South Carolina basketball was already down its top big man from last season with Chris Silva’s departure.
Jason Cudd transferring wasn’t a surprise given the smaller role he held, but Felipe Haase, whose transfer came out on Thursday, had averaged 21.5 minutes per game his first two seasons. It leaves the Gamecocks with a frontcourt that looks like this:
▪ Maik Kotsar: a versatile defender who struggled on offense last season
▪ Alanzo Frink: A sturdy big man who had defensive issues last season and looked very much like a freshman
▪ Wildens Leveque: A burly, athletic incoming freshman
▪ Jalyn McCreary: A springy late add to the class
That’s a group light on experience that could perhaps use a more burly presence if one is available.
Frank Martin said the staff has been recruiting in case a spot opens up. One has. Here are some of the names of strong rebounding big men out there on the market.
▪ Shakur Juiston, UNLV: If USC needs a guy who can throw his weight around, this would be the guy. He was injured all of last season and isn’t the tallest (6-foot-7), but he averaged an even 10 rebounds per game his last healthy season and was part of a very good offensive rebounding squad. He appears to be mostly a finisher around the rim, but shot 63.9 percent in 2017-18.
▪ Jayce Johnson, Utah: In his first starting season, he averaged 7.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in the Pac-12, playing only a little more than 20 minutes a game. Another 7-footer, he’s already visited Nebraska.
▪ Barret Benson, Northwestern: Only playing 9.4 minutes a game doesn’t bode that well, but he rebounded well when he was on the floor (11.4 per 36 minutes) and stands at 6-foot-10, 240.
▪ Kelvin Jones, Idaho State: He put up 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 20 minutes a night. He’s looking to play for his third school.
▪ Kerry Blackshear Jr., Virginia Tech: Simply put, he’s the best grad transfer on the market. He also has his name in the NBA draft and is reportedly a Kentucky target, so the 6-foot-10, 249 pounder who averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds would be at best a very long shot.
▪ Derrik Smits, Valparaiso: Son of a longtime NBA player, his numbers were solid at 12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and one block a game. But you can’t teach 7-foot-1, 240 pounds. USC would be late to the game, as he already announced NC State, Arizona State, and Butler as finalists.