Last Saturday night’s NCAA Men’s tilt between #21UCLA and USC ended up being a blow-out by SC, with the Trojans winning easily 66-48. The rosters of both teams are flooded with LA talent with the largest cluster, 4 of the Bruins and 3 of SC’s players, being products of Compton Magic, an AAU program established in the Hub City in 1993 by Rod Palmer and Etop Udo-Ema.
Compton Magic has been at the center of much discussion in AAU land and even garnered some national spotlight with the 2016 documentary “At All Costs”, which followed the Magic and former Arizona Wildcat Parker Jackson-Cartwright. They have 30 years in the game with 40+ professional athletes, 100+ D1 NCAA players and over 300 college athletes. Current and former NBA ballers include Allen Crabbe, Joe Jackson, Jordan Bell, David Nwaba, and James Ennis.
With all of the noise surrounding AAU, high school, and college games, it is very easy to get caught up in a three-tier system that has turned into a minor leagues of sorts for the NBA, even though the G-League already provides that opportunity. The Magic Boys, like other top AAU squads, is not immune from sponsorship, agent, and coach-for-hire inquiries from the NCAA, but Etop Udo-Ema strives to make the squad as close to a family as possible.
For today’s young athletes, it comes down to two simple questions; are they doing what is best for them and do they enjoy what they are doing? Dylan Andrews, a current Magic player with a laundry list of scholarship offers from UCLA, USC, Louisville, and Kansas, was recently quoted by Spectrum News 1 as saying “Compton Magic, it’s not just a program, it’s family,” he explained. “it’s a lifestyle, not a brand.
Coming to Compton Magic was probably the best thing that could happen to me.” The program’s website echoes those thoughts with their mission statement: “Compton Magic is the premier Grassroots Program in the nation and a brotherhood that lasts forever…Every day, we ask ourselves how we can make ourselves, our communities and our program better..”
As for the Battle of LA last Saturday, the Magic Boys were set to have an intrasquad game at the Galen Center. UCLA started Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard and USC countered with the Mobley brothers, Evan and Isaiah. Both teams were off to great starts, with UCLA coming in at 13-3(9-1 in the PAC-12) and USC at 14-3(8-2 in the PAC-12). Neither team had standout victories in or outside the PAC-12 besides UCLA’s 69-60 victory over Marquette. They both were yet to beat a ranked team. Fairfax High’s Ethan Anderson changed that for SC, going 7-12 from the field and 5-7 from 3 and finishing with 19 points in a 18-point win. The reviews on the Magic Boys were mixed for the night but overall on the year they have been very strong.
As usual, Evan Mobley was solid at Galen with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, and 4 BLOCKS! Mobley has been the best of the Magic bunch and is set to become a possible #1 pick whenever he turns pro. His slash line is 16.3pts/9rbs/2ast/.8stl/2.9blks/2.3to/ and 1.7 fouls a game. He could pass every eye test they have at the Hollywood DMV. The athletic ability, court vision, and overall head-for-the-game is on full display every night. He is a walking double/double, almost getting one in his college debut against CAL Baptist with 21 and 9. With 8 double/doubles and 53 total blocks in 18 games, he has a legitimate chance to be named PAC-12 Player of the Year.
Evan’s Brother, 6-10 Forward Isaiah is no slouch either with 9.2pts/7.4rbs/1.8ast/.3stl/1.1blks/1.4to/ and 2.6 fouls a game. That is 25.5 points, 16.4 rebounds and 4 blocks per game for the Brothers Mobley in 2020-21. The 6-10, 7-0 combo front line is as intimidating as there is in college ball this year. He put up 16 and 12 to go along with Evan’s 20 and 11(and 6 blocks) in a 67-62 OT win over UC-Riverside.
The other Magic Boy-Trojan is Reese Waters, who according to Josh Gershon, 24/7 National Recruiting Analyst, is a “versatile guard with good size and length…” who, “has a smooth stroke and can hit threes in bunches off the catch and pull, while his vision makes him a formidable creator off the dribble.” He did not see the court on Saturday and has played in only mop-up duty and should be a key cog in next year’s machine.
As for Compton on the Bruins, Johnny Juzang is the 3rd-leading scorer for UCLA at 12.0 ppg. He launches 4.8 3’s a game at a respectable .317 clip. He is over 90% at the free throw stripe and chips in 3.7 rebounds a game. He began his college career at Kentucky and was cleared for immediate eligibility last May because of a personal family situation. The homecoming has served Juzang well as he has gone from 12 minutes a game with UK to 30 minutes a game with UCLA this year.
Juzang’s running mate is Jules Bernard who is a stalwart in the starting lineup and contributes 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game, along with 26 minutes a game. He has career high numbers across the board in his 3rd year, including starting 14 of 17 games. He chipped in 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals in 26 minutes in the December 11th win over Marquette.
Jaylen Clark and Jalen Hill round out the UCLA Magic Boys. 6-10 F Jalen Hill is also in his 3rd year and is a big contributor off the bench with 6.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and an assist and block per. His numbers are down from last year in his new role, but should see more minutes and could be back in the starting lineup with injuries to Chris Smith and Cody Riley. He actually sat out on Saturday due to what an athletic department spokesman called personal reasons. Jaylen Clark is in his first year and Josh Gershon of 24/7 describes him as a “Physical specimen with elite defensive upside.”
“Tope” Udo-Ema had much to be proud of, as he looked onto the court on Saturday. He started with a group of “real kids..” at Compton High in 1993 with Tito Maddox and has morphed his AAU team into the international brand the Magic is today. Whatever anyone thinks of the ethics surrounding the AAU, high school, and college game, it comes down to what these young men want and what is best for them and their family and community. More and more, these young men are choosing to stay at home and contribute to the legacy at UCLA and SC.