Players have left Darrin Horn’s USC men’s basketball program each of his three seasons in Columbia. But Tuesday, for the first time, they were players he had recruited.
The announcement that sophomore shooting guards Ramon Galloway and Stephen Spinella will transfer likely will have more of an impact on the team for the 2012-13 season, when Horn can add more recruits.
But the departures also affect team leadership, put a spotlight on an incoming high schooler and call into question Horn’s recruiting record.
Why Galloway left
Horn hardly veiled his disappointment in the 6-foot-2 Philadelphia native, who was popular with fans. The coach said last week the lack of efficient scoring from his shooting guards was “abysmal” during a 14-16 season. He cited Galloway needing 16 shot attempts to score a team-high 17 points in the season’s final game.
Freshman Brian Richardson started 24 games at shooting guard, but Galloway usually came in within the first few minutes. He averaged 10.7 points a game, third-best on the team, and led the team in scoring in seven games. Still, Galloway’s shooting dropped to 36.2 this season from 40.2 percent last season, and he shot 25.4 percent from 3-point territory in SEC play.
Galloway’s unpredictable play was probably the deciding factor in the coaches’ decision to reduce his role next season. His fate was sealed when he turned over the ball late in the Tennessee game in Columbia when Horn gave him control of the offense. The coach remarked at the time that Galloway tried to do too much — something that is unacceptable for a guard well into his second season.
Why Spinella left
The 6-foot-4 New Jersey native had a couple of good early season games, including a team-high 15 points versus Radford. But his playing time diminished as his shooting and defense faded. He did not play in 14 of USC’s last 16 games. Still, Spinella said this month he would be returning to the team. Spinella decided to transfer after he asked coaches how he could improve and was told things were not going to work out, said Joe Stein, Spinella’s AAU coach. Spinella was not used to the quickness of play in the SEC, making it difficult for him to get off his shot, Stein said.
Spotlight lands on Leonard
The shooting guard job next season appears to be Damien Leonard’s to lose — and he hasn’t enrolled at USC. Analysts say the J.L. Mann High player has the shooting ability to make a difference. The team has one other option at shooting guard, Richardson — who cooled after a hot start to average 5.9 points a game. Horn could play point guard Bruce Ellington at the two spot with Eric Smith at the point, something he tried late in the season. But that’s not a long-term solution.
A recruiting problem?
Horn said last week his high-tempo system, which relies on athletic players, can be successful with the right personnel, which requires time.
The departures of Galloway and Spinella leave only forward Lakeem Jackson from Horn’s original recruiting class. Jackson, a starter, appears headed for the bench because of his poor shooting, the coach said last week. Even Horn’s junior-college recruit, Johndre Jefferson, was an end-of-the-bench player his final season.
Among this season’s six freshmen, only Ellington shined — though Smith and forward Damontre Harris showed flashes.
What happens with roster openings?
The Gamecocks have 11 scholarship players for next season, though one — 6-foot-10 center Carlton Geathers — remains a project after redshirting this year. That’s a number Horn is comfortable with because the Gamecocks had 11 active players this season. Teams are allowed 13 scholarships.
The transfers give USC a chance to better stagger its recruiting classes. The team had six openings entering this season, will have two next season and one for 2012-13.
Finding a new leader
Galloway often was a leader on the court. He greeted teammates by dancing and with high-fives and chest-bumps during player introductions. He was in the middle of players-only huddles. The team will be looking for direction from its only senior, Malik Cooke; redshirt junior Murphy Holloway; and Ellington.
Horn said last week the team still is developing leadership. “Real change is only going to take place when they say, ‘It’s enough,’ in the locker room, and they handle it,” he said.