In early May, Rolling Hills Prep’s Clarice Akunwafo, the second-ranked center in the class of 2021, announced her commitment to USC to play basketball. Akunwafo is a 5-star prospect and in ESPN’s top 25 in the class nationally.
Last season for the 24-4 Huskies, a CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinalist, Akunwafo averaged 20.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game on a lofty 56-percent from the field. And while Rolling Hills Prep’s schedule was no joke, they also routinely put teams away in the first half and limited their starters’ minutes in a number of games.
Akunwafo has most recently been listed at 6-foot-6, and is still possibly growing. She also has very good strength and physicality, and is agile for her size. Her physical attributes alone make her a premier post prospect already.
But she’s not just big – Akunwafo is a skilled interior threat on offense and has a strong feel for the game. She gets plenty of easy looks finishing dump-offs and put-backs, but the Huskies run a lot of offense through her in the post, and she converts at a very high clip.
Her low post game develops year to year, and she always plays within herself. She seeks out high-percentage looks with drop steps and short hooks, with promising fluidity with both hands.
Defensively, Akunwafo is a good shot-blocker, but perhaps more importantly, she’s a great shot-alterer. She contests shots at a high level in help coverage, and is also a strong individual post defender.
In addition to being one of the best rising senior prospects in the country, Akunwafo fits exactly what USC women’s basketball needs.
After an 8-10 season in Pac-12 play, The Women of Troy have room for instant-impact additions of talent, for one. Their core is mostly very young with a lot of freshmen, so they will be upperclasswomen by the time Akunwafo arrives in 2021, but there’s a strong likelihood of her getting a lot of opportunities and responsibility right away.
USC was in the bottom third of Division 1 in rebounding margin in 2019-2020, and Akunwafo’s rebounding will translate right away. They don’t rack up many assists, nor do they have a plethora of efficient volume scorers, and the fact that Akunwafo can score in isolation will be welcomed.
Their best player last season was PF Alissa Pili, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year who led the team with 16.3 points and eight rebounds per game. Pili can both post up and also thrive facing up in space, so the two of them could potentially coexist and instantly contend as the best frontcourt in the Pac-12 as soon as Akunwafo steps on the court. If USC can add some more floor spacing and playmaking on the perimeter as well, then the program could rise very quickly.
As an unselfish offensive centerpiece with obvious WNBA upside and excellent paint anchoring abilities, Akunwafo is the type of player that many guards would love to play with. By the time she starts at USC (fall of 2021), the Women of Troy will have a nice veteran core who could seriously use what she brings. Akunwafo not only will likely instantly make USC better upon her arrival if she keeps improving, but could very well become a foundational block for years to come.