Frank Martin on South Carolina basketball Leaders emerging next year
P.J. Dozier would windmill those pipe-cleaner arms around the defender’s body, Duane Notice would be in the guy’s face and Sindarius Thornwell, oh, Sindarius, was just waiting for the rock to pop loose so he could retrieve, run and ram it through the rim. Those three guards, plus Justin McKie always ready to spell one of them for a minute or 12, made South Carolina one of the most frustrating defenses in the country.
And they weren’t bad on offense, either. All of them contributed to the greatest four-game stretch in Gamecock basketball’s history, the four that had the nation buzzing about what was going on in Columbia and made USC the toast of the college hoops world.
Their contributions to that team will never be forgotten, but future USC basketball can’t go into next season thinking of what it doesn’t have. The expectation, in and out of the locker room, is to keep winning.
Who’s got next?
Rakym Felder, Hassani Gravett, Kory Holden and freshman David Beatty are raising their hands.
“Heck, I felt pretty comfortable when we were playing Duke. So I don’t see why I would be uncomfortable (now),” coach Frank Martin said. “The season was on the line.”
Dozier fouled out of the Gamecocks’ round-of-32 game against the Blue Devils, and that left it up to Felder. He and Gravett had played well leading to that point – while Gravett didn’t score, he was in for nine minutes of relief – and the Gamecocks were trying to keep a nine-point lead with nearly 3:30 to play.
Felder finished a 15-point game with seven in those final minutes, adding two rebounds and an assist. Having already gained a reputation for fearlessness despite his freshman status, Felder shined the brightest in the biggest games.
Of course it’s going to be difficult replacing the SEC Player of the Year and a 6-foot-6 point guard, each of whom is likely an NBA Draft pick. And it’s definitely not easy to replace two other four-year guys, one of whom was the most under-rated defender in the country.
Yet it’s not destitute. Felder and Gravett played big minutes last year. Holden has been in the system in practice for a year. Beatty is the highest-rated member of the recruiting class.
It’s not just about points and assists. It’s about sustaining the culture.
“Finding guys to score points and grab rebounds? That’s easy,” Martin said. “We’re about winning. That doesn’t guarantee you win the next game, but the culture, everything that takes place in building a winner is in place in the locker room, and Rah and Sani are a big, big part of that.”
Felder, since he was Dozier’s backup at point last year, seems a good candidate to take Dozier’s place. Gravett struggled at times to produce, but was never afraid to try – that was him who drove baseline and tried to one-hand dunk over Gonzaga 7-footer Zach Collins.
Holden played point at Delaware but his scoring ability seems to have him pegged for a two- or three-guard slot, while Beatty, at 6-4, can play all although he’ll have to learn Martin’s style this summer.
It will be a much different look. There will be times when it’s painfully obvious how much experience was held by the four players that departed.
But it’s a cycle with no end, and Martin knows he has the next wave of stars coming around.
“I have all the confidence in the world that those guys will grow as players and when the challenge gets in front of them next year,” Martin said, “they’ll be ready to go to take whatever role it is that they need to become to help our team be the best it can be .”
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