Theus Jr. has something to prove

To say Reggie Theus Jr. was "sparingly used" last season is an understatement.
The rising sophomore saw the least playing time of any University of South Carolina scholarship player during the 2013-14 season - 39 minutes, which for a reference point was 30 fewer minutes than Bruce Ellington played in his brief three-game stint.
Theus Jr. made two baskets all season long in 11 appearances, averaging 0.6 points per game. He scored seven points on 2-of-7 shooting, was 3-for-10 from the free-throw line and collected six rebounds and five fouls.
As the least-used scholarship player, many speculated that Theus Jr. might not be part of the Gamecocks' plans going forward. But thanks to a positive attitude and good relationship with coach Frank Martin, Theus Jr. said he's here to stay.
"At the end of the day, coach likes me," said Theus Jr., who had 11 points and 8 rebounds in Thursday night's S.C. Pro-Am action. "I never took negativity into anything from anybody about where I was from (Los Angeles) or why I didn't play or anything like that.
"I tell people that I didn't play a lot last year, but Frank likes me a lot. He told me to come back in the summer because of my work ethic and how I am as a person and how much I care about our team and the culture and him.
"I just have to keep working hard and showing what I can do. Keep a good attitude, work as hard as I can and eventually it'll come. I'm real patient and happy with what I've become these past two years, my senior year of high school and my first year here and so far this summer."
Theus Jr. said playing in the Pro-Am gives him a chance to hone his skills by seeing significant action so he can become more comfortable playing the role on the court the coaches want him to.
"It feels good (to be out here)," Theus Jr. said. "I came out and I had a good game. It's always good going up against competition. It's a different challenge, and it's all about confidence and getting yourself comfortable with your new guys."
One of those new guys is teammate and incoming freshman TeMarcus Blanton. Blanton also scored 11 points in Thursday's game, adding 7 rebounds and 9 assists.
"I'm glad I have a guy like TeMarcus (Blanton) on my team, a young guy. I remember when it was my first Pro-Am game like it was yesterday, so I'm happy to be a part of that and help him learn from the other guys also."
Asked what the coaches have told Theus Jr. to change, he said the answer is simple - get more physical. With the injury to Shamiek Sheppard (6-foot-6) and legal issues surrounding James Thompson (6-9), the need for Theus Jr.'s 6-6 frame has dramatically increased.
"I feel like I have to change my body and change my mindset how it's always been as a guard and start becoming more physical inside," Theus Jr. said. "Because the times when I would get in there at the four spot, I'd play my butt off but it was so tough playing against those guys in there with a group of guys that size (in the SEC). Even the size of the guys on our team is different for me.
"A big thing for Frank and our coaches is they want to turn me into a stretch-four to be able to stretch my game so I'm on the box and can step out. There were a lot of practices where I noticed I was real comfortable and ion the flow of the offense."
For Theus Jr. to escape the end of the bench, he'll have to be willing to do the hard work that Martin's physical system demands.
"I think he just wants me to play hard, stay focused and understand the plays, do the dirty work," Theus Jr. said. "His thing is play hard, give it 100 no matter what. I don't have to shoot, I don't have to dribble, I just have to play hard and he'll be happy with that."
The other thing the coaches need to see from him, Theus Jr., was an improvement in his concentration.
"I think mainly for (Frank), what we talked about was the focus," Theus Jr. said. "The first year, being so far away from where I'm from, he said we understand that it was a real long process to get adjusted to the size, the time, how things go on over here.
"I feel like it's my job to do my job, do what Frank wants. So I feel like my role hasn't changed; if I keep doing what I'm doing, my time will come. It's always about having a chip on your shoulder and showing people what you can do.
It always works out, because I'm a good people person. I'm going in the right direction."