Frank Martin on Monday talked about practice. The South Carolina coach talked about how much he loves practice and how the Gamecocks need more practice.
While Allen Iverson was somewhere rolling his eyes, USC players were nodding in agreement.
“The more practice you get, the better you can be,” said senior guard Frank Booker. “I felt like the more games we played, the less disciplined we got.”
Booker was referring to last week when the Gamecocks (6-2) played three games in six days. They won two of them, but Martin wasn’t thrilled with any of the performances, particularly the 76-70 win against Massachusetts on Saturday.
Carolina, with seven roster additions since last season, is still in a feeling-out process with each other. Chemistry, according to Martin, isn’t going to be developed in games.
“The games are irrelevant unless you know how to practice,” Martin said. “And we’ve got a bunch of new players on our team. Since we have not had the amount of practice time that you need to play structured basketball – not just rec league basketball – attention to detail slips, lack of repetition creates slippage, which then puts a lot of pressure on your leadership. And our leadership right now is still not established. It’s not bad, but it’s just not what it needs to be.”
Given a do-over, Martin would have handled last week differently. Instead of a light workout in New York before the 16-point loss to Temple, he would have put the Gamecocks through a three-hour session where few details were left uncovered.
“But since we got so many young guys, I try to protect their legs,” Martin said. “Heck, that didn’t work against Temple. And we regressed going into UMass.”
USC next hosts Wyoming (6-2) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. It’ll host Coastal Carolina (4-4) on Saturday before a break that includes the end of the fall semester.
Soon, Martin can work with his players beyond the NCAA-limited 20 hours a week.
“Once we get to finals week and the week after, when now there’s no time limitations, now we can go in the gym with them,” Martin said. “They don’t understand how to come in the gym at night to shoot balls. Well, now, you’re coming in with me. And we’re going to go in there to shoot balls, be in their head a little bit. We’re gonna watch film together.”
The Gamecocks in 2016-17 didn’t require such supervising en route to the Final Four. Seniors such as Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice proved to Martin they’d take care of any lingering issues with the team.
Naturally, Martin said he had fun on game days last season.
“Because I had a bunch of old guys that led and I had younger guys that were oblivious to the nonsense that was being created,” Martin said. “So they came in and practiced the same way every day.
“We’re trying to learn that with this team right now.”
Booker, joining Chris Silva and Hassani Gravett, counts himself among Carolina’s leaders. But the 3-point specialist is also a transfer from Florida Atlantic who only became a Gamecock this summer.
“It’s pretty difficult,” Booker said. “As of right now, I’m still to this day learning Coach Frank and his system. So going from learning and trying to teach at the same time is pretty difficult.
“But Coach Frank is helping me through watching film and giving me the rank to try to help these guys out as much as I can and also help myself out.”
Silva, a junior, is a two-year starter who still hears from Thornwell.
“He tells me to play smart and talk to the young guys and all that,” Silva said. “He’s giving me good advice. I try to follow him.”
But Thornwell, a rookie for the Los Angeles Clippers, isn’t returning. It’s Martin who’s mainly tasked with guiding the Gamecocks back in the right direction.
And the 51-year-old has identified an early hurdle.
“You don’t get better in games,” Martin said. “You get better in practice. You learn how to prepare in practice. … This team likes to practice. We just haven’t had time to practice. So we’ve slipped.”