Brandis Raley-Ross has been searching for a role ever since he stepped on USC's campus four years ago.
A starter or a bench player?
A shooter or an all-around talent?
"Two years ago I was just lost," Raley-Ross said. "I didn't really have an identity as a player."
Thrust into a larger role out of necessity, Raley-Ross now has his identity: He is the second-leading scorer remaining on South Carolina's roster.
When USC faces Vanderbilt tonight in a key SEC game, it will almost certainly need a huge game from star Devan Downey. But now Raley-Ross' importance is being magnified too.
The 6-foot-2 senior has scored in double figures in 10 of 16 games this year. He also has had a knack for hitting 3-pointers at big times: Last week at Auburn, his 3 late in the game sealed the victory.
Then, in Wednesday's victory against LSU, Raley-Ross hit a couple more big 3s as the Gamecocks rallied from an 11-point deficit.
"I don't think anybody meant more to that win that he did," USC coach Darrin Horn said. "Yeah Devan's getting 30 and he's special and in a class by himself in that way. But at the same time, Brandis Raley-Ross is a senior guard, and he's playing like one."
If you went back to the way Raley-Ross started his college career, such a role wouldn't be surprising. He was named SEC freshman of the week twice during the nonconference season and started 13 games.
But when SEC play started that year, Raley-Ross hit the freshman wall. Ever since then, outside of a couple highlights, he has been mostly a role player.
That changed within the past month. When Dominique Archie had season-ending knee surgery and Mike Holmes was subsequently dismissed, everyone except Downey moved up a notch or two in their importance.
Raley-Ross came off the bench the first five games this season, but he moved into the starting lineup after Archie was hurt and the Gamecocks went to a smaller lineup. Now his shooting is vital to the team's ability to take pressure off Downey - and Raley-Ross is comfortable with that.
"I feel like I can stretch it out to even NBA (range) sometimes," he said. "And if I'm in a rhythm, I'm gonna step in and let it fly."
But it's more than shooting. Raley-Ross has always been a good rebounder for his size, and he has to do even more now. His defense also has improved, and he occasionally serves as the main ball-handler.
"We made a concentrated effort to try to get him more involved in some things," Horn said. "But I think a lot of it is our team finding its way and him being confident and to some degree - like we said the other day - shots going down."
So much of that has to do with confidence. Raley-Ross credits a different mentality that Horn brought into the program before last season. It forced Raley-Ross to prepare differently and know he would have to do something every game, and not just as a scorer.
Last year, the result was Raley-Ross being named SEC Sixth Man of the Year. He went into this season as the sixth man again, but he now knows he won't be a repeat winner of that award.
"When I was a younger guy I was thinking about playing time and what everybody else would think, and the upperclassmen," Raley-Ross said. "Now I'm the upperclassmen. I'm the guy setting the examples."