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February 11, 2014

Ellington's legacy lives on

The legacy of Bruce Ellington is far from over.

Even though the University of South Carolina two-sport legend has graduated, left school and currently is training for an NFL roster, he continues to have a huge impact on Frank Martin's basketball program.

In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone in the country having had more disproportionate impact on a team given his short time with it, but in just two weeks of practice and three games Ellington single-handedly put his stamp on the development of its current leaders and set a standard they continue to follow. Martin said before Ellington joined the team, his seven freshmen were a mess.

"Freshmen think that if they come in and do something right one time, they can take the next 10 minutes off because they did something right," Martin said. "That's what we battled as a team in preseason. Then Bruce comes around, and he's coming straight from football, and he knows he has a two-week window to get as many reps in practice as possible.

"He doesn't take a single play off in practice, never sits out of a drill, any time there's a coach speaking, his eyes and ears are on the coach trying to understand what they want done, then he lines up and whomever he's guarding or is guarding him, he tries to destroy them on that play. When the play is over, he goes over and talks to that young kid and says, 'You can't do this' or 'You can't do that,' then on the next play he tries to destroy them again.

"Duane (Notice) and Sindarius (Thornwell) saw that, saw a guy that never gets out of a drill, never makes an excuse, never rolls his eyes, never drops his head, shows nothing but positive vibes and they kind of took to that. So they started practicing better, our team started playing better then Bruce left. We were actually starting to play better. It was because of those 10, 12 days. Those young kids finally had somebody to show them how to work every day. Duane and Sindarius have continued to do that."

Martin said he has no hesitation in naming Thornwell and Notice the two leaders of his team and program.

"Sindarius and Duane continue to grow and continue to take ownership of our team, and that's exciting to see," Martin said. "If you watched us practice yesterday you'd think we just won the biggest game of the year. That's the kind of excitement that those two are bringing to practice every day. That behavior is infectious. They don't come in and pout. They come in and are excited about working, they're excited about getting better."

Martin said unfortunately that excitement isn't shared by the entire team.

"(Notice and Thornwell) are starting to drag some of their teammates to that (enthusiastic) side of the fence with them. Practice yesterday was phenomenal from an enthusiasm standpoint. Guys in the locker room have to make a decision - do they want to get on that side of the fence or do they want to keep straddling the fence. I can't make that decision for them. That's where the ownership falls on their plate is who they choose to follow."

One player around whom speculation swirls due to his lack of production and playing time recently is sophomore forward Michael Carrera. Tuesday, Martin was asked if he could explain why Carrera's production this year is so different from what it was last season.

"Yes and no," Martin said. "The 'yes' I'm not going to elaborate on. The 'no' is part of my confusion when it pertains to him.

"It's something that happens. It's two completely different teams, two completely different dynamics. Part of it's on me, part of it's on him and I think we both have to do our jobs a little bit better."

For now, Martin is focusing on the positive and how to help Thornwell and Notice succeed.

"I'm extremely happy with those two guys," Martin said. "My frustration as a coach is that their effort isn't being rewarded with wins. That's where we as a staff, starting with me, figure out a way to help those guys lead.

They're the ones that have taken the bull - it wasn't assigned to them - have taken the bull by the horns. We've got to help them do their jobs a little bit better. As they grow into that, it'd be good to win some games so they feel better about what they're doing and some more guys on the team say, 'You know what, let me follow their lead.'

"That's how you grow a program."



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