Since Jermaine Couisnard first visited South Carolina, the Gamecocks have gained and lost a McDonald’s All-American, have re-gained and re-lost a point guard, have added six new players and had another test the NBA waters.
But Couisnard wasn’t so much scouting personnel when he was at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 3 for USC-Missouri. He was there to check on Frank Martin’s style.
“They like to run,” he said. “I hate to slow the ball down and run through the plays. He was just telling them to get out and run, and that’s how they made a big run in the tournament.
“I can bring something to the running game.”
Carolina's 2018 recruiting class is likely to include seven members. After June 2's additions of Keyshawn Bryant and Jair Bolden, the Gamecocks have one scholarship remaining. It's been a successful late flurry for Martin, but it was Couisnard who got it all started a month after Christmas.
"All the schools that were recruiting me," Couisnard said recently, "I knew they had other big stars, so I was just trying to go somewhere on my own and do something big.”
Couisnard, who drew interest from the likes of West Virginia, Texas A&M and Louisville, is arriving in Columbia more than a year after Sindarius Thornwell departed.
It can be argued no one did it bigger in garnet and black than Thornwell, the 2017 SEC player of the year, star of Final Four team and second-round NBA draft pick.
Thornwell is 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Couisnard is 6-foot-5, 185 pounds.
Martin, during a news conference in mid-May, went deeper with the comparison.
"He reminds me of Sindarius a lot," Martin said. "His demeanor, his size, his game. He’s got an edge to him like Sin did. I’m excited about him.
"Can play the 1 (point guard), the 2 (shooting guard), the 3 (small forward). Very similar to Sin, very, very similar to Sin. Shoots it better than Sindarius did in high school. But I’m excited about Jermaine. He has a love for basketball. Not too concerned with outside perception, really consumed with the people that are in his ear trying to help him."
"It’s a cool feeling," Couisnard said when told of Martin's high praise. "I know (Thornwell's) one of the best players to ever come through South Carolina, so it was really cool.”
Despite averaging nearly 30 points per game as a senior at East Chicago Central High School in Indiana, Couisnard drew little recruiting interest. He took a post-grad year at Montverde, a national powerhouse, to increase his spotlight. The move worked on a few fronts.
No. 1, Couisnard got the attention he was seeking. No. 2, he got a major step-up in competition.
Montverde's post-grad team spent much of the preseason battling against the school's varsity squad. For Couisnard, that meant battles with R.J. Barrett, the Duke-bound top player in the country.
"We had scrimmages, like, at nighttime," Couisnard said. "Sometimes it was just so crazy they had to stop it. Some days we would just get into fights it was so competitive.”
“Basically 1-on-1 basketball and you’re playing outside," he said. "If you can’t stand your own ground, you’re a nobody.”
He was a fit for Martin long before the two connected.
"He wanted somebody to come in, play hard and stick to the game plan.," Couisnard said. "But he always likes tough players, so I feel like that will be me.
"I went on a visit and watched a game. And I thought I could bring something there.”