“Meet the Mobleys” is a five-part series about Isaiah, Evan and Eric Mobley’s relationship and impact on USC basketball.
If youth basketball was the last haven of unadulterated hoops, a sport in its purest form unaffected by outside interests, that’s certainly not the case anymore.
Commercialism is finding its way to the high school ranks, and the product looks increasingly like the NBA and college basketball. Social media, YouTube and platforms like SLAM and Overtime are bringing fans closer to high school athletes with each mixtape and highlight package.
It’s how a young phenom like Zion Williamson can reach 1.5 million followers on Instagram and a national audience at just 17 years old. At all levels, basketball is a high-profile industry, no matter if it’s played in front of 20,000 fans or a rowdy student section.
Isaiah Mobley, the rising sophomore forward who’s poised for a breakout season with USC, acknowledges this.
“I feel like the way basketball is going now, it’s like a popularity contest,” he said. “The entertainment factor is coming in a lot more during this era.”
Within the newfound popularity of youth hoops, basketball families are among the most active promoters. Take the Ball family for example: Blessed with three talented brothers, the triumvirate has garnered a cult-like following with the perfect blend of basketball, personality and promotion.
Or consider the Newmans, perhaps the most unabashed marketers of their talent. By sixth grade, Julian Newman was already a viral sensation and making national headlines. With sister Jaden and father Jamie, the three Newmans have, among other things: a reality TV show, a documentary, a sports apparel brand and an entire high school built from the family’s following.
In some ways, the Mobleys aren’t much different: they’re a tight-knit basketball family. Isaiah and incoming USC freshman Evan are both seven-foot-tall basketball prodigies, with birthdays separated by merely 20 months. They played on the same high school and AAU teams. Their father and coach, Eric, is instrumental in their personal and basketball development. But that’s where the similarities end.
Etop Udo-Ema is a seasoned veteran in the world of SoCal hoops, having founded the world-renowned Compton Magic in 1995. The AAU powerhouse has boasted the likes of Aaron Affalo, Onyeka Okongwu and Mikey Williams since its inception, along with countless other marquee prospects. Udo-Ema has seen his fair share of talented players — and their families — try their hand at the cutthroat Southern California youth basketball circuit.
“You know how it is with these kids nowadays … most of these kids and their parents, they’re crazy, and that just adds to the madness,” he said.
But the Mobley brothers, who played for the Compton Magic, aren’t interested in the extracurriculars. Udo-Ema put it succinctly: “They come from humble beginnings, and they’re good people.”
When asked about the comparisons to other basketball families, Evan Mobley focused on his own. “We’re just us. We don’t really compare to other people or think about it,” he said. Isaiah echoed his sentiments: “We just stay in our own lane — we do what we do.”
Meet the Mobleys. They’re the next powerhouse basketball family you’ve never heard from. The humility and professionalism with which they operate make them unique, along with their transcendent basketball talent. This upcoming season, Evan and Isaiah will share the court for the Trojans, and Eric will man the sidelines as an assistant coach.
They’ve graduated from the high school level to a stage with even brighter lights and higher expectations, and they’re as focused as ever.