Frank Martin climbed two steps to the podium to get a better view. His South Carolina Gamecocks had just won their ninth game in 12 tries, but there were barely any reporters there to put the Limestone victory on record.
“Do we really got to do this?,” a tongue-in-cheek Martin asked to a mostly empty press room. “I can’t just put a statement on the Internet, tell you guys how bad our point guard play is?”
A good majority of the USC media corps was in Tampa on Wednesday, covering Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks as they prepared for the Outback Bowl. Meanwhile, Martin’s bunch was in Colonial Life Arena, beating a Division II opponent by 29 points, but leaving at least one familiar question unanswered.
Martin was only half-joking when he brought up the point guard issue.
While P.J. Dozier is averaging 10.4 points a game for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League affiliate and Rakym Felder is still not on Carolina’s roster, Hassani Gravett has remained USC’s starter.
After Gravett scored five points, dished out three assists and had no turnovers in a season-opening win at Wofford, his coach was pleased. Martin told reporters that night at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium: “I thought he was rock-solid. He has established himself as our point guard.”
But after Gravett, facing Limestone on the brink of SEC season, had as many turnovers (three) as assists and was benched four times in the first half, Martin was less than satisfied.
“Our point guard play has to get better,” Martin said Wednesday. “It’s not very good right now. If you were to ask me, ‘What am I concerned about going into SEC play?’ I’m concerned about our point guard play. We’re not getting good basketball there right now.”
The Gamecocks (9-3) visit Ole Miss (7-5) on Sunday evening.
Had Dozier not declared early for the NBA Draft or if Felder had not been indefinitely suspended, it’s likely Gravett is playing the off-guard position this season. The athletic 6-foot-2, 187-pound junior was a scorer at the JUCO level. In 2015-16, his final season at Pensacola State College before coming to Columbia, Gravett was named his conference’s player of the year after averaging over 16 points a game.
But reality limited Martin’s options. Kory Holden, a transfer from Delaware, was slowed by a knee injury. Wes Myers, a transfer from Maine, only arrived on campus this summer.
Gravett was going to get first crack.
“It’s going good,” Gravett said during SEC media day in October. “Most of my life I’ve played point guard anyways. So it’s an easy transition for me.”
Gravett is fifth on the team in scoring (8.3 ppg) and has a 2.14 assist to turnover ratio. Against Clemson, however, he played just 15 minutes and didn’t score until the 6:46 mark of the second half. The Gamecocks assisted on only three of their 19 field goals that evening.
A game later, Gravett missed all four of his first half shots and had two early turnovers. He’s six for his last 25 from the field.
“Hassani,” Martin said, “I just told him in the locker room, they handed the baton to him. He’s got to take ownership. It’s part of the deal.
“Everyone wants to play, so now Coach plays you. And with that comes unbelievable responsibility. And he’s trying to figure it out.”
Martin is tinkering elsewhere in the meantime. Holden is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, but Myers has emerged as of late. Wednesday marked the second consecutive game in which the senior logged more minutes than Gravett.
Myers, after scoring 10 points at Clemson, had five points, six assists and five rebounds against Limestone.
“Wes is probably our most consistent player at the point right now,” Martin said.
Myers averaged nearly 17 points a game at Maine last season.
“Wes has to, at times, think that he’s at Maine and just go and score, be aggressive,” Martin said. “He’s too consumed with trying to run the team with some things.
“And it’s all new to him. I probably haven’t repped him at point guard as much as I need to, which now he will. He will not rep at anything but the point guard spot.”