football

Baseballs success excites Martin

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FrankMartingrewupinMiamiinthe1970sasarabidCincinnatiRedsfan.
Atthetime,theBigRedMachinehadasluggingfirstbasemannamedTonyPerez,aherointheCubancommunitythatresidedinSouthFlorida.TeammateslikePeteRose,JohnnyBenchandJoeMorganreceivedmorenotoriety,buttheless-heraldedPerez,Martin'sfavoriteplayer,wasthegluethatheldtheRedstogether.
SobaseballwashardlyaforeignsporttoMartinwhenhearrivedinColumbiainlateMarchasSouthCarolina'snewbasketballcoach.
HewasalsoawareofUSC'sastoundingsuccesslatelyunderRayTanner,havingattendedatleastoneUSCgameatthe2010CollegeWorldSeries.
Inhis2-1/2monthssinceacceptingthejob,Martinhasexperiencedfirst-handwhatmakesTannerandtheGamecocks,nowinOmahaastheirquestforathirdconsecutiveCollegeWorldSeriestitlerollson,fireonallcylinderswhenMayandJunerollaround.
MartinattendedtheSuperRegionalagainstOklahomaalongwithhisfamilyandwasimpressedbytheintensityintheballpark,bothonthefieldandinthestands.
"Ieatitup.It'sgreatbaseball,agreatatmosphereandawinningteam,"Martintold107.5TheGameonWednesday."MyentirefamilyandIenjoyedthemomentandwatchedaheckofabaseballteamthatknowsonething-winning.Theymakealltherightplays.That'sacredittowhatthosecoacheshavebuiltthereandtheseniorleadershipfromguyslikeMichaelRoth.
"I'mveryexcitedthatI'mfinallyabletoseethisteam.I'vebeenwatchingthemfromafar.AndnowI'vewatchedthemupcloseandgottentoknowcoachTanneralittlebit,it'sawesome."
It'sbeenawhilesinceColonialLifeArenahasseenboisterouscrowdsformen'sbasketball,butseeingtheenvironmentatCarolinaStadiumduringtheSuperRegionalmakesMartinhopeful.
"Whenyougointhereandseethemstackedup,standing-room-onlysixandsevenrowsdeep,itgetsmeexcitedaboutwhatcanhappenatColonialLifeArenaifwelineupandplaythegametherightwayandwinsomegames,"Martinsaid.
TheextentofhisinteractionwithTannerandtheotherUSCcoacheshasbeenapleasantsurpriseforMartinsincehedecidedtoleaveKansasState.
"It'sbeenawesome.That'soneofthethingsinmytransitionthathasbeenincredible,"Martinsaid."(Tanner's)beenveryaccessibletome,andsohasSteveSpurrier,DawnStaleyandallthecoaches.There'sanatmospherehereamongthecoachesthatisphenomenal.Thereisasenseofrespecttowardseachotherandtowardstheirprograms.(Thenewcoaches)haveyettodoanythinghereandI'vebeenacceptedrightawayasoneofthem.I'mexcitedascanbe."
PriortowatchingtheGamecocksearnathirdstraighttriptoOmahabysweepingOklahomaintwogames,MartinservedasacourtcoachduringtheUSABasketballMen'sU18NationalTeamtrainingcampheldJune5-7attheU.S.OlympicTrainingCenterinColoradoSprings,Colo.Florida'sBillyDonovanisthecoachoftheUSAU18NationalteamandthetoptwoassistantsareMarkFewfromGonzagaandShakaSmartfromVCU.
"It'sbeenadreamofminetogetinvolvedwithUSABasketball,"Martinsaid."Whatanawesomefeelingtolineupandputonashirtthatsays'USA'onit.You'recontributinginsomeway,shapeorformtohelpbuildateamthat'sgoingtorepresentyourcountry.WhenIwasaffordedthatopportunity,Ialmostcameoutofmyshoes.
"Itwasagreatexperience.Theplayersweregreattobearound.Therewereguysthatwehadrecruited(atKansasState)andhadrelationshipswith,soitwaseasytogettoknowthem.Itwasaheckofamomentforme,personally."
BeforeheadingtotheRockies,MartinparticipatedforthefirsttimeintheSECspringmeetingsinDestin,Fla.,onMay31-June1.Whilethere,the14men'sbasketballcoachesapprovedtheformatforan18-gameconferenceschedule(1-4-8format:onepermanentopponent,twogamesagainstfourrotatingopponentsandsinglegamesagainsteightopponentseveryseason)andthebracketfora14-teamconferencetournamentthatgivesdoublebyestothetopfourteams.
"Itwasafirst-classevent,"Martinsaid."Ikindofkeptmymouthshutanddidalotoflistening.IdidspeakuponsomethingsthatIhaveopinionsabout,somegeneralbasketball-relatedissues.IlistenedmorethanIspoke.ItwasimpressivehowunitedthebasketballcoachesinthisleagueareinmakingsuretheyrepresentSECbasketballtherightway."
LastseasonwhenMartinwasstillatKansasState,theBig12(only10teams)played18conferencegamesinahome-and-homeformatagainsttheothernineschoolsintheconference.Obviously,that'simpossibleina14-teamconference.
"Everybodycametoaconsensusthat(1-4-8)wasthebestschedulingformatthatcouldbeputtogether,"Martinsaid.
USC'spermanentopponentisGeorgia,althoughBulldogscoachMarkFoxpolitickedforFloridaorAuburn.However,TVexecutiveswantedKentucky-FloridaandAuburn'spermanentopponentis,naturally,bitterrivalAlabama.
"Basedonproximity,thatmadesensetome,"Martinsaid."IwasOKwithit."
NOTES
*MartinsaidthatheandhisfamilymightmakethetriptoOmahatowatchtheGamecocksintheCollegeWorldSeries.
*MartinsaidSECCommissionerMikeSlivecalledhimshortlyafterhewashiredbyUSC.
*Martinsaidhehadhopedthe2012-13non-conferencewouldhavebeenreleasedbynow,but"onelittlesnag"remains.Itcouldpossiblybereleasednextweek,hesaid.TheSECannouncedthatitwillreleasetheconferencescheduleinAugust.
*AlthoughUSChasalreadysignedfourplayersfor2012-13,Martinhintedthathisstaffisnotdoneasfarasrecruitingfornextseason.Martinlikestoannouncetheentiresigningclassatonetime,sonothinghasyetcomefromUSC."Iliketoannounceeverybodyatonce,"Martinsaid."We'vebeenscramblingtryingtofillour2012class.We'reclosetofinalizingthat.Thatshouldbereleasedshortly,probablyaroundthefourthofJuly."
*USCisscheduledtomaketwotripstoNewYorkin2012-13.TheGamecockswillfaceSt.John'sintheSEC/BigEastChallengeandManhattanattheBrooklynNets'newarena.ThelargestcityinthecountryhasbeenfertilerecruitingterritoryforMartinandhiscoachingstaffforseveralyears."Iloverecruitingthere,"Martinsaid."Thiswillbeachancetotakeourprogramintotheso-called'Meccaofcollegebasketball.'It'sagreatopportunity."
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D. McCallum
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