Maybe it was because he’s been in such a position before, but Frank Martin took South Carolina’s low ranking in the SEC preseason poll in stride Wednesday.
It didn’t faze him too much that, despite their Final Four participation last April, the Gamecocks were pegged to finish in the lower half of the league for the fifth time in his six seasons as USC coach. His don’t-care attitude toward the 11th place voting rubbed off his players, too.
"Sure, you could say that," junior guard Hassani Gravett said when asked if the ranking added any fuel to USC’s fire, "but at the same time we’re not worried about that. Our coaches are going to coach us the same against any opponent, as if we’re picked first or last, so it really doesn’t matter."
What does matter are the actual games ahead. South Carolina’s season begins Nov. 10 at Wofford.
Five Gamecock-related things we learned from SEC media day:
1. Hassani Gravett is assuming point guard duties.
The main reason behind USC’s low standing in the preseason league poll is departures to Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier and Duane Notice, a trio that made up 57 percent of the Gamecocks’ scoring last season. But then there’s the indefinite suspension to Rakym Felder, the once-rising sophomore who’s not taking classes this fall following his arrest in connection to a bar fight.
That leaves Gravett with main PG duties.
"I don't know about first-team," Martin said. "I mean, I haven't even figured out combinations yet, we're just out there teaching right now. But I recruited Hassani to be a point guard. He played point his whole life."
2. Martin knows his players. That’s all he cares about.
A chunk of Wednesday’s buzz centered on the high-profile newcomers to the league, such as Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Alabama’s Collin Sexton.
The Gamecocks have new faces as well – five freshmen and three transfers – but they just lack the same kind of headlines.
"We don't have a lot of the so-called top 50 four-letter word ranking players," Martin said, nodding ever so slightly toward ESPN. "We got guys that the four-letter word network never saw. So now all of a sudden nobody knows our guys. That's all right. "Would you have predicted (Maik) Kotsar would be a starter on a Final Four (team)? Probably not, neither did that network. We recruit guys who fit who we are."
3. Kory Holden is full-go.
Among those unknowns is junior guard Kory Holden. The transfer averaged close to 18 points per game for Delaware during the 2015-16 season, his last as a Blue Hen.
Holden had previously been limited in practice due to a knee injury.
"He's great, he's practicing," Martin said. "Kory's really good.
"Getting back to the question about us being ranked wherever, nobody gives Kory any credit. There's not too many returning guards that averaged (18) points a game in Division I when they last played. And he did. Kory's real good. Kory's going to help us tremendously. Real good player, very confident player, ready to shoot it."
4. Chris Silva, shooter?
Martin’s boldest statement Wednesday was his feeling about these 2017-18 Gamecocks being the best shooting team he’s ever coached. Naturally, that means improvement for Gravett and good early showings from the perimeter for Holden and fellow guard transfers Frank Booker and Wesley Myers, but what about Chris Silva?
The junior power forward is the team’s top returning scorer. He’s a career 51 percent shooter, but that’s come with one 3-point attempt.
"Chris has worked a lot on his shot," Gravett said. "So he’s going to be able to shoot more on the perimeter than he did last year. Last year he kind of only shot midrange and layups and dunks."
5. Martin won’t repeat himself.
Wednesday marked Martin’s second media availability since Lamont Evans, his former assistant coach, was named in the FBI probe that’s rocked college basketball. He addressed the situation on Oct. 5 in Columbia. He wasn’t going to do it again to an out-of-town reporter.
"Who are you? From?" he asked SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker. "I don’t know if you followed what I said before: We are not under investigation, so since we’re not under investigation, we have no conversations with the FBI.
"I don’t want to be lumped into something that we have nothing to do with. Lamont worked for me. Lamont is under investigation. Lamont has not worked for me for over a year. We are not under investigation. … I’m not going to keep talking about the FBI when we have nothing to do with that."