In the few spare moments he has had a chance to evaluate his new basketball team, Frank Martin has liked some of the things he has seen.
“There are some intriguing parts there that I get excited when I watch,” he said. “I see potential there. I see the ability to do certain things. Where is that finish line? I have no idea. I am just worried about that next step right now.”
The next step is figuring out which of those pieces will be with South Carolina when it begins Martin’s first season as head coach in November.
Martin addressed members of the media Wednesday for the first time since being named the Gamecocks head coach last week, and most of the talk centered around possible player movement.
“It is natural for kids that signed up to come here and play for Darrin (Horn) to say, ‘Who is this guy? What is this guy about?’ ” Martin said. “It’s like recruiting. You have to re-recruit your team, and you have to understand that whenever you take a new job. That’s part of it.”
Several of Martin’s new players are currently going through the process of deciding if they want to remain with the team, he said.
South Carolina is slated to return 10 scholarship players (point guard Bruce Ellington’s scholarship is counted against the football team). Ellington, sophomore Damontre Harris and freshman Anthony Gill are team’s leading returning scorers.
“It happens any time there is a change anywhere in the country,” Martin said. “The kids love the university, but they sign up because they trust the coaches that go in their homes and build relationships.”
Martin is meeting with the parents of players this week, he said, to help them understand his vision for the future of the program. The process of earning his new players’ trust will take time, he said.
“They shouldn’t trust me just because I got named head coach,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way. I didn’t recruit them. I don’t know anything about them. They don’t know anything about me because I was never in their home. It’s my job to get them and their families to understand what myself and our family are about.”
If any player decides to leave, South Carolina will give them an unconditional release, Martin said.
“We have a saying – B.F.I. – Both Feet In,” he said. “We want every player with both feet in; we want every staff member with both feet in; we want every administrator with both feet in; we want our fans with both feet in. I don’t want to coach people or work with people who have one foot in the circle and one foot out of the circle. I don’t want to be around people like that.
“We are in education. It’s not a prison term where they get hit with four years.”
No South Carolina player has made public his future plans since Horn’s firing.
“It’s my job to communicate with everyone to get everyone in that circle,” Martin said. “When they are in that circle, now it’s my job to keep them there, but we have to get them in the circle first.”
In other roster news, Martin has no problem with Ellington playing football as well as basketball, he said.
“If I tell him, ‘You have to quit football or you are not playing basketball,’ how productive is that?” Martin said. “OK, he does it so now he’s (mad) at me every day and he’s not in that circle. If he wants to do both, that’s his decision and we have to manage it and make it work so it is productive at the end of the day for South Carolina basketball. The ultimate goal is to win an SEC championship and to win that championship, people have to be in that circle.”