Newcomers will be counted on from the start
Five questions as the South Carolina men’s basketball team holds its first official practices this week:
1. IS CARRERA HEALTHY?
USC is better with the energetic, scrappy Michael Carrera on the floor. The problem is, he sometimes plays with so much intensity that he knocks himself out diving on the floor. Carrera couldn’t practice for more than half of last year because of a stress fracture in his hip, but it’s 100 percent now.
2. WHO RUNS THE POINT?
Bruce Ellington and Ty Johnson are the two most experienced players, but each won’t be on the court for the opener. That will leave it up to Sindarius Thornwell or Jaylen Shaw. Once Johnson is eligible, he should be the point guard.
3. CAN WILLIAMS BE A LETHAL SCORER?
Sure, Brenton Williams can. He didn’t drop 38 on Mississippi State last year by accident. The question is, can he be a 15-to-20 point guy every night? Williams can heat up quicker than a Columbia summer, but has battled stretches of inconsistency throughout his career.
4. WILL THE TEAM BE BETTER?
Hard to say. Better in talent? It already is. Better in wins? Who knows? There are eight newcomers and all will get a chance to play. The team’s success depends on how quickly the rookies get used to the system, and to major college basketball. Carrera and Williams are two rocks to build the team around, and Thornwell will be a star by the time he finishes.
5. WILL COLUMBIA WATCH?
Martin has griped — deservedly — since he arrived about the apathy around USC basketball. And he knows that four consecutive lousy seasons will do that, while winning will reverse the course. But he’d like to see more fans get behind the team, showing up at Colonial Life Arena and being loud.
Men’s hoops at a glance
What’s happened with coach Frank Martin’s program since it ended the 2012-13 season:
Jr. G Brian Richardson (7.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, transferred to High Point); Sr. F Lakeem Jackson (7.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg); Jr. G Eric Smith (5.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg, transferred to Coastal Carolina); Jr. F R.J. Slawson (4.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, transferred to Jacksonville); So. G Damien Leonard (4.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, transferred to Furman); Sr. G Shane Phillips (0.4 ppg, 0.0 rpg); associate head coach Brad Underwood (new head coach at Stephen F. Austin)
So. F Michael Carrera (9.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg); So. F Laimonas Chatkevicius (4.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg); So. G Austin Constable (0.0 ppg, 0.3 rpg); Sr. G Bruce Ellington (9.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg)*; RS Jr. Carlton Geathers (DNP)*; So. F Mindaugas Kacinas (4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); So. F Brian Steele (2.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg); Sr. G Brenton Williams (11.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
*Note: Ellington will not play until football season is over. Geathers has said he will not play this year while recovering from knee surgery, which also cost him last year
Fr. F/C Demetrius Henry (6-9); Jr. G Ty Johnson (6-3)*; Fr. G Justin McKie (6-4); Fr. G Duane Notice (6-2); Fr. F/C Desmond Ringer (6-9); Fr. G Jaylen Shaw (6-0); Fr. F Reggie Theus Jr. (6-6); Fr. G Sindarius Thornwell (6-5); assistant coach Perry Clark
*Note: Johnson is not eligible until after the first semester ends (approx. Dec. 17)