I was there when the expectations for this team were nothing. Before the season, I wrote a column I did not quite believe myself. “Martin’s Gamecocks will thrive despite departures,” it was titled. Wishful thinking? Maybe.
But here we are. Clothes drenched in soggy water from a swim in the library fountain, I write to you in utter joy.
For every negative story line to which I have written to this season, South Carolina has broken it en route to their first ever Final Four.
In the beginning of the season, I wrote an article questioning whether Rakym Felder could emerge as the backup point guard. After an injury that carried into the start of the season, and a suspension that kept him off the court even longer, no one knew what to expect out of the tiny freshman guard out of New York City.
Yet 15 points against Duke in the Round of 32 sure showed Felder’s importance by the end of the season.
Midway through the season, a microscope was put upon the shooting of Duane Notice. At one point in the year, a fan even went as far as to ask coach Martin this question before a game: “Coach I love the team, but I’m really getting sick of watching Duane Notice miss shots. When are you gonna start playing someone else?”
Yet it was Notice’s thunderous dunk that flushed Florida’s Final Four hopes to the ground.
With the team struggling late in the season, Gamecock Nation began to ask what was wrong with PJ Dozier. Shooting just 33 percent from the field through the final eight games of the regular season, fans, media and I wondered where our star point guard had gone.
Yet after shooting 53 percent from the field and scoring double digits in every game, the only questions being raised from Dozier’s play was if this would be his final season.
Then, down the stretch, this whole team was doubted. Headlined “South Carolina not playing like a tournament team,” I began an article by saying, “South Carolina is lying dead with its hand outstretched across the finish line.”
And once again, this South Carolina team proved me wrong.
At one point or another, nobody outside of Frank Martin can say that they did not doubt this team at one point throughout the year. Be it certain players, or the team as a whole through its struggles, unwavering support seemed all but impossible.
Yet this Gamecock team proved everyone wrong. Locally, nationally, you or I — they proved us wrong.
And thank god they did.