LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bronny James showed off his defensive skills in his college debut for Southern California nearly five months after he suffered cardiac arrest and expressed gratitude for the doctors and family who supported him.
He had four points, three rebounds and two assists on Sunday, coming off the bench to play in front of his superstar father LeBron James.
“I just want to say I’m thankful for everything,” Bronny James said afterward in brief comments to a horde of media. He thanked the Mayo Clinic, where he received treatment, as well as his parents, siblings, coach Andy Enfield and his teammates “during this hard time in my life.”
He left without taking any questions.
The Trojans lost in overtime to Long Beach State, 84-79. James walked off with his deflated teammates and didn’t greet his father who sat courtside.
James logged 16 minutes, including starting the five-minute extra session, but he wasn’t a factor then before coming out for the last time. He was 1 of 3 shooting, hitting a 3-pointer in the second half.
His biggest impression came on defense. All of James’ rebounds were on the defensive glass and he had two steals.
“I thought Bronny played well,” Enfield said. “He defended at a high level. He guarded the quick ballhandlers on the other team pretty well.”
James was quick to pass to his teammates, even when it appeared he could have taken a shot.
Enfield said James’ minutes would continue to be monitored by USC’s medical staff.
He played six minutes in the first half, when the Trojans led 45-30 at the break. In his second three-minute stint, James made a huge block on Jadon Jones, who was streaking to the basket on a fastbreak, riling up the fans.
James assisted on a dunk by Vincent Iwuchukwu, who also suffered cardiac arrest as a freshman. He returned to play 14 games last season.
“It’s great to see Bronny out there. He’s put a lot of work in the gym,” Iwuchukwu said. “We talked before the game and I told him to go out there and have fun.”
James entered the game for the first time about seven minutes in, with some in the crowd standing and cheering. He missed his first shot, a 3-point attempt. Moments before, he tipped the ball away from a Long Beach State player, but the visitors got it back. The possession ended in a shot-clock violation for the Beach. James also snagged a rebound.
“He makes the right play all the time,” said Boogie Ellis, USC’s top guard. “Everybody wants a guy like that on their team. He defends well at a high level.”
LeBron James arrived seconds before the national anthem, holding hands with 9-year-old daughter, Zhuri, and tapped his son’s rear as he passed the Trojans who were lined up across the court for the anthem.
The younger James’ debut capped a big weekend for the family. LeBron helped the Lakers win the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament on Saturday night in Las Vegas, earning everyone on the team a $500,000 per person payday.
“It was exciting for everybody to see him out there,” Enfield said, “and I’m sure his family was the most excited.”
The NBA was well-represented in the game. One of James’ teammates is DJ Rodman, the son of Dennis Rodman, who fouled out. The Beach’s roster includes Chayce Polynice, the son of 15-year NBA veteran Olden Polynice.
James joined his teammates for on-court warmups 90 minutes before tipoff. Wearing a white USC shirt and red sweatpants, he took a variety of jumpers under the watchful lenses of a baseline full of photographers.
Students lined up around one side of Galen Center and down an adjacent street waiting to get inside. Although there were pockets of empty seats in the 10,258-seat arena, James’ debut helped the Trojans draw their largest crowd of 9,806 this season.
James suffered cardiac arrest on July 20 during a workout at Galen Center. He was found to have a congenital heart defect that was treatable.
James was recently cleared by his doctors and USC’s medical staff to participate in full-contact practice. Previously, he had been limited to working out on his own doing weights, cardio and shooting.
Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball