Jaylen Shaw was the last addition to Frank Martin’s second recruiting class. A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, Shaw was regarded as a good “glue” player, someone who would play hard but probably would never make an impact.
But Frank Martin saw something in him, particularly in those back-to-back state championships at Hartsville High.
Shaw was a winner, and Martin needed winners, even if they weren’t going to play much.
On Sunday, Shaw played a lot.
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The freshman exploded from anonymity to score 16 points, 12 on 3-pointers, as he helped South Carolina weather a rough first half to overcome Florida International, 84-72. Shaw played four combined minutes in the Gamecocks’ three previous games, but he was USC’s best player on Sunday.
“He’s deceptively athletic,” Martin said. “I’m really happy for him, because after not playing for three games, he didn’t take his ball and go home.”
Shaw was all set to get early-season minutes at point guard until Ty Johnson was cleared, but when Johnson was awarded the extra semester of eligibility, Shaw was shuttled back to the bench. Like most freshmen, he was trying to understand everything Martin and USC wanted him to do and was having a hard time.
That changed over the past week.
“Jaylen had one of the best practices he’s had since he’s been here,” said Brenton Williams, who scored 16 points. “Frank decided to play him this game, and (Jaylen) had the mindset that he was going to be aggressive. That’s what we needed. We needed another guy to step up.”
The kid they call “J-Boy” missed his first 3-pointer but had no hesitation about trying again. The next one splashed down to give USC a 12-11 lead, and he pumped in two more during the first half.
“He’s not a set shooter, he’s a jump shooter,” Martin said. “He can get that shot off. It kind of let me know this kid’s not scared of the moment.”
Shaw helped USC (2-2) stay close in a game where the athletic, jumping Panthers were soaring to the rim over and through the Gamecocks’ man-to-man defense. A four-point, first-half lead with 1:44 to go evaporated as USC handed the ball to FIU (6-3) and watched it run up and down the floor. Tymell Murphy went the length of the court to sink a layup just before the buzzer, and the Gamecocks trailed 42-39.
“Our perimeter defense is not good,” Martin said. “We don’t put up any fight in our man-to-man.”
Martin prefers pressure but he switched to a zone defense in the second half. The Panthers were denied easy lanes to the rim, although they kept hitting 3-pointers to keep the game tight.
Shaw’s fourth and final 3-pointer gave the Gamecocks a 54-51 lead with 12:28 to go after FIU missed two shots and Mindaugas Kacinas hauled in the rebound. Williams stole a pass and raced downcourt before shoveling to Shaw for an up-and-under layup and a 56-51 lead.
Johnson matched his career-high with 18 points after scoring a combined 13 in his past two games. Demetrius Henry continued a strong start to his career with 14 points. Kacinas missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Shaw was the Gamecocks’ spine.
“Somehow here over the last six, seven days, he had three unbelievable days of practice,” Martin said. “When they do that, it’s my duty to play them.”
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Frink 2-4 4-4 8, Murphy 9-13 3-4 22, Buckles 2-9 6-6 11, Boswell 1-3 0-0 3, Mavin 4-9 2-4 10, Williams 1-4 0-0 3, Porcher Jimenez 5-8 3-3 15. Totals 24-50 18-21 72.
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-2)
Henry 7-10 0-0 14, Carrera 1-6 0-1 3, Kacinas 3-5 3-4 9, Thornwell 4-10 0-2 8, Johnson 5-10 7-8 18, Williams 4-8 6-6 16, Shaw 6-10 0-0 16, Notice 0-0 0-0 0, Ringer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-59 16-21 84.
Halftime: FIU 42-39. 3-Point Goals: FIU 6-16 (Porcher Jimenez 2-5, Williams 1-2, Murphy 1-2, Boswell 1-2, Buckles 1-4, Mavin 0-1), South Carolina 8-19 (Shaw 4-7, Williams 2-5, Johnson 1-2, Carrera 1-4, Thornwell 0-1). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: FIU 27 (Buckles 8), South Carolina 31 (Kacinas 9). Assists: FIU 13 (Murphy 5), South Carolina 19 (Johnson 7). Total Fouls: FIU 18, South Carolina 15. Attendance: 9,869.