In basketball if nowhere else, size matters.
So when University of South Carolina coaches learned that it could be without the only two forwards it recruited for 2014 thanks to injury (Shamiek Sheppard) and the law (James Thompson), it's fair to say that that the pressure on the returning big men skyrocketed nearly overnight.
At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Sheppard was to bring a New York City toughness and athleticism the team had been lacking on the perimeter. At 6-8 and also 210, Thompson was the big man the program desperately needed with the transfer of 6-9 sophomore Desmond Ringer and some near-misses on the recruiting trail that left USC with a glaring hole in the middle.
With neither Sheppard nor Thompson looking likely to contribute this fall unless circumstances change, the onus of USC's production in the middle falls on the returning players the coaches had been working hard to find upgrades for - junior Lithuanians Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas and sophomore Demetrius Henry. Henry
On Sunday, Henry and Chatkevicius faced off against one another at the S.C. Pro-Am, with Henry winning the battle of the stat line, scoring 18 points and six rebounds. In two Pro-Am games, Henry is averaging 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds - significantly higher than his 4.0 point, 3.4 rebounds average that defined his up-and-down freshman year.
The first thing Henry knew he needed to do over the summer was get bigger. A stringy 6-9, 215-pound forward last season, Henry lost battles inside to larger players and defensively had difficulty establishing position. So far, Henry's efforts to increase his size have paid off.
"I've put on 10 pounds," Henry said. "I'm up to 226."
"I want to get to 230."
Besides playing against Chatkevicius, Henry battled former USC standout and current professional Carlos Powell in the league's opening game. Henry said he learned a lot from Powell.
"It's real good competition facing someone like Carlos Powell," Henry said. "He's playing for money right now, and that's eventually what I want to do.
"I learned a lot of stuff from him. His competitiveness, that you don't have to score every time, you can make plays for other people. I matched up with him pretty well."
For Henry, the chance to grow his offensive game and improve his rebounding are the keys to his development.
"I'm doing a better job rebounding, and that's one of the things coach (Frank Martin) was on me about this past season.
"I'm working on my game, and playing against competitive people every game is great. It teaches me to go hard every game."
Henry said that improving rebounding is less physical than mental.
"You have to have the attitude that you want to rebound everything," Henry said. "That's really what it is. That's the attitude and approach to it."
With half of the 2014 recruiting class in limbo as to whether they'll contribute this season, how Henry develops this summer is key to whether USC improves it's 2013-14 record of 14-20 (5-13 in the SEC) or simply treads water until bigger and better bodies arrive.
"So it's been a pretty good offseason for me so far," Henry said. "It's real good."