Frank Martin won’t be the only member of South Carolina’s basketball program to see familiar faces Monday evening at Florida International.
The FIU alumnus is returning home to play a game for the first time in his head coaching career. Martin’s bringing with him at least one Gamecock who should also help color the crowd garnet and black.
Felipe Haase enters Monday’s 7 p.m. tip-off first on USC in 3-point field goal percentage (50 percent), second in minutes (25.4 per game) and rebounding (6.0), and sixth in scoring (7.8).
The freshman is eight months removed from leading Miami Christian High School to a Class 2A state championship.
“Our guys will be there,” Miami Christian coach Juan Cardona said by phone Saturday when asked if he’d be in attendance for Gamecocks-Panthers. “Me and the players. Some that played with him last year, and some other players that want to see him, too.”
Haase and Justin Minaya have been Martin’s most effective rookies to date. But while Minaya’s role – a 6-foot-5 wing who can stretch the floor offensively and be an ace defender – is being defined, Haase’s is still in development.
The 6-9, 249-pound forward is a unique talent.
“Frank likes versatile big men,” Cardona said. “He likes a lot of flexibility. When you know you have a big man that can play with (Maik) Kotsar and (Chris) Silva – because they can play differently – it’s good.
“Felipe’s a big, but likes to be on the perimeter, and the other two like to be in the paint. It’s a very good match. And Felipe brings that 3-point shooting that Frank Martin will use a lot. And Frank is a very smart coach that will utilize him to the best of his ability.”
Cardona had Haase for just one season. The Chile-born Haase spent three years at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. He originally committed to Colorado State in April 2016.
Via mentor and AAU coach Art Alvarez, Haase came to Miami as a senior. He averaged 19.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists a game as Cardona’s club won its second state title in three years.
“His IQ is something different from a kid his age,” Cardona said. “He’ll know where everybody has to go.
“The skill that we tried to implement and work a lot on in the individuals that we did, we tried to allow him to put the ball more on the floor. He can go in, he can go out, but we always emphasized for him to beat the guy off the bounce. And I think we did a great job at the end of the season with that.
“The way that I define Felipe Haase is he will do anything and everything for his team to win.”
Haase scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in last Sunday’s 79-66 win over Western Michigan in Conway.
“Felipe understands what we want,” Martin said afterward. “He understands how to pass and shoot and all that. He’s continuing to make the adjustment to understand how I’m asking him to play as I try to figure him out as a player.”
Haase committed to the Gamecocks last November. He makes his Miami return Monday.
“I have much respect for Frank Martin and everything he’s done and everything he represent, the way he runs his programs,” Cardona said. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s been a winner.
“So it was a no-brainer. There were some other schools involved, but at the end of the day I think, we Latin people, we got to help each other, you know what I’m saying? We’re the minority. There’s only two head coaches in Division I – Frank is one and (Arkansas State’s) Mike Balado – so there’s not a lot of coaches.
“So once Frank showed interest in him, I think it was a no-brainer that Felipe decided to go there.”
USC (4-1) at Florida International (2-3)
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami
How to watch: CBS Sports Network