David Cloninger

All things Gamecocks, especially basketball and football

Martin, Gamecocks open practice

09/30/2013 4:17 PM

04/10/2015 2:34 PM

The leftovers from Frank Martin’s season-opening practice on Monday:

Martin was naturally asked about the concern of so many newcomers on the roster. Sure, there will be struggles, but all of them were recruited to USC for a reason. The youth isn’t a concern, it’s a blessing. What smoothes over the rough spots is the upperclass presence.

“It’s great. New guys is part of the business. The part that makes the business easier to do, year-to-year, are the returning guys. We got a core of guys that played major minutes last year that understand, that comprehend me, I comprehend them. There’s direction now for those first-year guys where last year, none of those guys had direction. I was trying to figure them out, they were trying to figure me out, but nah, it’ll be OK.”

I’ll go ahead and tell you that you’re going to get an awful lot of commenting from Michael Carrera and Brenton Williams this year, especially early in the season. Martin’s rule is that no new players talk before the first semester ends, and while he made an exception for LaShay Page last year, he won’t do the same for Ty Johnson this year (which makes sense, since Johnson can’t play until the first semester is over). That only leaves Carrera, Williams, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Minda Kacinas, since Bruce Ellington will be off playing football until at least the start of December. The two Lithuanians will play, but no one can be sure if they’ll play or impact enough to be brought into the post-game.

A big part of the Gamecocks’ success this year will be Carrera. He’s so difficult to guard and is such a lover of hard-nosed defense that his hip injury really took him out of the equation last year. He is 100 percent healthy from the injury, but as usual, he’s still battling to control his emotion.

“Usually when you’re a high-strung player like he is and plays on emotion, when you’re not physically fit to sustain, that emotion tends to take you places you don’t want to be it. That’s what happened to him sometimes last year. He couldn’t sustain and that emotion would lead to bad fouls and lose his focus on what we were trying to do and he would get wrapped up in his own moment. Based on what I’ve seen in one-hour practices, which is all we’ve done, he’s way ahead of where he was at last year, because he can sustain effort right now. What makes Mike special is that emotion he brings to the table every day. That’s also his weakness. As he continues to mature as a player, how he manages that will determine how good he can become.”

Martin is still handy with the one-liner. Asked for what he expected out of his young guys, he said:

“Pass it to the guys on your team. Can we make a layup, we missed so many last year? That’d be refreshing. No, getting guys to understand what we’re doing. Terminology, that’s a huge part of what we’re doing is terminology. This kind of speeds up a little bit now. We’ve got to go forward and they’ve got to work real hard to stay in tune.”

Martin was asked about his team “struggling” last year, and he pointed out that that term and what fans view as troubles don’t necessarily jibe with what he saw. Now, it’s clear that USC did not have the season it wanted last year, which is why it’s been almost a total makeover, roster-wise. But despite that, Martin saw some good things.

“You might view last season as a struggle, I viewed it as us laying a foundation. Some people might say, ‘Well, your team wasn’t any good,’ and I’m going to tell you I thought we were OK. We laid a foundation for what we’re about. It’s not about disregarding last year, it’s not about disliking last year, it’s about embracing last year, and continuing to build. It takes work, it takes building, it takes patience, and we’re right in the middle of that right now. Last year was a great, great thing to be a part of, to make us appreciate how much work we got to do.”

Williams is one of only two seniors on the roster, with Ellington. Naturally, Martin was asked if Williams is the leader. Martin agrees with my line of thinking, that leadership is never demanded, it’s accepted by those that want it the most. Williams can be that guy, but he’s also working on being the best he can during his final year.

“Brent’s got to be who he is. You can’t make people they’re not comfortable with doing. Brent’s got to be the best Brent Williams he can be. He’s probably in better shape than anybody on our team, and that’s important. That’s a senior leading in his own way, and he’s got to become the best that he can be in his own skin.”

Martin will hold a full-length press conference on Tuesday, and upperclassmen Michael Carrera and Brenton Williams are also expected to attend. That will lead into Dawn Staley’s press conference talking about the first day of practice later in the afternoon.

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