Following a third straight loss – this one coming by 23 points – the South Carolina men’s basketball team held a players-only meeting Sunday to hash out issues and create a plan for moving forward. Junior forward Chris Silva was the most vocal of the Gamecocks, with senior guard Frank Booker sparking discussion as well. The players felt it led to a more spirited weight-lifting and practice session as they prepared for Tuesday’s game with Arkansas.
USC’s Hassani Gravett and Justin Minaya provided all these details to media members Monday before Frank Martin took his turn at the podium in Colonial Life Arena.
“Good,” the Carolina coach deadpanned when asked for his thoughts on the meeting. “I hope they kumbaya-ed and drank some hot tea.”
South Carolina (13-10, 4-6 SEC) will be seeking to avoid its first four-game losing streak in three years when it faces the Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6) at Bud Walton Arena. Tip-time is 7 p.m. ESPN2 will televise the contest.
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Martin’s season-long quest for player leadership certainly didn’t end in College Station, Texas, where the Gamecocks were hardly competitive in an 83-60 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. Speaking afterward on 107.5 The Game, Martin questioned the team’s “spirit.”
“That’s collective,” Gravett said Monday. “Everybody has to be able to raise each other’s spirits and get the energy and just bring positive vibes to the whole team. And if one person’s lacking that, then we got to find a way to get them going.”
USC came to A&M following similar themed-losses to Texas Tech and Mississippi State. The Gamecocks in both games were out-played down the stretch as potential wins slipped through their fingers. Such disappointment perhaps lingered into the Aggies matchup.
Texas A&M, firing on all cylinders, jumped out to a 22-5 lead.
“I don’t think there was really anything good about that game, that loss,” Gravett said. “Figuratively speaking, it really just punched us in the face and kind of woke us up.
“Our season’s not over. Even though our record is such-and-such, we still get a lot of games to go and we can turn this thing around. So, in that team meeting, we had that talk amongst ourselves and we’re looking to turn things around going forward.”
Tuesday’s game is the second of five straight against teams among the RPI’s top 50. The chances since upsetting Florida on Jan. 24 have slimmed, sure, but USC’s NCAA Tournament dream isn’t over yet.
The Gamecocks sit in a six-way tie for eighth place in the SEC, five games back of first-place Auburn.
“What teams are gonna have the desire, the discipline, the enthusiasm to finish off the last nine games, which is the present, what’s in front of us right now, the nine games we have left,” Martin said. “It’s not the past, it’s not the future, it’s the present.
“We’re right in the middle of that group. There’s gonna be five, six teams from that group of teams that’s going to eventually play in March. Who’s gonna be those five or six teams? The ones that don’t get tired, don’t start acting like the season’s long, don’t get wrapped up on what your record is, don’t get wrapped up on the pressures of you have to win or you’re not playing in March. That’s garbage, that’s unknown and that’s irrelevant.
“The past is irrelevant. The future’s unknown. So don’t dwell on either one.”
Martin delivered the above message to his team Sunday. Seems those words were echoed by the Gamecocks among each other.
“We just need to find a way,” Gravett said. “I think the team meeting did a lot for us. We came into the weight room and into practice with a lot of energy, and I think that’s big time for us moving forward.”
South Carolina is 4-10 all-time in Fayetteville.
“They can have 97 player meetings, talk all you want,” Martin said, “if you don’t play better, those meetings are irrelevant. I’m an actions person, I’m not a yacking person. I like action.”