The accomplishments of the 2015-16 season (and its bitter end) are packed away. South Carolina tied a school record with 25 wins and continued to draw fans.
But coach Frank Martin has no intention of slowing down, although he admitted Friday’s season-opener has him feeling a bit queasy.
“You’re kind of pulling at straws a little bit, you’re going on gut,” Martin said. “That’s unsettling, for me, because of the way I’m wired.”
A man who stresses preparation and strict plans for every game has three games in the first five days. When he held his first team practice, gone were the rocks of his first four years (Michael Carrera, Laimonas Chatkevicius, Mindaugas Kacinas). Surrounding him were nine new faces mixed with the core of last year’s squad.
The newness is why the schedule is the way it is.
“You’ve got to throw stuff at your team. You’ve got to challenge the mettle of your team,” Martin said. He knows his leaders – seniors Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and Justin McKie – will be fine in this moment.
The others won’t.
“That’s why we do this. You’ve got to put them on the spot,” Martin said. “It’s good for them. Pressure’s a good thing.”
There will be plenty of it. The Gamecocks start with Louisiana Tech on Friday, then host Holy Cross on Sunday and Monmouth on Tuesday. All made the postseason last year.
USC was able to game-plan for the Bulldogs, but the next two games will be a lot of dependence on veterans to win the game, with a small portion of the meticulous breakdown on how to do it.
The Bulldogs have been a consistent winner over the past five years, Eric Konkol inheriting the program from Florida coach Mike White and putting his own stamp on it. Martin met Konkol when the latter was out of coaching for a while and working in video equipment, but Konkol was back in the next year at Miami.
“They don’t press nearly as much as they did with Mike,” Martin said. “They do kind of resemble the style of play at Miami. His thumbprint’s there.”
USC played its lone public exhibition game against a Newberry team that utilized its speed to force turnovers and create bad shots, and its first three opponents run similar styles (but probably without the 40 3-pointers the Wolves hoisted). The Gamecocks received a crash course in how to defend it and want to equal it.
Thornwell, who poured in 34 points against the Wolves, said the seniors are here to help the young players.
“When they’re all tough (games), it’s kind of tough when you have freshmen still working their way in and getting used to everything,” Thornwell said. “At one point in time throughout my career here, I’ve played just about every spot. So it’s nothing new.”
NOTE: Freshmen Maik Kotsar (cramps) and Ran Tut (knee) should be fine for Friday. Freshman Sedee Keita (wrist) is close to returning, but Martin said he’s not optimistic about him playing this weekend. ... Thornwell was named to the coaches preseason All-SEC team.
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Louisiana Tech at USC (0-0)
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
Internet: SEC Network Plus
Radio: 107.5 FM
Louisiana Tech’s probable starters: G Jacobi Boykins 6-6 Jr. (9.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Derric Jean 6-2 So. (7.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Qiydar Davis 6-6 Sr. (10.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg); F Erik McCree 6-8 Sr. (16.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg); F Omar Sherman 6-9 Jr. (14.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg)*
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (6.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (13.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (10.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr.; F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (5.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg)*
Next game: South Carolina hosts Holy Cross at 6 p.m. Sunday.
* 2015-16 statistics