Martin: Gamecock freshmen can be 'even better than I envisioned'
During the recruitment process, Frank Martin and the Gamecocks can see a player’s ability to help now and ultimately down the road.
When the Gamecocks recruited and signed two bigs in the 2020 class—Patrick Iriel and Ja’Von Benson—the staff saw the ability to help, especially down the road, but Martin seems to think the two have a chance to outperform the expectations he originally set for them.
“We also recruit because of who they want to become and who we think they can become,” Martin said. “Now that I’m around them, I think they can be even better than I ever envisioned them being if they stay true to what they’ve been doing to this point.”
Both freshmen are hyper-local players with both guys playing in Columbia; Iriel played at AC Flora while Benson played at Ridge View.
The two have been going through preseason practice now and impressed the Gamecocks’ coaching staff with their effort and ability.
“They’re going to be real good players here. They’re different as people but they both have a strength that sticks out like a sore thumb. They both want to be good. They don’t pout,” Martin said. “I think they’re both going to be real good Gamecocks for us.”
Iriel committed to South Carolina first in the class, announcing in August after a really good summer circuit. He picked the Gamecocks over interest from Cincinnati, Southern California and a few others.
He’s the bigger of the two incoming freshmen, checking in at 6-foot-10, 248 pounds and has already shown off a lot of that strength and ability for a guy that big.
“Pat’s strong as an ox. He runs. He had a great play in Saturday’s workout where he just outran everyone down the court. He made the defensive rotation to stop a basket and he turned around and outran everyone down the court and cut a hard pass for a layup,” Martin said. “He got all the experienced guys jumping on him because they know what he just did. That’s an impressive play for somebody so young to play.”
Benson committed soon after, in mid-October, to round out the Gamecocks’ class. He picked South Carolina over Indiana State and College of Charleston.
The 6-foot-7, 251-pound big man has a unique frame and some really good athleticism, and
Martin’s been impressed with his ability to score.
“Ja’Von has this unique ability to find a way to put the ball in the basket. Some guys look real good but the ball never goes in when it’s competitive. He figures out a way to score. He made a basket in today’s workout that I was like, ‘Holy cow, how’d he put the ball in the basket?’” he said.
“He’s used to being the biggest guy on the court so he only had to play with a certain aggression to impose his presence in a game. Now he’s learning he has to play with a lot more aggression a lot more consistently if he wants to impose his presence in a drill in a practice.”
The two are having to go up against experienced bigs like Alanzo Frink, Wildens Leveque and Jalyn McCreary, which will help in their development.
Neither are complete products just yet but their teammates are noticing two players who can help this season.
“Ja’Von and Pat are just battling really hard and you can see it in the post,” Justin Minaya said. “They’re not backing down from the other guys. Once they start learning more of the plays and the set up I think they’ll be helpful for us also.”