COLUMBIA, S.C. — Early in Frank Martins coaching career, during a particularly rough patch, there came a point when all he heard from himself was screaming. Thats when a mentor stepped in with some sage advice.
All I knew to do was scream, I didnt know anything else. I wasnt educated enough to try and educate, Martin said. This old guy who has been real influential in my life said, Frank, the more frustrated you get, the more youve got to teach.
That will give you peace of mind, Martin added. And thats how we do things as a staff.
Indeed, if frustration means more teaching, the USC Gamecocks are in round-the-clock tutoring sessions with their first-year coach.
Most of the concern centers around an increasingly anemic and turnover-prone offense. The enigma wrapped inside that puzzle is the teams odd penchant for not communicating on the court be it among themselves or the coaching staff.
The issues have become such that Martin and his staff have simplified the offense to a level of blandness previously unheard of for one of his teams.
This is the most vanilla weve been on offense in my six years as a head coach, probably even including my 16 as a high school coach, Martin said.
Martin broke down the main problem by using a football analogy. When he calls for a play that has a running back hitting the hole between the right guard and right tackle, the offensive line blocks as if the back was supposed to go through the left side.
Its an issue the players are aware of, said junior guard Brenton Williams
Frank calls a play, we got half the players doing one thing and half the players doing another, Williams said. Were shooting too fast, and thats not something that he wants us to do.
And thats when the Gamecocks have been getting off shots. With a turnover average near 20 per game, a lot of those shots are going the other way and have been of the layup variety.
Williams has been a bright spot during the recent downturn. Before his neck injury in the St. Johns game Thursday, Williams had ignited a rally that was closing a large gap. In Sundays loss against Clemson, he shook off the lingering effects of that injury to lead the team with 16 points.
Brentons come a long way, Martin said. Hes a long kid. Hes got quickness. He can really run and hes strong. but offensively, hes giving us a tremendous spark right now.
Williams is averaging 13. 4 points per game, taking over the scoring lead from the slumping LaShay Page. He is shooting 53.1 percent from the field overall, which includes a 41.4 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line. He also is shooting 90 percent at the free throw line.
I just try to take shots I think I can make, Williams said.
All in all, Williams is just fine when hes shooting the ball. The real issues arise when hes dribbling it. Currently, he has an upside-down assist ratio, with 10 assists and 18 turnovers. Following the Clemson game, Williams asked Martin if he had any film of his Kansas State guards in action.
To his credit, he cares, he wants to improve, Martin said. He asked Can you show me tape of your point guards because I want to see how they play so I can play like that.
I thought that was a pretty powerful statement by that young man.
Williams said Martin believes the Gamecocks to have similar offensive capabilities as his teams at Kansas State and that was why he wanted to see how those guards executed the game plan. But mostly, Williams believes USCs offensive woes come from the game moving so fast that their lack of familiarity with the offense causes breakdowns when plays are being changed.
I think because the style of play we have is kind of fast, some players are behind how fast the game is moving, Williams said. So trying to communicate and changing plays while the game is moving so fast, its hard and its something weve got to get the hang of.
USCs next chance to get the offense straightened out comes Friday against Jacksonville at Colonial Life Arena. No matter how that game goes, Martin said hes taking the long view.
You dont practice to play eight games, he said. You practice to play in March.