Kentucky Wesleyan arrives Tuesday night as one more remnant of the Darrin Horn era. The exhibition game was agreed to last year, and new USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin said he would honor the commitment.
But other than the players remaining from Horn’s teams, there should be little else to remind those attending the game of years past.
Martin will be seeking continued improvement from his diminutive team in being aggressive in going to the basket, pounding the boards and improving shot selection in advance of the Nov. 11 season opener against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Thus far in practice, Martin said this team could be a better-shooting squad than the one that hit 40.2 percent of its shots in the 2011-12 season.
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“We’ve got speed, and we’ve got guys who can shoot it halfway decent,” Martin said after Friday’s scrimmage. “Shot selection is something we’ve got to continue to learn. I tell players all the time, my job is not to handicap them on what shots to take. My job is to make them understand what shots to take.”
In particular — 3-point attempts. Something to watch for against Kentucky Wesleyan is where the ball goes before it winds up beyond the arc.
“My rule of thumb is real simple,” Martin said. “Don’t take 3s unless the ball gets in the paint. If you can take most of your 3s after the ball gets in the paint, then usually you’ve got a chance to rebound the basketball because the floor-spacing is good.”
Martin said getting the ball into the paint is done in one of three ways — dribble drives, cuts or via posting up.
“The one good thing I’m seeing is we’re doing it all three ways,” Martin said.
R.J. Slawson said the team has bought into Martin’s offensive philosophy.
“Just cutting to the basket opens up a lot of stuff — backdoors, easy buckets — and it puts a bunch of pressure on the defense,” Slawson said.
Tuesday’s exhibition marks the fifth consecutive year USC opens against Kentucky Wesleyan. The Gamecocks defeated the Panthers 69-59 last season. The Panthers posted a 23-8 record after winning their first 14 regular-season games.
The Division II Panthers opened preseason play last week with an 89-87 victory against Georgetown (Ky.).