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June 28, 2013

Gamecocks looking for point guards





South Carolina is in the same position in both sides of the basketball coin.

The Gamecocks' men's and women's teams are each looking for point guards.

"I like Ty Johnson," said one point guard candidate, Bruce Ellington, on Thursday after the S.C. Pro Am. "I've played against him. He's 6-2, long arms, a true point guard, can handle the ball. And I like Jaylen Shaw, too. He played in a game before me and looked great."

It was interesting for Ellington to pontificate on the Gamecocks' choices, since he and Johnson won't be around for the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Ellington will be playing football until at least Nov. 30 before he suits up, and Johnson is out until Dec. 17 after transferring from Villanova last year. Johnson seems to be the clear choice once he's available, but Ellington has been around for three years and coach Frank Martin loves the energy and intensity he brings to the squad.

Still, those two are out for some of the non-conference season, and that leaves it up to a freshman. Either Shaw, who has been playing well in the Pro Am, or Duane Notice, who is playing with a Canadian national team before he enrolls for the Summer II session, will get the first look at running the point and they could get some help from the recruiting class' highest-rated prospect, Sindarius Thornwell.

Thornwell is a natural two-guard, but he has played the point and could be the guy that Martin turns to as the Gamecocks try to work in so many new faces right away. And there's also the contention of playing the point and simply bringing the ball up, which could feasibly be handled by anyone on the floor.

The season will be a constant learning process for USC, so there may be several players who actually play the position throughout the year. But Martin liked to have one consistent point guard last year, and he is likely to want the same this year.

On the women's side, USC is losing a four-year starter in Ieasia Walker, who completed her career by being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. There is proven talent to replace her, though.

Sophomore Khadijah Sessions learned under Walker last year, often curbing her superior scoring skills in favor of directing the offense. This year, she won't be looking over her shoulder for Walker to come back in after a Sessions mistake, as it's her show.

There is also the potential of Tiffany Davis, who tore her ACL in November and was lost for the year. Davis was brought in to help Walker last year, to play a few minutes per game, but the Gamecocks had to adjust when she went down just a few games into the season. She'll be back to potentially run the point and free Sessions into a score-first role, in an effort to help USC's offense.

"We've got to find a way to put more than 60 points on the scoreboard," coach Dawn Staley said on Thursday. "That's what we've been working on in our summer workouts."

Olivia Gaines, the National Junior College Player of the Year, was signed for this season but she will play the two. With center Alaina Coates coming in, USC might not have to lean on the three-guard lineup that it has in the past, although it can with Sessions, Gaines, Davis and Tiffany Mitchell rotating in and out.



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