Addressing the media at the conclusion of the 2014 Little Gamecocks Basketball Camp, University of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said he was pleased with his team's progress this summer and commented on the statuses of two 2014 recruits whose futures are momentarily uncertain.
Martin said the news that freshman forward Shamiek Sheppard (6-foot-6) tore the ACL in his right knee in preseason workouts and will likely miss the 2014-15 basketball season was tough to take.
"It's unfortunate," Martin said. "He's a kid that has fought to overcome, to climb out of his neighborhood in Brooklyn that surrounded him with difficult circumstances to go to a military school in Virginia to become an academic qualifier, and then turn around and have all his rewards for all his work to accept a scholarship to a high-major place (threatened by the injury), it's unfortunate."
Martin said it's difficult when bad things happen to good kids.
"When kids make mistakes, I really don't feel bad for them," Martin said. "It's part of growing up. I help them through it.
"But if an injury sets in, it's not like they did anything to deserve to get hurt."
Martin said it's unlikely Sheppard could heal from the surgery on the torn ligament that will take place this week in time to play this season, though nothing is impossible.
"Everyone in his past has told me, 'Oh, he'll be back because he's a fast healer," Martin said. "With someone as naturally strong and as muscular as he is, those guys come back a little faster, but first of all it's in God's hands. Secondly, the most important part, if the surgery goes well, and with our doctors I have no doubt it will, then it's a matter of the blood starting to go into the tissue again so the tissue strengthens and then that leg getting as strong as it needs to get.
"I'm not going to jeopardize a season of eligibility to play him in four games at the end of the year. That's not fair to him."
The fate of 6-foot-9 forward James Thompson, charged in Louisiana with aggravated battery and domestic abuse on June 9, is less certain. Thompson, who was served by a judge with a restraining order June 24 to prevent him from seeing the girlfriend who filed charges against him, was scheduled to attend court on the charges today but the court date was pushed back to Aug. 6.
When asked if the decision whether or not Thompson's scholarship will be honored depends on the outcome of the cases, Martin would not say.
"Like I said last week, there's not much I can say," Martin said. "He's an awesome kid. We just have to sit back and see what happens."
Martin said the increased summer availability to work with players has been a blessing for his young team and for him as a coach now in his third summer in Columbia.
"I had no idea what was going on my first summer here," Martin said. "I might have told you I did, but I had no idea.
"I was trying to figure everything out. What's nice right now is that Shameik, (Marcus) Stroman, (TeMarcus) Blanton, when we work out, whether it's the weight room or in individuals or in groups of four as a team, those guys are learning the kind of speed, strength and discipline you have to prepare with in June and July.
"It prepares them for what the reality is in October and November. What I like is we're in workouts and I see Stroman trying to go at Ty Johnson and Ty Johnson just taking advantage of his inexperience and then helping him. I see Sindarius (Thornwell) not letting TeMarcus get very comfortable about anything, but I don't see TeMarcus taking a step back, either. We've got some things in place we haven't had before."
Martin said Thornwell, now a sophomore, has been a leader for the team not because he's been appointed one by the coaching staff but because he's earned the role on the court.
"I'm not one of those guys who assign captains," Martin said. "Some people kind of like step forward like, 'I'm the captain,' but once you get in the locker room their voice, no one listens to it.
"To me, leaders are ones who accept responsibility and are willing to fight for that responsibility and make sure that he helps and keeps others in check. Sindarius falls into that category. He embraces responsibility, wants you to coach him, grows every day and then demands that everyone else respect that, and if you don't, he doesn't disrespect you, he just embarrasses you on the court. That's what leadership is about."