 percent over last year, while rents in Portland have increased 17.4 percent—the second-highest rate in the U.S., according to Zillow.The half-acre site of the proposed development is being reviewed by the city’s planning and historic preservation boards. The property is currently a parking lot, and opponents are concerned about the loss of spaces and the lack of on-street parking, with one longtime resident claiming the loss of parking may force her to move.Avesta Housing bought the half-acre parking lot and two apartment buildings in 2011 for $6.2 million, and is investing almost $11.5 million into the project, which would have parking spots on site along with the 37 apartments.The housing will be set aside for individuals and families who make at or below 40 to 60 percent of the Portland area’s median income, with rents ranging from $540 to $1,044 a month. The rents are made affordable by taking advantage of housing tax credits offered by Maine Housing and a tax increment financing deal with the city.During the 22-year tax break the council is considering, the nonprofit developer would keep 65 percent of the new tax revenue generated; after 22 years, the city would receive all of the taxes. The local city councilor supports the project and the tax break, saying, “We have a housing crisis.”One local neighborhood association is staying out of the divisive project debate, although another is already on record in opposition, objecting to the loss of parking as well as to the use of tax revenue to subsidize affordable housing.—Larry KaplanShare14TweetShare1Email15 Shares