USC Men's Basketball

USC basketball pledge is ready-made for Frank Martin. ‘I like that tough love’

Why did Jalyn McCreary commit to South Carolina? He likes ‘tough love’ coaching

South Carolina basketball commitment Jalyn McCreary talks Gamecocks, Frank Martin and what he can bring to USC.
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South Carolina basketball commitment Jalyn McCreary talks Gamecocks, Frank Martin and what he can bring to USC.

The story of how B.J. Jackson learned Jalyn McCreay would be an ideal fit for Frank Martin and South Carolina starts with McCreary — allegedly — ignoring his coach.

A break in game action between Legacy Charter and Tri-City Christian (N.C.) led Jackson to share instruction with McCreary, Legacy’s star forward. Jackson’s tone was mild at the beginning, but it grew more stern as it became clear to the coach that McCreary was missing the point.

“I was telling him to do something,” Jackson recalled Thursday, “and I said, ‘Do you hear me?’ And he walked off. And I said, ‘Do you hear me?!?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I hear you.’

“So I just snapped on him.”

McCreary took the tongue-lashing, scored eight straight points and Legacy beat Tri-City, 77-73. McCreary finished with 19, five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

He committed to the Gamecocks three months later.

“Yelling,” McCreary said, “for some reason, it makes me more competitive. And it makes me do better. Over the years, coaches yelling at me, I respond well to that.”

The notoriously fiery Martin will officially add McCreary to Carolina’s 2019-20 roster on Friday when McCreary signs his national letter of intent. What the Gamecocks are getting is a 6-foot-8, 220-pounder who runs the floor, rebounds and scores with green in his hair and a chip on his shoulder.

National recruiting sites 247Sports and Rivals rate McCreary as a three-star prospect. He sees better.

“I’m at least a four-star,” McCreary said, “I ain’t gonna lie.”

McCreary is a Georgia native who came to Legacy Charter for his senior season. He averaged 18 points and six rebounds for a Lions team that went 34-5 and won the USA National Prep Basketball Championship in Myrtle Beach. Stiff competition surfaced along the way, including a Dec. 23 matchup with Porter-Gaud and McDonald’s All-American Josiah James.

McCreary’s best scholarship offer to that point was from Xavier of the Big East.

“We used to talk about a couple of the schools that had offered him,” Jackson said. “He just flat out said, ‘Coach, I truly believe I can play at an ACC-SEC level.’ I said, ‘If you’re gonna do that, you gotta start performing at that level.’”

On the same floor as the Tennessee-bound James, McCreary scored 24 points and grabbed nine boards in a blowout Legacy win.

“We would see little flashes of capability,” Jackson said. “But he had to be able to put the complete package into it. Once the game hit, he just got into the mentality, ‘We’re gonna shut it down. We’re gonna take over and compete against Josiah James.’ ... He just came out and played tough.”

McCreary’s recruitment picked up through the season. Arkansas (SEC) and Pittsburgh (ACC) showed interest, but he chose South Carolina. Why?

“I just really like their coach,” McCreary said. “He’s a tough coach. And I like that tough love.”

McCreary said his attraction to that coaching style stems from his time on the AAU circuit with Atlanta-based Game Elite. Jackson’s tutelage created a similar vibe at Legacy Charter.

“I tell my people, ‘If you can take my coaching, you can take Frank’s coaching,’” Jackson said. “Because we’re somewhat similar, our style of coaching.

“He feeds off coaches getting on him, that makes him an even better player. So he wants to go harder. So when I got the call from (USC assistants) Chuck Martin and Perry Clark and then I finally talked to Frank on the phone, I told them it’s a great match for them.”

McCreary, No. 147 nationally by 247Sports, is the top-ranked member of USC’s 2019 class. He prides himself on a high-motor, improved shooting touch — and looking good when he walks in a gym.

A self-described “sneaker head,” McCreary has an extensive shoe collection and likes to dab his hair with color.

“I started off with blond and then just found a different look and dyed it green,” he said. “It was like a weird green. Not like a regular green. But I might dye it back black for college.”

He arrives at USC on June 1.

“(Martin’s) gonna get on to me,” McCreary said. “I’m gonna hate him sometimes, but it’s all love at the end of the day. I can’t wait.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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