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June 26, 2013
There were some musings when Brenton Williams scored 38 points, a Colonial Life Arena record, in a win over Mississippi State to close out the home season. Williams had shown flashes of scoring in bunches, but in his previous three games, he had only played a combined 37 minutes. Why hadn't he been playing more previously, if he could score like that?
Simple, coach Frank Martin said. Williams hadn't been doing what he needed to do. Martin pointed out that he had recently asked every player to stay after practice for extra shooting, and Williams was one of them. "Something's re-clicked with him," he said at the time.
It was the same process he's used throughout his career. Martin doesn't care about recruiting accolades, recent games, stats. He'll play the players that deserve to play, and that's earned through practice.
He reiterated it during an SEC coaches' teleconference on Monday.
"We can have 13 seniors or 13 freshmen," Martin said. "It's, everything is always up for grabs. That's the way life is. The second you don't do your job, someone else is going to take your job."
The point was simple. As Martin prepares for his second year at South Carolina, he's going to stick to his system. No one is guaranteed playing time, no matter if they're a top-50 recruit of a senior returnee.
It will all be earned.
"I'm always in a constant battle trying to teach guys how to work every single day," Martin said. "Your job is never set in stone. You constantly have to evolve and compete and work."
Going into 2013-14, Martin will get an idea of who he wants to play the most during practice but won't truly know who can play the most effectively until the games begin. When they begin to separate, he'll always have the thought lurking in his mind of no matter who is playing well now, things may change in December - that's when Bruce Ellington and Ty Johnson will become eligible, which could cause a shakeup.
With seven freshmen already set to play and play often, Martin may not be able to keep his seat warm since he may be up and down so often, telling players to get in and either patting, instructing or yelling at a player when they come out. The season will be a constant case of never knowing which team will show up - there is so much unproven about the next edition of the Gamecocks that the preseason pick will have them close to last, but the actual finish could be anywhere from fourth to 14th.
But Martin has already made it clear - he won't play Sindarius Thornwell and Demetrius Henry just because they're the big-time recruits of a massive recruiting class. While the two are likely to play and play often, they'll play because they earned it, not because of anything else.
Preseason camp and the regular season will be a case of open competition. Nobody is promised a job, even though Martin is looking at Ellington and Michael Carrera as the two energy-suppliers for the team. The goal is to win, and the players that can supply those wins may change from game to game.
It's not like there are real or borderline preseason All-SEC players on the roster. USC will be an afterthought in the preseason polls.
That's fine. There's nowhere to go but up. Martin will do it his way, by not promising anything.
"Competition and keeping everyone on edge, in the fight, to continue to do their jobs better, whether they're leaders on the team or not," Martin described as his approach. "That doesn't mean you get to sit back and work less. The more success you have, the harder you must work."
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