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April 2, 2012
Frank Martin is South Carolina's new basketball coach, and can start putting his stamp on the program now that the whirlwind of talking, pitching and accepting the job has ceased. The first thing he has to do is figure out what kind of hand he's been dealt for next year, some of which can be helped and some which can't.
When there's a coaching change, usually there's some attrition. The Gamecocks only lose one senior, Malik Cooke.
The team's only rising senior, Jackson saw his playing time diminish last year as the coaching staff finally lost patience. A great athlete who can rebound, box out and even play a bit of point guard, Jackson's biggest drawback is he can't consistently score. He'll make an insanely acrobatic lay-up every now and then, but opponents have him figured out - he can't hit from outside, and if he goes inside, foul him. A notoriously poor free-throw shooter, Jackson isn't a strong bet to get two from the line if he can't get two from the floor. But he and Cooke helped keep the team's attitude upbeat last year, and there is no line in a box score for that.
Rico Jackson (brother): "He ain't going nowhere. He's going to graduate a Gamecock."
Ellington has announced that he will play football and basketball again next year, and has re-joined the football team for spring practice. Martin has had no public comment on it, but Ellington said that Martin was fine with it and was very supportive.
Bruce Ellington: "(Martin's) cool about it. He said whatever I want to do, he's going to support me like coach (Darrin) Horn did. At first I did (worry), but I felt I had to be a man and go talk to him, see what was on his mind."
The player who seems to have the most upside, Harris has seen his game rise on the defensive and offensive ends. With a pro body, Harris could flourish in Martin's game plans, but only if he wants to be around. Several national media outlets have reported that other schools are circling around Harris after the coaching change, trying to get him to switch schools, and one report on Monday had him requesting a release. Harris directly confirmed to GamecockCentral.com on Monday that he has not requested a release and was still in the decision-making process.
Damontre Harris: "No, I haven't (requested a release). I'm still thinking things over. I haven't made a definite decision. I'm going to meet with coach Martin soon."
A player who is blossoming, Slawson might never take over a game but he can come in for five quick points or three quick rebounds in a five-minute spurt. He'll never be a banger in the paint, but he doesn't have to be. Slawson's best options to score are from the outside or putting back a rebound, and he can be a solid role player going forward.
Randall Slawson (father): "We ain't going nowhere. We're in it for the long haul."
One of the newest members of the team, if not the newest. While the other two newcomers last year were able to get to know the coaching staff over the recruiting process, Williams was signed in the spring and brought in during the summer. Williams can be an explosive scorer, and his speed is very strong - he just has to learn to put it all together if he's going to play point guard, or learn to be patient for an outside shot if he's going to be play two-guard.
Katrina Williams (mother): "Yes, he's coming back. He hasn't talked about transferring."
Richardson has shown off a good shot at times, and has become more aggressive at driving to the basket when his shot's not falling, but still needs to become more consistent. Through two years, Richardson's confidence seems to hinge on every shot, and it limits his productivity. But perhaps with a new man in charge, Richardson can develop that confidence, or a new way of being productive on the floor.
Tammy Richardson (mother): "It was kind of a scary moment after they got rid of coach Horn, but after meeting with coach Martin, he feels comfortable at USC."
With Ellington again deciding to play football, Smith can be the guy who benefits. He began badly last year, losing the point-guard role to Jackson due to turning the ball over, but quickly replaced Jackson until Ellington came back in. Smith spent the rest of the year often playing too fast for himself and committing turnover after turnover, but he has shown spots of great play. He has to make them more consistent.
*Note: Smith is recovering from minor knee surgery. He actually had a small piece of frayed cartilage from falling on the knee before the season, and elected to play on it. He got it cleared up this week.
Steve Smith (father): "He's excited. I talk to him pretty much every day, and he said that the team meeting with coach Martin was really good. Everybody's very upbeat."
A raw big body, Geathers may never be a superstar but he showed some good things last year. He can get a couple of blocks and a rebound in limited minutes, and is a good free-throw shooter as well as a put-back maker.
Lucretia Manning (mother): "He's coming back to USC. I haven't heard anything different."
A player with great upside, Gill can be a force if he learns to play without foul trouble and score consistently. It would be interesting to see if Gill can truly harness the player inside him - a super-nice kid, Gill sometimes plays too nice on the court. Martin can work that out of him, if he sticks around. Gill also directly confirmed to GamecockCentral.com on Monday that he has not requested his release, despite a report to the contrary.
Anthony Gill: "No, I haven't. Nothing's official. I haven't made up my mind. I'm going to meet with coach Martin (Tuesday)."
A streaky shooter who started to come around late in the year, Leonard can be an offensive force if he can put the ball in the hole consistently. That may involve driving the ball, that may involve simply hitting from 3.
Jabrius Leonard (brother): "He's staying."
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