Michelle Smith Feature: USC's Mazyck is hungry for postseason

On paper, Aliyah Mazyck’s story is a common one, a player who makes slow and steady progress in the early years of her collegiate career, until the inevitable breakout arrives.

But that would seem to indicate that Mazyck was waiting patiently for the success that’s finally coming her way in her junior season.

“Those first two years, that wasn’t me,” Mazyck said. “I’m a freshman in my eyes.”

If Mazyck’s talent is being fully realized now, in her third season on the floor in Los Angeles, the Women of Troy are the beneficiary.

Mazyck is leading USC’s charge toward the NCAA Tournament. The Women of Troy have won four of six heading into a difficult weekend against ranked opponents Oregon and Oregon State. But USC is 12-3 on the road this season, with two road sweeps and with a 7-7 record in Conference play. USC is positioning itself for an NCAA tournament bid.

Mazyck’s role in USC’s success is unquestioned, if maybe a little unexpected.

“I didn’t know she would be this good,” said USC coach Mark Trakh. “But I’m glad she is.”

As a sophomore last season, Mazyck started the first 14 games she played and appeared in 19 games, while missing 11 games with injury, nursing a stress fracture in one foot and then a stress reaction in another. She averaged 6.6 points and 1.8 rebounds.

The coaching change at USC, which brought Trakh back to L.A., has benefitted Mazyck. Trakh immediately saw an athletic player with quickness, who gave maximum effort, could handle the ball and had a deadly shot from beyond the arc.

“He sees the potential in me and he gave me a shot and I took advantage,” Mazyck said. “They trust me and they believe in me. And I don’t want to let them down.”

The junior from Charlotte, N.C., has busted out this season, a speedy guard, challenging opponents on both ends of the floor.

She is averaging 16.3 points, ranking her 7th in the Pac-12, and 5.5 rebounds a game. And she has become one of the Pac-12’s most dangerous perimeter shooters. Her 77 3-pointers thus far are second-most in school history for a single season and rank her first in the Pac-12 in per-game average (3.1).

She also ranks third in the Pac-12 with 2.4 steals per game, proving her talent on the defensive end of the floor.

“On top of that she has to guard the best player on the floor and we are asking her to play a lot of minutes because of our depth,” Trakh said.

Mayck has been an offensive catalyst with 10 games this season of at least 20 points, including a career-best 29 points against Colorado on January 12.

“She’s a great kid. She’s an honest kid. She tells me that sometimes she might be a knucklehead, but she will always give me 100 percent,” Trakh said. “Except I’ve never seen her be a knucklehead.”

But she was right about the honesty part. Mazyck said she isn’t so much happy with where her team sits now, in the middle of the Pac-12 pack, having to play their way into the postseason with late-season success. But she accepts it.

“I’m not into moral victories. We had a lot of games that were close (at the start of Pac-12 play) and we didn’t pull them out,” Mazyck said. “Those games hurt. But it feels like fuel to our fire now.”

Mazyck called it a “process”, one that she’s embracing.

“I love it. I just sit back and smile because I’m super thankful,” Mazyck said. “We are a good team. We are talented. We just lack depth. Playing 35-38 minutes every game, I’m not complaining, but it’s tough. But I’m happy to see where we are and I’m excited to see where we are going to end up.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.

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