Bronny James has 1st full contact with USC, moves closer to debut

LOS ANGELES -- USC freshman Bronny James participated in his first full contact practice Thursday, taking the next step toward potentially making his much-anticipated debut Sunday against Long Beach State.

USC coach Andy Enfield said the team and medical staff will see how James feels over the next couple of days. But when asked if the plan is for James to play in his first collegiate game Sunday, Enfield replied, "We assume."

"Today was his first day of contact practice," Enfield said after practice. "He looked good. He has to get his timing back and get in game shape, but I thought today was a good first day."

James, the eldest son of LeBron James, was cleared by doctors to return to basketball a week ago, four months after suffering cardiac arrest on July 24 during a USC practice. James, 19, was hospitalized for three days in Los Angeles. He underwent a procedure to treat a congenital heart defect.

The Trojans have one more practice scheduled Friday and Enfield said James' status will be determined by how he feels and by doctors, trainers and the team strength coach.

"All indications are he feels great," Enfield said. "He looks good."

Enfield said James, who was able to go through everything in practice, will be on a minutes restriction and come off the bench when he makes his debut. The Trojans start fifth-year guard Boogie Ellis and freshman standout Isaiah Collier in the backcourt. They are the Trojans' top two scorers this season.

USC is eager to have James back.

"He looked good," junior guard Kobe Johnson said. "He looked 100 percent. He was getting back into it and just being able to have him out on the floor, it definitely raises the team morale. It's awesome to have him out there.

"First and foremost, he brings that energy. Just having his presence around and him bringing his energy on the court, making plays on the ball, is going to be crucial for us. He's a great defender. A lot of people don't know that about him, so to have him out there on the defensive end is going to be chaotic."

Speaking after the Los Angeles Lakers' in-season tournament win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, LeBron James was asked what his son's college debut means to him.

"Everything and more," James said. "Looking forward to that for sure. Super excited, super excited for that moment. One, I just can't wait to see him run out with his teammates. And then once he checks into the game, whenever that case may be, it's going to be a big moment for our family. Obviously it will be a big moment for him. ... It's a big milestone for our family, for sure. And it's another step for him on his journey in his basketball career."

Prior to Thursday's practice, James went through limited practices and participated in 5-on-0 noncontact work, shooting and individual drills. He also has participated in pregame warmups with the team.

"It's going to be a huge moment," Johnson said of when James plays. "I know it's a moment that he's looking forward to, his family's looking forward to, a whole lot of people [are] looking forward to.

"... When that moment comes, it's going to be very special."