After a lost season light on consistent 3-and-D wings, UCLA's Mick Cronin may have just found the piece he's been missing.

And he plucked him from right across town.

On Thursday morning, USC transfer Kobe Johnson announced his commitment to UCLA, a fairly quick two weeks after he'd entered the portal. It's a big-time get for the Bruins as they look to retool, as Johnson was unquestionably one of the most proven players in the portal, a captain for USC who was a back-to-back mainstay on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. And Cronin is well-familiar with Johnson, whose performance most recently in late February — 10 points, 2 of 2 on 3-pointers and four steals in the kind of do-everything role he's best suited for — helped USC to a win over the Bruins.

Suddenly, UCLA has added two plug-and-play starters in the transfer portal in the span of two days. On Wednesday night, 6-foot-3 Louisville sophomore transfer Skyy Clark announced his commitment to USC, a sparkplug scoring guard originally from Los Angeles who's gone through a carousel of teams in his basketball career.

"Home is where the heart is!! #MickisthePick," Clark announced on social media.

In the worst year in Cronin's tenure, UCLA's flaws in roster construction were readily apparent, and the coach rarely minced words when discussing them. This was a gritty, young group, but one massively light on shooting and perimeter playmaking before the late-season emergence of Dylan Andrews. They lacked a consistent defensive stopper, too, to throw at opposing top-scoring wings. And they needed a consistent leader, a group of underclassmen and transfers thrown together in a strange mix.

"I feel like a fifth-grade teacher at times," Cronin said after a January win over USC. "'Everybody listen! Hold hands, so we're all listening during the scouting report, during the walk-through!' It's just life, with inexperienced guys."

Johnson checks every box, a 6-foot-6 stat-sheet stuffer who's best suited for a complementary offensive role and brings a captain's experience to Westwood. His arrival immediately gives UCLA a weapon to throw at top scorers in the Big Ten, and a steady hand who can hit a catch-and-shoot three and pick up secondary ballhandling duties (3.3 assists per game last year). After extended offensive struggles midseason that led to his benching, Johnson thrived upon a re-insertion into the starting lineup for the last nine games of USC's season, averaging 12.4 points a game, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 steals a game while shooting 41.2% from deep.

"I see myself being the defensive guy, in the NBA," Johnson told the Southern California News Group in October. "I see myself guarding the best players every night, each and every night, coming out there and being able to help the team win. That's where my head is at. I'm not going to try to come in and do stuff that I'm not used to, or trying to do anything out of my comfort zone."

And his goal, as expressed in that October conversation, was to enter the draft after his junior season at USC. But after both spurts of team-wide and individual struggles — shooting just 40.4% from the field as a junior — Johnson announced he'd enter into the NBA draft and the transfer portal in late March. And the outcome, a captain joining a rival as both schools enter the Big Ten, is a tough blow for USC as it searches for a new coach in the wake of Andy Enfield's departure for SMU.

Clark, too, addresses an instant need for UCLA, offering shooting (35.3% from 3-point range on 4.6 attempts a game at Louisville) and perimeter shot-creation (13.2 points a game). His fit next to Andrews, however, will be a puzzle for Cronin, Clark a high-turnover playmaker not particularly known for his defense.

All in all, it's a banner week for UCLA, whose potential starting lineup — Andrews, Clark, Johnson, Lazar Stefanovic and Adem Bona — suddenly looks ripe with scoring and playmaking threats entering the Big Ten.


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