Before Monday morning, one could pencil in South Carolina’s starting point guard for next season and not have to think twice about it.
As long as Rakym Felder got back in good graces with Frank Martin, the coach seemed more than willing to hand the offensive keys to the redshirt sophomore in 2018-19. Felder, before being suspended indefinitely last fall, was going to replace P.J. Dozier at PG in 2017-18. He had shown enough flashes as a freshman to make that a given.
But Felder, after given another chance from Martin in January, has run out of them. The school announced his departure from the program Monday morning.
He won’t be USC’s starting point guard next season. And that’s about the most well-known fact about the 18-19 roster. Opening night is seven months away. It should be noted Carolina still has three available scholarships to fill – with junior college guard Devonte Bandoo perhaps joining soon – but here’s a look some lineup possibilities:
Best case scenario
PG - T.J. Moss/Hassani Gravett
SG - Brian Bowen
SF - Justin Minaya
PF - Chris Silva
C - Maik Kotsar
This obviously is the look should both Bowen and Silva return to school and not turn pro. Each is testing the NBA waters without hiring an agent. But their cases are different as Bowen, the former Louisville recruit wrapped in the FBI’s probe into college basketball, is still waiting NCAA reinstatement while Silva, a rising senior, already has three years of solid college seasons behind him. Neither is popping up in NBA mock drafts, but both have pro potential. That duo coming back to USC still makes the Gamecocks a competitive bunch in the SEC.
Moss is no shoo-in at point. That’s a tough assignment for a freshman. But the Memphis native is also 6-foot-4, providing the length Martin wants at that position. He’ll likely have the opportunity to beat out Hassani Gravett, but Gravett will also be a senior who started 22 games last season. Gravett is still a natural two-guard, which could make him a versatile option off the bench.
If Bowen is gone
PG - Moss/Gravett
SG - Jermaine Couisnard
SF - Minaya
PF - Silva
C - Kotsar
Bowen never touching the floor for South Carolina was always a possibility since the January afternoon the Gamecocks announced his arrival.
As athletics director Ray Tanner mentioned last Friday, USC is on the NCAA’s timeline when it comes to a ruling on Bowen. If nothing is concrete by the May 30 deadline for underclassmen who have declared for the draft to decide on their future, Bowen could certainly hire an agent and move on his professional career.
This could lead to an all-true freshman backcourt for the Gamecocks. Couisnard is a 6-4, 184-pound shooting guard who has drawn Duane Notice comparisons. He’s coming off a prep year at Montverde Academy in Florida, one of the premier basketball factories in the country.
If Bowen and Silva are gone
PG - Moss/Gravett
SG - Couisnard
SF - Minaya
PF - Felipe Haase
C - Kotsar
If Moss starts here, South Carolina doesn’t have a senior in this lineup. Kotsar, a junior, is the most accomplished of the five. He’s coming off a season in which he averaged 8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. How would he fare without the attention-getting Silva beside him in the frontcourt?
Haase showed promise as a freshman, but he’d have to take a significant step forward to help fill Silva’s void. This scenario would likely mean more minutes for sophomore 7-footer Jason Cudd. It could force a sped-up development of incoming freshman forward Alanzo Frink.
South Carolina scholarship breakdown
Rising seniors (2): Chris Silva, Hassani Gravett
Juniors (1): Maik Kotsar
Sophomores (3): Justin Minaya, Felipe Haase, Jason Cudd
Redshirt freshmen (1): Brian Bowen
Freshmen (3): T.J. Moss, Jermaine Couisnard, Alanzo Frink
Note: Rising junior guard Evan Hinson's scholarship counts toward football.