Martin, Thornwell, Johnson heading overseas
Two USC basketball players and their head coach, Frank Martin, are taking their talents to Europe this summer.
Senior point guard Tyrone Johnson and sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell will play on Guy Rancourt's USA East Coast team in the 2014 Four Nations Cup in Estonia on Aug. 4-7. Martin will serve as an assistant coach under Rancourt, the head coach at Lycoming College, who has taken teams to play overseas since 2006.
USA East Coast, made up of 10 college players from the eastern United States, will square off against national teams from Estonia, Slovakia and France in the round-robin competition. The squad will then will play an exhibition against the Finnish national team in Helsinki, Finland, before returning to the United States.
"This opportunity for me and Sin is a great thing because we get to play with other guys from other colleges and we get to continue our chemistry playing together," said Johnson, who has already made two trips overseas to play basketball. "This gives us another few games playing with each other and playing with other guys, competing for our country and playing against other countries."
It will be Thornwell's first trip overseas, but he's looking forward to matching up against international competition, which will include professional players.
"It's something new to me, and it's a learning experience," said Thornwell, South Carolina's leading returning scorer with 13.4 points per game last season.
Thornwell and Johnson -- who says he is back to 100 perfect after breaking his foot on Jan. 15 -- will benefit from playing stiff competition in a foreign environment, Martin said.
"A guy like Ty, if you combine all the college games he's played, he's barely played one college season," Martin said. "So he needs games. That experience ... he needs that.
"Sin's got a chance to have a great year for us next year, knock on wood. It's going to be a great experience for him as well."
Martin said the event will challenge himself as well. Martin got a glimpse of international competition while helping coach Team USA in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, last summer.
He said the national teams USA East Coast will play will look similar to the 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, whose teamwork and discipline were too much for the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals earlier in June.
"We get four practices to prepare a team to go win against teams that are pro teams and national teams that have a system in place, and they play that kind of basketball," said Martin, who added that some of his former Kansas State players traveled overseas with Rancourt. "It's going to make me a better coach to have to be able to prepare a group of guys that have never played together to play against that kind of basketball.
"It's going to make me challenge my thought process of how I've been used to preparing teams, so that's only going to improve me, to help me personally to continue to grow our program."
Johnson was asked to play for USA East Coast last season, Martin said, but he declined because he wanted to focus on getting settled in with Martin and South Carolina after transferring from Villanova. Johnson said he's looking forward to playing overseas for the third time.
"It's a great experience as far as confidence and everything you work on in your game as far as dribbling, shooting - all of that stuff comes into play," Johnson said. "You get to showcase your talent in front of different fans."
Martin, Johnson and Thornwell will join USA East Coast on July 31 for hold a two-day training camp at Columbia University. The team will travel to Tallinn, Estonia, on Aug. 2. They expect to return Aug. 8.
USA East Coast 10-man roster:
Damonte Dodd (Maryland)
Mike Gesell (Iowa)
Granville Gittens (Baruch)
Dusty Hannahs (Arkansas)
BJ Johnson (Syracuse)
Tyrone Johnson (South Carolina)
John Monkam (Lycoming)
Tyler Roberson (Syracuse)
Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina)
Adam Woodbury (Iowa)