Diverse roster in place for Frank Martin

pobley@thestate.comSeptember 10, 2012 

In perhaps a fitting turn of events, first-year USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin was on the recruiting trail Monday, the day he released the team’s roster.

The Gamecocks will feature 10 returning players and four newcomers in an eclectic group that includes an incoming senior, two Lithuanians, two walk-ons and a football player who will join the team in time for the SEC slate.

What it does not include are two recruits from the New York City area.

Thaddeus Hall and Tarik Phillip did not qualify. Hall, according to an interview with his high school coach Lawrence Pollard on the Rivals-affiliated NYCHoops.net, failed to graduate and may pursue a GED.

Three of the four incoming players should boost the Gamecocks’ rebounding game, which was a big part of Martin’s success at Kansas State. The Wildcats routinely were among the nation’s best on the boards.

Laimonas Chatkevicius, a 6-11 forward, and Mindagas Kacinas, a 6-7 forward, both hail from Klaipeda, Lithuania and are products of American prep schools.

Chatkevicius, who played at South Kent (Conn.) School, originally was a Kansas State commitment but was released from his letter of intent when Martin left for USC. Kacinas also was on Martin’s radar while at Kansas State, playing for the Word of Life Fire Traditional School in Wichita, Kan.

Both post players boost the Gamecocks’ bulk, which suffered a blow when 6-10 sophomore Carlton Geathers sustained a knee injury during the summer. He is not expected to return until January at the earliest and is a candidate for a medical redshirt.

Michael Carrera, a 6-5 freshman, played for legendary prep coach Stu Vetter at Montrose Christian (Md.) School. Vetter called Carrera one of the best rebounders to come through his program.

Like Chatkevicius and Kacinas, incoming senior guard LaShay Page also has a Martin connection – the last game the Dillon native played at Southern Mississippi came against Martin in the first round of the NCAA tournament this past March.

Returning players include seniors Lakeem Jackson, Alex Irwin and Shane Phillips, juniors RJ Slawson, Brian Richardson, Eric Smith and Brenton Williams and sophomores Geathers and Damien Leonard. Irwin and Phillips are walk-ons.

Junior Bruce Ellington will return to the team once the Gamecocks’ football season is complete.

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USC HOOPS NEWCOMERS

A closer look at USC’s incoming players:

LAIMONAS CHATKEVICIUS

A 6-11 freshman forward from South Kent (Conn.) School. Came to the U.S. in 2009 and was a member of Lithuania’s 2010 FIBA under-17 national team.

Martin on Chatkevicius: “Laimonas presents a young man with tremendous size and a very good skill set. He has an ability to pass and shoot the basketball with an understanding of how to play the game. He is someone, that as he continues to mature and learn how to rebound consistently, has a chance to become a special player in our program.”

MINDAUGAS KACINAS

A 6-7 freshman forward form World of Life Fire Traditional (Kan.) School. Averaged 23.6 points and 12.1 rebounds during his senior season.

Martin on Kacinas: “Mindaugas is a young man with size that possesses a skill set like most European players. He is a player who can eventually become a full-time perimeter player with great length.”

MICHAEL CARRERA

A 6-5 freshman from Montrose Christian (Md.) School. Averaged 13.2 points and 12.2 rebounds during his senior season. Originally from Venezuela. While listed at 6-5, he possesses a 7-2 reach.

Martin on Carrera: "He was coached by one of the great high school coaches in our country in Stu Vetter. … Coach Vetter feels that Michael is as good a rebounder as he’s ever coached, and that includes George Lynch and players of that caliber.”

LASHAY PAGE

A 6-1 senior from Southern Mississippi. Led the Eagles to the NCAA tournament last season, averaging 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. He posted one of the best games of his career against Kansas State in the tournament’s first round.

Martin on Page: “LaShay comes to us as the best player on a very good Southern Mississippi team. … He understands what it takes to win, and win at a high level. He is a player who will add tremendous experience, personality and talent to our team.”

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