Newcomers learning Martin’s system

Coach: Despite eight new faces, team meshing well

dcloninger@thestate.comOctober 22, 2013 

USC freshman guard Justin McKie, right, and sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas listen to coach Frank Martin during practice.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

  • TIP-OFF TAILGATE PARTY

    What: USC men’s and women’s basketball teams will have special events, and then fans can watch the USC-Missouri football game on the video board.

    When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

    Where: Colonial Life Arena

Frank Martin recently saw a gentleman with snow-white hair at practice, and joked that by the time he got done coaching his current group of players, his dark hair, graying at the temples, would be the same shade.

At practice on Tuesday, Martin’s hair appeared much more gray than usual.

Has practice been that stressful? There’s got to be something that South Carolina does well, right?

“Aggravate me,” he quipped.

Four weeks of practice are in the books and USC’s first game is less than three weeks away. The Gamecocks will have a different look from last year’s 14-18 squad, with eight new faces, and Martin has been balancing working in his specific offensive and defensive sets along with seeing how his team meshes on the court.

The X’s and O’s might have to wait a few games, perhaps a full season, before Martin can get a grasp on what the Gamecocks are capable of doing and what they do well. But the intangibles are in place.

“They get along,” Martin said. “They respect each other. They’re trying their rear ends off to play through the structure we’re trying to put in place. Last year, we couldn’t screen. This year, when we screen, we screen.”

Little by little, Martin is figuring out the new personalities of his squad and is approaching the point where he can turn it loose on the floor. The first chance will be at Saturday’s Tip-off Tailgate, a scrimmage open to the public where the players can have some fun, playing for highlights instead of the season’s plan. USC Aiken visits for an exhibition on Nov. 3, and six days later, Longwood is at Colonial Life Arena to open the 2013-14 season.

The biggest challenge of dealing with so much youth is trying to get all of them to understand that they can’t freelance. In high school, most of them were the best players on the court every night. Now, they’re all part of a system.

“That’s the hardest thing to teach young kids, is that there’s four other talented guys on the floor with you,” Martin said. “It’s not about, ‘Let’s run a play for you and you just kind of go stand over there holding the ball, and everyone else get out of the way.’ You have to play offensively through your talent within the structure that’s in place. Then defensively, there’s no such thing as individual talent. It’s five against five.”

There’s also the matter of getting through the drudgery of preseason practice as the season approaches. Players are tired of playing each other. They want to see a different uniform.

“The worst practice we had all year was (Monday),” Martin said. “They actually came in here today and responded. Our guys took that personally. It was good to see. You can have the most experienced team in the world, or a bunch of kindergarten kids. You practice for four weeks, guys are tired of each other, they’re ready to go play and that’s part of it.”

The games are on the horizon, though.

“We’re just excited, excited for the season,” sophomore forward Michael Carrera said. “It’s going to be a great season. The freshmen are doing great, everybody’s doing great. We just keep getting better every day.”

NOTES: Freshman Sindarius Thornwell is logging more minutes at point guard in practice, although he’s a natural two-guard. He is competing with fellow freshmen Duane Notice and Jaylen Shaw, but Thornwell’s time at point is increasing because he knows what USC wants to do offensively. … Sophomore Minda Kacinas sustained a minor back injury in the weight room but will be fine.

Follow Cloninger on Twitter at @DCTheState

Go Gamecocks is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service