Frank Martin’s back in town from a whirlwind summer of helping coach Team USA in the World University Games and recruiting, so I dropped by for a chat. Before the main story (stories) appear(s), though, a quick recap of some pertinent bits:
* Getting to coach Team USA was an “unbelievable” experience for Martin. He grew up watching Team USA play in the Olympics and always wanted to be part of it. Getting to work with Bob McKillop (head coach of the team and at Davidson) and John Beilein (head coach at Michigan, which played for the last national championship) was amazing and as Martin said, it was good to be back in the role of assistant coach for a while. Sure, the team’s results weren’t terrific (Team USA finished ninth), but when taking a handful of college kids that have practiced together five times, and putting them against teams that have been training together for two or three years, sometimes it happens. The level of international basketball has gotten so much better since the original Dream Team played in 1992, and Team USA played in the same pool as Australia and Canada, with only two able to advance to the medal round (Canada finished fourth and Australia won the silver medal). There will be much more on Martin in Russia this weekend.
* All good reports from offseason workouts. The new Gamecocks and the returning Gamecocks have done what they’ve supposed to do, in terms of conditioning, weight-lifting and playing pickup games. Martin has let his assistants do a lot of the teaching with the players during the summer, and has heard great things. Ultimately, it’s all about Martin’s buzzword – improvement. There will be no declarations of wins and losses or expectations once the season gets closer; as long as USC improves every game, even if it loses one night, Martin will like it.
* Schedule – the most popular question this summer. It’s still unreleased, with one game holding up the works. Basically, USC had a schedule in place, but with the SEC’s new restriction of having to approve every league team’s schedule, USC had to go back and tinker with it. This was completely understood on USC’s end, because the Gamecocks know that they were part of the problem last year in terms of the league not having a great non-conference strength-of-schedule and RPI to wow the NCAA tournament selection committee. There is a game that USC has in mind and is working to get it in place, as long as a couple of other circumstances also fall into place. As for the entire schedule, it will be much, much improved in terms of big-name opponents and strength this year (if you missed it previously, known games as announced by other schools or events are listed below).
Dec. 6 at Oklahoma State (Big 12/SEC Challenge)
TBA at Clemson
Dec. 17 MANHATTAN
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Diamond Head Classic, Honolulu, HI
Dec. 22 St. Mary’s, 11 p.m.
Dec. 23 Boise State/Hawaii, 9 p.m./11:30 p.m.
Dec. 25 TBA
Dec. 28 AKRON
Home games in CAPS
* As I reported a few weeks ago, the outlook of rising redshirt junior Carlton Geathers in terms of playing this year is not good. Geathers told me directly that he won’t play this season due to the fractured kneecap he suffered a year ago, and the after-effects of it (the metal the doctors put into the knee was actually rejected by his body, and he had to go back for another surgery). Martin said it was very likely that Geathers won’t play, but he was moving around pretty well recently, doing some light running and chasing some basketballs around on the floor. Geathers has a great attitude about it, helping out with what he can at practice even if he can’t participate. He’s been a great influence on teaching the freshmen. He remains on scholarship, and he is hopeful to come back and play in 2014-15. If that were to happen, he would stand a great chance of receiving a sixth year of eligibility, if he wanted to apply, since he would have lost two years due to injury. That all being said, if the doctors clear him to play this year, Geathers could play. Right now, it’s about preparing Geathers to walk without a limp for the rest of his life. Basketball is completely secondary.
* Freshman Justin McKie has been shut down for the rest of the summer due to a foot injury. He sprained his ankle over the summer and tried to play on it in the S.C. Pro Am, but the pain never left his foot. The staff decided to rest him until school starts so he’ll be able to do all of the preseason running and conditioning.
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