Among those immediately huddled around injured Auburn player Anfernee McLemore was South Carolina coach Frank Martin. Martin bent down and held McLemore’s right hand.
“Unbelievable young man,” Martin said, “God bless him. And he’ll be OK. It’s real frustrating as a coach when you see somebody go through something like that.”
McLemore tweeted after USC’s 84-75 win over the Tigers on Saturday that he dislocated his left ankle and fractured his tibia. He went down with 1:23 remaining in the first half when he collided with teammate Desean Murray.
Martin’s quick reaction was because of the obvious nature of the injury.
McLemore required a stretcher to exit Colonial Life Arena. The crowd of 14,995 went from stunned silence to a rousing ovation when McLemore raised his hand.
“No. 1, our prayers go out to him and his family and his team,” said Carolina senior guard Frank Booker. “I was hanging on the rim and I looked down. It was one of those freakish things, his ankle was a little bit out of place.
“As you saw, he got on the stretcher and said he was all right, but those things, they’re not fun to watch at all, even if it’s the other team. Our prayers and blessings go out to him and his family. He played really hard. Hopefully, he’ll come back strong.”
McLemore is a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward who was averaging 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds this season for the SEC-leading Tigers (23-4, 11-3). Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said McLemore would be traveling back with the team Saturday evening.
“He’ll most likely have surgery (Sunday),” Pearl said. “He’s out for the season. It was, obviously, a gruesome injury. He was in pain at first, but I think it was more shocking to him. God love him for being able to get calmed down a little bit.
“It’s a tough one to lose because we’re already very small and very thin on our front line and now we lose our shot-blocking and 3-point shooting five-man.”
The injury occurred in front of the basket closest to Auburn’s bench. Pearl said he could “see his ankle completely dislocated.”
“I had to go out there and try to calm him down,” Pearl said. “I got to go out there and not have him sit up and look at it. You got potential for a shock there.”
Pearl appreciated Martin’s gesture.
“It was really classy of coach Martin to go out there and also put his hands on him,” Pearl said.