David Cloninger

Cloninger Soundoff: ‘Big Chat’ becoming a technician in the paint

Laimonas Chatkevicius finally got it.

Frank Martin would always say it with a frustrated shake of his head. Here was a 6-foot-11 big body, South Carolina’s tallest player, and he played like a two-guard. The Gamecocks needed him to bang in the paint, Chatkevicius wanted to stay on the perimeter and shoot 3-pointers. Call it the influence of his European heritage.

After two years of pounding the ball to him on the block and hoping he’d do something with it, it clicked. It couldn’t have been more audible if it had been broadcast through Metallica’s concert amplifiers.

He’s big, tall, strong. So he uses it.

“Big Chat” had his sixth double-figure game in the last seven on Tuesday, and his seventh of the season. He’d had seven double-figure games in his previous two years. He can still shoot the 3 – he drilled one from the top – but is also becoming a technician in the paint.

He’ll never be an all-SEC center, but he’s giving USC production down low, and that’s something the Gamecocks have been searching for for years. He doesn’t have to be a star as long as he’s dependable.