Duane Notice admitted it. There were times last year the South Carolina freshman was unprepared to handle the task handed to him.
Last year, I felt like I was under too much pressure, and I got thrown into it, he said after the first game of the S.C. Pro-Am on Thursday. I feel like last year, I was thrown into the fire, but this year, Im getting older and Im going to be a leader on this team.
Brought in as a point guard for the future, who could spend a year or two learning under the Gamecocks veterans, Notice was given a double-dose of adult medicine. When Ty Johnson broke his foot and Bruce Ellington departed for the NFL, the Gamecocks needed a point guard, and he was the next guy up.
Notice struggled as the season progressed and the competition became more difficult. At times, he would pass to Sindarius Thornwell, pleading with him to bring it up the court and take some of the burden. While Thornwell accepted, it took away a lot of what USC could do offensively.
While Notice rebounded to finish the season strong, the lapse bothered him as he went home for the summer.
The messages from family, friends and coaches was encouraging You played well last year in a lot of spots. You can do that through the whole season, we know it. Notice heard it and got to work.
I asked coach Frank (Martin) exactly what he wanted from me, Notice said. He just wants me to do the same thing I did last year. Whether thats being a combo guard, being a two as we lost Brenton Williams, being a one. ... I prepared myself before coming to school, I got with a personal trainer, worked on my body and my shooting, my conditioning. I lost a lot of weight so I could be quicker on defense.
Notice has been playing pickup with his teammates and doing individual drills, but Thursday was his first night to play in a game atmosphere until November. Playing alongside center Laimonas Chatkevicius in the Pro-Am, Notice offered a glimpse of what he hopes lasts the entire season.
He was faster, jumped higher, much trickier with the pass and confident. In a word: better.
I feel quicker, I feel I can handle the ball better, I can get to places on the court better, I can jump higher, as you can see, he said, estimating that hes lost 16 pounds and is down to 214. Ive been feeling more agile.
He finished with 11 points, locking a 94-90 win by sprinting for an outlet pass with under 7 seconds to go and knocking down a free throw. That followed a turnover the possession before that threatened to give the game away. He had five rebounds, seven assists and three turnovers. He took part in two alley-oop dunks as well finishing one on a two-on-one fast break and throwing the ball off the glass so his trail man could jam on the second.
He lost a lot of weight. That obviously helped him, said Chatkevicius, who finished a few of Notices assists. I really like him this summer. Its a pleasure to play with him.
Johnson should start at point guard, but Notice is ready to spell him or play the two or three.
It feels better. At practice, I get reps and work the one and the two and the three, Notice said. My coaches stayed in my ear about what I have to do to be consistent. I look at it as Im under pressure, but I feel like I have it under control. This year, Im going to take command and do the best I can.