The squeeze is on for Frank Martin’s roster

Coach has a numbers game to wrestle — soon

pobley@thestate.comApril 18, 2013 

USC basketball coach Frank Martin

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

— When USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin was a high school coach, no one was cut from the team. One season, he carried 18 players on the roster.

“I didn’t have the courage,” Martin said.

The numbers game at the college level doesn’t allow coaches to do the same thing. Soon, Martin will have a serious numbers problem on his hands.

That’s because the second wave of incoming freshmen is nearly on shore at USC. With a letter of intent reportedly in hand from Reggie Theus Jr. and commitments from Duane Notice and Hartsville’s Jaylen Shaw, the Gamecocks will need to find at least two — if not more — scholarships from among players currently on the roster.

Who will stay and who will go? That’s a decision Martin doesn’t plan on making.

“The most difficult thing to do is to tell a young man in high school … to cut a kid,” Martin said Thursday during the first stop of USC’s annual Fan Fest tour in Florence.

“I never had the courage to cut a kid,” Martin continued. “In college basketball, I’ve never told a kid to leave because he’s not good enough.”

Martin clarified by saying he has had players leave during his previous stop at Kansas State, but that was of their own accord.

“When you sign a young man, you recruit a young man, you can’t come back two years later and tell him he’s not good enough,” Martin said.

Martin finished meetings with USC’s returning players this past week, so he has a good idea how things will play out.

“When it comes to the new recruits and all of that, sometime next week,” Martin said. “Next week when I do that, I’ll be clear on everything.”

It’s a fine line Martin has to walk, but he pointed out several instances where transfers worked out for all involved. Most notably: This year’s Michigan team, which had three players transfer out as a result of roster juggling but wound up playing for the national championship.

Once the dust settles, the 2013-14 Gamecocks will be one of the youngest teams in the nation, featuring at least six freshmen — seven newcomers in all, including Villanova transfer Ty Johnson, a junior — to go with rising sophomores Michael Carrera, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas.

Martin said dealing with a bench full of newbies is what makes the job fun.

“People think I’m this Scrooge, that I’m always in a bad mood,” Martin said. “I get to wake up every day and try to help kids. I’m excited about that. I’ve been at a place where you get up and go to work and say, ‘I might get shot at today.’

“Now my job is to get up and help kids.”

Scheduling matters: Martin also said the team’s schedule is nearly finalized. Two games remain to be decided.

What’s known is that USC will participate in a tournament in Hawaii. There also will be an opponent to be named as a part of the SEC/Big 12 challenge. That series replaces the Big East/SEC challenge, which became unviable due to the breakup of the Big East.

Could USC be a match with Martin’s former team, Kansas State? Possibly, but according to people familiar with the discussion, the two conferences do not plan on rekindling former conference rivalries, such as Kansas-Missouri or Texas A&M-Texas. That means lining up such an obvious pairing is problematic.

There’s another fun potential matchup for the Gamecocks — West Virginia, which is coached by Bob Huggins, Martin’s former boss at Cincinnati and Kansas State

At any rate, Martin said to expect USC’s non-conference schedule to be much improved over the 2012-13 slate, which rated among the worst in the country.

“I try not to get into numbers, but I believe our non-conference schedule was in the 300s. That’s no good,” Martin said. “Some people say you can’t do that until you get good. Well, you can’t get good unless you do it. Our strength of schedule non-conference can never be that bad. It needs to be way higher and we tried to address that.”

USC 2013 BASKETBALL RECRUITING CLASS

Signed

PositionPlayerHeightHome
SGJustin McKie6-3Irmo
CDesmond Ringer6-9McDonough, Ga.
SGSindarius Thornwell 6-5Lancaster/Oak Hill
SFReggie Theus Jr.6-6Los Angeles

Committed

PG  Duane Notice 6-2Oakdale, Conn.
PGJaylen Shaw6-1Hartsville

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