Starting on Monday, Frank Martin will embark on a trip that will take him to Colorado Springs for about a week before heading to Kazan, Russia, as an assistant coach for the World University Games. Davidson’s Bob McKillop is the head coach, with Martin and Michigan coach John Beilein serving as assistants.
Martin has never coached internationally during the summer. He will miss the first week of summer recruiting, but with the addition of Perry Clark to the staff, he feels confident.
“I’ve never been away from my program or my family for so long, but it’s going to be a great experience,” Martin said Friday during his summer update. “... I’m in a good frame of mind right now.”
Tryouts begin Monday and last through Wednesday morning. The team will be trimmed to 15 or 16 players, and then after two more days of practice, the team of 12 players will be selected.
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They will practice until June 30 and depart for Kazan on July 1. After a couple of exhibitions, the team will begin pool play on July 7 for the World University Games.
“Having the comfort of having our staff in place allows me to do this,” Martin said. “... I won’t be around for the first recruiting weekend in July, which is no big deal. Our staff will be out beating up the road.”
Martin thought he was on the verge of releasing the 2013-14 schedule when a school unexpectedly pulled out of the agreement.
He would not name the school responsible, but he believes he has found a replacement. The only hang-up comes with the fact that Martin must have another school agree to move the current date they have to accommodate the new school.
“Last week it was done, and somebody pulled the rug from out underneath us,” Martin said. “I think we’ve got a replacement for the team that kind of messed us up there. (The schedule) will be hard. If we want to compete here to win the hard games, we have to learn how win hard. Winning easy games doesn’t prepare you for anything.”
Martin pointed out the fact South Carolina was 10-3 last year in non-conference games but went 4-14 in the SEC with a first round SEC Tournament loss to finish 14-18.
“We had an RPI of 290 (after non-conference play),” Martin said. “That’s no good. It can’t happen. I thought I understood it was going to be OK for our team with a different system and new mindset. We would win some games and get some confidence, but that never works out. I tried to convince myself that would work out for our guys but it didn’t. It doesn’t prepare us for anything. This schedule will be a lot harder.”
Martin has stated time and again that Bruce Ellington is one of his favorite players of all-time. The football and basketball standout has been a mainstay around the coaching offices and participates as much as possible. But Martin wants Ellington to rest his body this summer and be ready for the start of football practice in August. After the Moncks Corner native begins practice, he will go through March with the basketball team without a break.
“This is a tough time of the year for him, because he can’t sit still,” Martin said. “He wants to be in all the workouts, but football is right around the corner, he can’t do that right now.
“When football camp starts, that’s an NFL grind for so many months and then he turns around and goes right into basketball. He has to rest his body,” Martin said. “He comes to workouts and sits on the side and pays attention. He’s always listening for teaching points, so when he goes out there, the stuff that he heard you tell other players, he already understands.”
Last year, Michael Carrera played on the inside out of necessity and led the team with 7.2 rebounds per contest He was undersized most of the time and was limited because he never was able to practice due to a lingering hip injury. The sophomore is completely healthy now, and with the addition of a couple of interior players, he’s expanded his game to the perimeter.
“He could defend on pure desire the first 20 seconds but the last 15, he gets winded and he won’t do what he’s supposed to,” Martin said. “But he’s shooting it lights out.”
Martin is still not sure if 6-foot-10 forward Clifton Geathers will ever be able to suit up for the Gamecocks again. Geathers has had to have three surgeries on his right knee in the past year.
“My heart bleeds for that kid,” Martin said. “He’s done nothing but try and get back on the floor. He’s got metal in his knee, and his body rejected that metal. He’s battling and trying. I just want him to be blessed in the sense that when you see him walk, he can walk without a limp. We’ll worry about playing after that.”