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December 12, 2013

Martin: Desire required on defense

Watching his team succeed more playing a passive zone rather than his preferred man-to-man pressure, South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin realized something.

"All our freshman were predominantly zone defensive teams in high school," Martin said. "So they don't understand the sense of urgency with guarding the basketball.

If you don't guard the basketball, your defense is not going to be any good. You can kind of hide it with zone, and we've been able to do that, but what happens is you can hide it with zone early in the year, but as teams continue to expand who they are, I'm talking about opposition, in playing against zones, they eventually start getting the shots they want against your zone.

"The other handicap, I believe, with a zone is defensive rebounding becomes a liability. That's happened in the games we've had to play more zone than I'd have liked to. We've given up too many offensive rebounds. That sense of urgency, to understand I've got to guard the basketball and I can't let my man go in the paint and I've got to do my job, that's where it needs to grow. It's not where it needs to be at."

Martin's Gamecocks (2-3) are suffering right now from a disease from which there is no cure but time - youth.

"I'm going to go from 47 to 58 this year," Martin joked. "I'll be 74 by the time I'm done in a three-year span. Every team has a different challenge, and the challenge with these guys is being young.

"I did this my first year at K-State. Seven freshman, nine first-year guys with a JUCO transfer and a redshirt guy, and it was the same way. By the end of the year I was exhausted. I used to tell them I should bring marbles or Cowboys and Indians to practice to keep guys interested in what we were doing. But we grew, and we ended up playing in the NCAA Tournament. We have a good group. I'm excited about them."

Martin said he's not alone in his youthful dilemma. It's an epidemic across basketball and a big reason you're seeing the success of mid-major teams.

"What's happened is high-major basketball has become real young. Very young," Martin said. "Why is it young? Well, because of the one-and-done rule and because you have 450 transfers every year.

"Well, all those transfers, or the majority of those high-major transfers, they leave and go to mid-major and low-major schools. So now when they play at those schools, they're in their third year, so their sense of urgency is greater, their attention to detail is better because it's their third year in a college program so now they understand how to play within a system and be better on offense."

Martin said the lack of that leadership across the board is showing up on offense.

"That is why scoring is down," Martin said. "Everyone is making a big deal about the officials. The officials are doing an awesome job. They've been consistent, and I don't see much of a difference inside of handful of games. The problem is that our game has gotten very young. And with youth comes a lack of a sense of urgency, not understanding, and that's what we're battling right now."

For as young as his team is, however, Martin is impressed by the one thing his team does have in spades - desire.

"They wanna do right." Martin said. "I go home in a pretty good mood every day because they want to do right. And offensively, I think we've done a pretty good job, you know?

"It's the attention to detail, it's the sense of urgency every day that we don't comprehend yet, and that needs to continue to get better. But I think we're headed in the right direction. I really do."



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