It wasn’t a shock to hear it, but it was still unfortunate.
“You can see it in practice, as the season goes long, that his body just couldn’t respond. It didn’t catch me off-guard,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said Wednesday. “But anytime a young man sits there and he’s trying to tell you, ‘I just can’t do it anymore,’ it’s not an easy moment. Especially somebody of his desire, his spirit.”
Martin was talking of rising redshirt junior guard TeMarcus Blanton, who announced Tuesday that he was bypassing his final two years of eligibility. He’ll remain at USC on full scholarship with a medical exemption and be a full part of the team, but he won’t play any more basketball.
Blanton’s courage, effort and want to fully come back from a debilitating hip injury was inspiring to anybody who saw how much it hurt him the day after a practice or game. He was able to play in nearly 30 games over two seasons after suffering an injury so severe that doctors told him they’d never seen it on a basketball player. And, he’ll always be a part of the first Gamecock team to make the Final Four.
But after the season ended, and Blanton had a conversation with himself, he made up his mind to have that same conversation with his coach. He just couldn’t do it anymore.
“He’s got as good a spirit as any kid I’ve ever coached,” Martin said. “For him to have to sit there and say, ‘I can’t do this,’ that was hard on him and it was hard to have to sit there and hear him say it.”
The next step? Blanton has a year to go for his degree in interdisciplinary studies and a free year of graduate school at USC, if he wants it. He’ll spend it with the team in practice and doing everything he used to do, while learning a new trade.
Blanton wants to coach. Like former player (and two-year student assistant coach) Brian Steele, whose playing career was also cut short by injuries, Blanton will be given every opportunity to do so.
“He’s going to continue that smile, that enthusiasm, that joy that he has for who he is and who we are, will continue to be in our locker room and now we’ll start trying to prepare him to see the coaching side of things a little bit,” Martin said.
NOTE: Martin said that “definitely two, maybe a third” pieces of the recruiting class will enroll within the next two weeks. Since the Northeast graduates high-schoolers later than in the South, it’s likely that Jason Cudd, Felipe Haase and Ibrahim Doumbia will soon be at USC while David Beatty and Justin Minaya will enroll in July.
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