David Cloninger

Gamecocks entertain troops at Fort Jackson

They’re used to playing in front of big crowds, but even they had to take a step back when companies Alpha, Charlie, Delta and Echo roared.

There’s “Sandstorm loud” and “Army loud.”

“It’s a learning tool for our guys and I think for Dawn’s ladies, too, to understand these are their peers, people their age that are having a different avenue to take to try and find success in life,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “And how lucky we are, that we get to coach ball, and play ball.”

Martin, Dawn Staley and their teams traveled to Fort Jackson on Friday for a private preseason showcase called “Gamecock Basketball Madness.” Surrounded by battle dress uniforms on all sides, the Gamecocks invited soldiers to try to beat them in 3-point shooting contests, and then had the favor returned.

Not many players were laughing when they were aligned and made to count off pushups, with soldiers grading their techniques. USC might have won the basketball skills tests, but there was no question who won the night.

“What they’re doing is the same thing you’re doing,” Major General Pete Johnson told his troops. “Victory starts here.”

“Right here!” the crowd responded.

“What we do and what they do, it’s a huge gap,” Staley said. “The sacrifice that they experience every day in their lives … nothing compares to that. But we can take examples of their sacrifice and apply it to our team.”

Martin has always tried to involve Fort Jackson and the military with his teams, stemming from his days at Kansas State. It’s how he can show his appreciation for the Army and he can also use it to teach.

Put it this way – players can see that running extra laps after practice isn’t so bad compared to what others have to do every day.

“All these young guys and women in there who are going through their basic training, they don’t know what the next step in their journey’s going to be,” Martin said. “It’s so important that Fort Jackson and South Carolina have the partnership, the relationship in this community.”


Justin McKie returned from a sprained ankle on Thursday and should be ready to practice on Monday, when the Gamecocks return to the court. … Freshman Sedee Keita was wearing a cast on his arm to protect his injured wrist. In terms of playing, Martin couldn’t offer an update, but knew Keita won’t be cleared for the Nov. 11 season opener.

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