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March 26, 2012

Martin's hiring could have recruiting fallout

The fallout from the hiring of Kansas State's Frank Martin as South Carolina's new basketball coach could extend all the way to Southern California.

During the early signing period, Kansas State signed one of the top centers in the country, four-star prospect and seven-footer Robert Upshaw from San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno, Calif.

The 275-pound Upshaw is rated No. 43 nationally by Rivals.com for the incoming 2012-13 class, and the No. 8 center.

Soon after reports of Martin taking the USC job began to circulate on the Internet, speculation turned to whether Upshaw would stick with his commitment to Kansas State, follow Martin to Columbia, or go somewhere else.

GoPowerCat.com, the Rivals.com site for Kansas State, reported Monday that "the family of Martin recruit Robert Upshaw, who is signed to play for K-State as a freshman next season, was not aware of the move when reached by phone."

The story suggests, of course, that Upshaw has already signed a letter-of-intent to play his college basketball at Kansas State. But chatter on Twitter and message boards Monday afternoon was that Upshaw has not actually signed a LOI and could be free to come to USC along with Martin.

However, Kansas State announced Upshaw's addition on Nov. 21, 2011. Typically, Division I schools refrain from announcing that a player has joined a program until the NCAA-mandated paperwork has been received.

So, did Upshaw just sign some non-binding scholarship papers or was the LOI included among those documents?

"Robert gives us by far the biggest young man that we have signed in our time here in terms of height, length and size," Martin said in November. "He is every bit of seven feet tall and maybe even a little taller with great hands, great natural ability and somebody that we are extremely excited about. He will be a big-time presence at the rim to help the guys that are in place right now and to continue to add more depth at our front line."

At the same time, Kansas State announced the addition of Laimonas Chatkevicius, a 6-foot-10 forward from Lithuania that is currently attending South Kent Prep Academy in South Kent, Conn. He represented his national team in the 2010 FIBA U-17 World Championships.

"He is a typical European guy who is highly skilled," Martin said. "But the thing we like about him is he plays a very physical game. He does not run away from contact and is very involved with the physical part of the game and while he has skills, he does not run away from playing with his back to the basket, which is something that our team needs."

Besides the two aforementioned recruits, what about current Kansas State players? If you're looking for a Wildcat standout most likely to follow Martin to USC, point guard Angel Rodriguez, who just completed his freshman season, could be the guy.

Why? Rodriguez already has an indirect connection to USC. His former high school teammate at Dr. Krop High in Miami (Fla.), 6-foot-9, 205-pound power forward Tyrone Haughton, is presently USC's lone commitment for the 2012-13 season.

Rodriguez averaged 8.3 points and 3.1 assists per game as a true freshman in 2011-12.

The 46-year old Martin grew up in Miami as the son of Cuban immigrants and was a successful high school coach in that city in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s before commencing his college career as an assistant at Northeastern University.

Not surprisingly, Martin has relied upon his contacts in the Miami-Dade area for a steady flow of talent from the Sunshine State. The 2011-12 Kansas State roster featured three players from the Miami area. In addition to Rodriguez, rising sophomore Adrian Diaz and rising senior Martavious Irving also grew up in south Florida.

Because of his Cuban-American heritage, Martin has been lauded for luring several prominent Hispanic players to Manhattan, Kan. Could he do the same thing for the Gamecocks?

Considering Columbia is much closer geographically to south Florida than central Kansas, Gamecock fans hope the answer is yes.

Kansas State's roster this past season also included three players from the New York City area and two from Washington, D.C. He also recruited locally, as seen by the fact that five players on the 2011-12 KSU roster are from Kansas and Missouri.

Martin is best known in college basketball recruiting circles for playing an integral role in Kansas State's successful efforts to sign five-star prospect Michael Beasley in 2007. Martin was able to keep Beasley from turning pro despite Bob Huggins leaving for West Virginia after just one season at Kansas State.

However, Beasley wasn't the only five-star prospect signed by Kansas State that year. Bill Walker, a small forward from Cincinnati, joined Beasley at Kansas State. After overcoming a couple of knee injuries, Walker currently plays for the New York Knicks.

If Martin is looking for a quick fix for the Gamecocks, he could turn to the junior-college ranks. Martin hasn't been shy about signing JUCO players in the past, and his tenure at USC could prove no different.

USC has at least two scholarships available for the 2012-13 season depending on what Bruce Ellington decides to do. If he decides to play football and basketball, he must be on football scholarship, giving the Gamecocks three open spots.

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D. McCallum

South Carolina NEWS


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