Hassani Gravett, the South Carolina player who handled point guard duties more than any other Gamecock last season, has spent good portions of this preseason at a different position.
It’s all strategy, coach Frank Martin said. Gravett can now play freer in a two-guard role. It’s going to let his athleticism shine. He will no longer have with him the burden of conducting an offense.
But all that’s assuming other things go to plan. Like, what happens if Tre Campbell is injured?
“If I have to play Hassani at the point,” Martin said Monday, “he did it all last year. Whether he did it or bad or inconsistent, whatever, that’s last year’s story. He’s better prepared for this year.”
Campbell, the graduate transfer from Georgetown, was recruited by USC in the spring to rid a weakness that glared over last year’s 17-16 team. After P.J. Dozier’s departure and Rakym Felder’s dismissal, the Gamecocks rarely found point guard consistency. The combination of Gravett and Maine transfer Wes Myers combined for more turnovers (98) than assists (94).
Enter Campbell, a senior who’s been a college point for 84 games in his career.
“Tre’s been real good,” Martin said. “I’m real happy with Tre right now.”
Added sophomore forward Justin Minaya: “He knows the game, and he’s done a really good job of just getting people the ball. And he’s done a real good job of attacking, too. I like Tre’s game a lot.”
Those are the good reviews of Campbell so far. The bad is he’s missed the last week with a rolled ankle. The injury is not considered serious, and Martin said the Gamecocks are hopeful to have Campbell back by this weekend. But Campbell’s absence has allowed Martin to get an early feel for life without him.
What’s the backup plan at Carolina’s most critical position?
After Gravett, Martin’s looked at two intriguing freshmen – A.J. Lawson and T.J. Moss.
Lawson, the most highly touted recruit in USC’s 2018 class, is a 6-foot-6, 172-pounder Martin once compared to Dozier. Lawson’s point guard strength? He’s not afraid to push it.
“A.J., when you’re (against) some kind of an aggressive defense,” Martin said, “he’s so fast with the ball and he’s so big, he can pass it over people and he’s got a great eye for it.”
Moss is a 6-2, 193-pounder who averaged 6.2 assists last year for Findlay Prep, a squad that featured Oregon signee Bol Bol and advanced to the semifinal round of the GEICO High School Nationals tournament. His PG strength? You can find it in half-court sets.
“T.J. does a better job right now at the point if you’re playing against a team that doesn’t get out and extend their defense as much,” Martin said. “Because he’s got a great mind for the game, a great vision to pass. He’s just trying to make that adjustment against attack defenses. … When T.J. plays from 22 feet in, real productive plays. When he’s at 50 feet, dealing with pressure, he’s trying to learn to succeed there at the collegiate level.”
USC’s season opener is Nov. 6 against USC Upstate.
“Without having played any games yet,” Martin said, “I feel a lot better about our point guard situation this year.”
Martin said Monday that freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard has been practicing with the team. Couisnard’s eligibility for games, however, is in limbo because of an academic issue.
“If he was a nonqualifier, he never would have been admitted to school,” Martin said Monday. “OK? The SEC has a policy against that.
“But there is something there that’s being dealt with. But he’s been practicing and he’s awesome. And just like all the other freshmen, for the last five days, his head’s been spinning trying to figure out why we defend how we defend. It’s all good.”