Sam Muldrow seems to get it. At least, that is the conclusion one can draw from the few words the South Carolina center chooses to utter.
He needs to play better. He has to rebound more. His defense needs to improve. His scoring should go up.
"Mostly getting a good shot on offense (is what he needs to improve)," Muldrow said Tuesday, as the team prepared for today's game at No. 22 Mississippi. "Converting. Defending. Rebounding. Blocking out."
For Muldrow, a junior who normally says little, that was a soliloquy.
The old cliche is that a quiet athlete lets his play do the talking. And for a while this season, Muldrow was doing just that.
Lately, however, that has not been the case - and his team has suffered.
Muldrow's scoring and rebounding numbers have dipped the past few games. That includes Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt, when he had two rebounds, both on the offensive end.
"He's just not doing what he can do," Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn said. "There's zero excuses for a guy that's 6-9, that's as athletic as him, that does block shots, to have zero defensive rebounds. Zero."
Muldrow continues to climb the blocked-shot charts, ranking second (3.38 per game) this season in the SEC and sixth (129) all time at South Carolina. The question is whether Muldrow relies too much on his shot-blocking skills, putting himself out of position for rebounds.
Muldrow said that is the case "sometimes."His rebounding is critical, especially when the Gamecocks go with a small lineup; the 6-foot-5 Lakeem Jackson is often the next-tallest player on the court.
Horn said Muldrow needs to rotate better when playing defense, citing a missed rebound against Vanderbilt when he didn't sprint back on defense, leaving him out of position the entire possession.
"Sam's important to us," Horn said. "And in some ways he's the most important because there's nobody else that can bring what he brings. When he has a game like (Saturday), it's going to be really hard for us to win."
Muldrow's problems extend beyond the Vanderbilt game; he had one defensive rebound last week against LSU, two in a loss to Baylor and three in a loss at Boston College.
His offensive rebounding - five against Auburn, four against Longwood - has prevented his overall average from plummeting.
Muldrow's scoring also has tapered off. After reaching double figures in nine of the first 12 games, he has done so twice in the past five.
How important is Muldrow? Go back to the Miami game, when USC suffered its first defeat of the season. Lost in the fact Dominique Archie was hurt early in the game was that Muldrow was in foul trouble and went scoreless with one rebound.
Downey has had to carry the scoring load in three SEC games. In asking for help, fingers can be pointed at Muldrow. He might not be counted on for 20 points a game, but Muldrow said 10-15 per a game is his target.
"I've just gotta let the scoring come to me," he said. "I don't want to try and rush it."
Muldrow was not expected to play such a critical role this season. Then came Archie's injury, which forced him out for the rest of the season, and the dismissal of power forward Mike Holmes.
When it comes to post play, Muldrow is the focus now.
"When they (Archie and Holmes) were here, he was our best post defender and our longest and most athletic post guy," senior guard Brandis Raley-Ross said. "So he knows his role, and even with those guys out, he knows he has a bigger weight on his shoulder. So he knows what he has to do."