KENTUCKY WESLEYAN PANTHERS
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (Exh.)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets: Available at the box office
Kentucky Wesleyan's probable starters: G Cardell McFarland 6-0 Jr. (5.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg); G Kwan Waller 5-11 Sr. (7.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Chris Williams 6-5 Sr. (11.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg); F Anthony Young 6-7 Jr. (11.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg); C Jay Ivey 6-7 Sr. (6.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Bruce Ellington 5-9 Fr.; G Brian Richardson 6-4 Fr.; F Lakeem Jackson 6-5 So. (7.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Malik Cooke 6-6 Jr. (9.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg); C Sam Muldrow 6-9 Sr. (10.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina begins its third year under coach Darrin Horn with an exhibition against the Panthers, who it has played in each of his first two years. ... USC has won the other two games 75-55 and 78-55. ... Muldrow is the only member of the team who was not brought to USC by Horn. ... It is also the debut of new assistant coach Orlando Early, who took over for Cypheus Bunton. Bunton is the team's director of player development now. ... Although nothing will count in career statistics tonight, Muldrow is only 78 blocks away from passing Brandon Wallace for the program's career mark. ... Cooke has recovered from a sprained ankle he sustained in preseason practice and will play tonight. ... Sophomore guard Stephen Spinella tweaked his ankle in practice this week and will not play, but should resume practicing by Saturday. ... Guard Ramon Galloway has a fractured foot and is out indefinitely. ... A moment of silence will be observed before tonight's game in memory of longtime play-by-play man Bob Fulton, who died on Wednesday. A banner honoring him is already hanging from the rafters of the arena.
Next game: USC hosts Elon at 9 p.m. on Nov. 12 to begin the regular season.
*Note: Scoring averages are from last year, except in the case of freshmen. Cooke's averages are from two years ago at Nevada. He sat out last year after transferring.
And they're off ...
South Carolina coach Darrin Horn begins his third season tonight -- albeit unofficially, since the result doesn't count -- holding a mixed bag of players. He knows it's full of talent, because save three of the several men in it, he recruited all of them.
He also knows they are rather inexperienced, young and will be finding their way and learning how to play big-time basketball throughout the season.
Horn will be learning as well. He is opening the books on teaching basics to his players as rapidly as they are trying to understand them.
"With this team, as it has been from the beginning for us, we've really got to stay focused on getting better every single day and that being the most important thing," Horn said on Wednesday, when he previewed tonight's exhibition game hosting Kentucky Wesleyan. "I'll be interested to see (tonight) how we do that when we get under the lights."
Everyone is expected to get their first true look at Horn's style beginning tonight, and seeing how it will shape USC basketball going forward. Handed the scoring talents of Devan Downey and a solid supporting cast for two years, Horn won 21 games in his first season before the loss of two starters by November led to a 15-16 year in 2009-10.
He already has assembled two solid recruiting classes, which represents 10 players on the roster. A couple of transfers and one holdover from the Dave Odom era complete this year's group.
There will be change. There will be a new look. There will be difficulty, especially this year, in moving forward and trying to accomplish what has been Horn's buzz-phrase through the offseason -- "building a program."
But Horn and his Gamecocks aim to show everyone that they are not planning to simply sit around and play to the projections most have set for them.
"We've developed a lot," freshman point guard Bruce Ellington said. "We're getting a lot better with the chemistry, knowing where guys are going to be at, knowing what they can do and what they can't do.
"We're just going to go out and just play."
Ellington is one of six freshmen that Horn brought in and is expected to step into the point guard role that Downey held. As Horn and several others have constantly said, nobody replaces a player like Downey, who finished fourth on the school's career scoring chart despite only playing three seasons.
Replacing one player is not the Gamecocks' goal. They want to show that as a team, they can meld into the kind of team that wins, and wins for a while.
Horn has been trying to work in his system a piece at a time, knowing he has several young minds in front of him and that throwing too much at them will not help them. Tonight's game plan, and some of those going forward, may be simply about what everybody can handle at this point.
"We don't have a lot in right now, anyway," Horn said. "It's just scaled back right now. That's kind of the pace that we're moving at offensively."
Plus, he wants to see what his group can do once it faces live competition. Only then can he truly see what the team can do when it is left on the floor to fend for itself, no coach's whistle able to stop play and instruct.
"I'm kind of nervous, but I'm going to come out and do what I need to do," freshman two-guard Brian Richardson said.
Transfer Malik Cooke, who sat out last year after coming back closer to his Charlotte home following two years at Nevada, is ready. Senior center Sam Muldrow is back for a final year. Sophomore Lakeem Jackson, after a very fine freshman campaign, should be in the starting lineup. Ellington should be there as well.
The fifth spot will be figured out tonight and going forward, but Horn has several options, just as he has in offensive and defensive styles. Tonight is the first step in a season-long exam, and while many expect a below-average grade, USC feels it can offer a few curve-wreckers.
"It's time to play," Horn said. "I think our guys are ready to play."
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