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October 8, 2013

Martin: Freshmen's enthusiasm, smarts impressive

South Carolina head basketball coach Frank Martin met with the media following practice Tuesday afternoon, and Gamecock Central was there.

The highlights:

YOUTH SERVED: Martin was asked about how the seven freshmen have been coming along.

"They've been great, just young kids, the freshmen and sophomores," Martin said. "They'll give you great plays, then you'll think you're coaching third-graders. We have to find that balance. We don't need great plays then awful plays. We need consistent plays.

"The young players are great, they're enthusiastic. It's still early. I love our enthusiasm. You can't be any good at what you do if you don't have enthusiasm. The enthusiasm we have is contagious. It has Brent Williams talking, something I thought I'd never say a year ago at this time. I love enthusiasm, I love people that are sincere and genuine about how much they care, and I see that with this group.

READY, BREAK?: Martin shared a story from last year to illustrate the difference a year has made in his program.

"Last year, the first break that we ever had as a team, we said, alright, bring it in, put your hands here and on three say team, 'one, two, three,' and Michael Carrera and (Mindaugas Kacinas) were the only two guys who said 'team!.'" Martin said. "No one else said a word.

"Now, when we break our huddles, you can hear us two cities across the state form us. Just that little snippet. That doesn't mean that last year's guys were bad guys. Michael Carrera and Brenton Williams and the two Lithuanians were in that huddle, too. It's just we're a year into this. There's a better understanding, a sense of urgency of what it takes to win.

ELLINGTON'S ROLE" Martin was asked about what kind of contact he has with Bruce Ellington during football season and when he expects him to join the team.

"Bruce is great; I can't keep him out of my office," Martin said. "That guy, every time he's got 1 5-minute window, he sticks his head in here. He's awesome. We talk all the time.

"It's on him (when he comes over from football). It's so, what he's done now for his third consecutive year, in my mind is mind-boggling. The one thing that was't fair to him is that he showed up last year and was expected to perform at a certain level afer three practices and expected to play 34, 5 6 minutes. Hat's not fair to him. That's how special a kid he is, he's willing to take on that burden. That's a big burden to accept when you're 20 years-old.

When he's ready to come, he knows he's more than welcome. He'll be able to, because we have more guys, to bring his personality in there first and foremost, that toughness, that personality that makes our team better from Day One. And then get himself ready to play in big-time games."

CHATKEVICIUS INJURED: Laimonas Chatkevicius - or "Laimo," as coach Matt Figger calls him - was scheduled to speak to the media Tuesday but did not after rolling his ankle in practice. "I was screaming at him, so he finally decided to jump after a rebound and landed and tweaked it," Martin said. With the team off tomorrow (Wednesday), Martin said he should be fine to return to practice Thursday.

RETENTION: Martin was asked what impressed him about the freshmen thus far.

"I guess the ability not of all, but of some, of the freshmen to retain what you're coaching them to do," Martin said. "That's been a little bit of a surprise. Freshmen usually don't have that. They don't have that sense of urgency of doing things right today, because, 'Man, I'm just a freshman. I have so much time.' But there's a responsibility to Brent Williams and Bruce when he comes out here who only have 30 games left under their belts, to do things right from Day One.

"The biggest difference is we have guys who understand the sense of urgency I'm talking about. These upperclassmen work and compete a certain way because they understand what we want, what we coaches expect from them. So the freshmen have no choice but to match that competitiveness. Not the thing with the freshmen is learning how to sustain that competitiveness and keep your focus on the next play, not the last play. The biggest mistake young kids make is they take a positive or negative play and allow that to impact how they approach the next play. That's what freshmen have to get a lot better at."

ANOTHER YEAR FOR JOHNSON?: The coaching staff is filing a waiver to try and get an extra year of eligibility for Villanova transfer Ty Johnson. A junior this season, if successful the waiver would restore Johnson's sophomore season and allow Johnson a third year of eligibility at South Carolina.

"Villanova turned in paperwork, and we're in the process now of gathering the information so we can submit an appeal, but we're not there yet," Martin said. "He's going to play here next year, too, so it's not something we have to deal with right now. When our administration people, our compliance people are comfortable, we'll turn something in and let you guys know."

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