David Cloninger

Delaware transfer has big shoes to fill in USC lineup next season

With point guard P.J. Dozier’s reported decision to retain an agent and stay in the NBA Draft, South Carolina will have only two starters returning next season.

That means big men Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar are the only returning starters.

Senior guards Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell also are departing, along with backup guard Justin McKie.

It’s impossible to replace all that Thornwell brought, but at least in the points department, USC seems to have a ready-made scorer. Kory Holden sat out last year after transferring from Delaware, where he averaged nearly 18 points per game in 2015-16. He had a cleanout procedure performed on his knee during the season, but should be fine for next year.

Without Dozier, USC has to find another point guard. Holden can be that guy, but it’s hard to balance being a point guard and high scorer. Rakym Felder could step into a full-time role and leave Holden to be a shooting guard, along with incoming freshman David Beatty and others.

But who replaces Thornwell’s rebounding? Who can take over Notice’s defensive prowess? The Gamecocks will have a lot of familiar faces back, most notably guard Hassani Gravett, and coach Frank Martin’s usual system is he’ll play the guys that can do defense first, then score.

Mostly, they have the momentum from a Final Four run that will aid them in future recruiting. If that can reel in a graduate transfer this year for immediate help, or transfers for future seasons, that can lead to greater success.

Freshman signees

G David Beatty, Fr.

A four-star two-guard from Philadelphia, the 6-foot-4 Beatty is the highest-ranked member of the recruiting class (third in his state, 32nd at his position).

C Jason Cudd, Fr.

A 7-footer from Socastee, Cudd was the first commitment of the class.

F Ibrahim Doumbia, Fr.

A four-star power forward from Mali by way of Miami, the 6-8 Doumbia was rated 12th in Florida and 32nd at his position.

F Felipe Haase, Fr.

A three-star forward/center from Chile who grew up in Los Angeles and prepped in Miami, Haase was rated 30th in Florida and 57th at his position.