Photo: Victoria Richman / The Daily Gamecock

Men's basketball practice underway with new faces

Under head coach Frank Martin, the South Carolina men's basketball program is coming off a monumental season, reaching the NCAA Tournament Final Four for the first time in program history. 

With many new players on the team, Martin and the Gamecocks are looking to replace the void in the backcourt left by Sindarius Thornwell, a shooting guard who graduated and plays for the L.A. Clippers, and P.J. Dozier, a point guard who left after his sophomore season for the NBA. The question on South Carolina fans’ minds is: Who will step up in their absence?

For Martin, sophomore player Maik Kotsar has taken on responsibility as a leader this off-season and could be an option.

“Kotsar has put on 22 pounds of lean muscle ... he’s a different human being,” Martin said.

The sophomore forward made 33 starts as a freshman, and posted nine double-figure scoring games, and one double-double, according to GamecocksOnline. His best postseason performance came in the Elite Eight against No. 20/17 Florida, in which he recorded 12 points and three rebounds.

Martin also expects big things from graduate transfer Frank Booker, and doesn’t want people to “underestimate” the experience he brings to the Gamecocks’ program. Booker transferred from one season at Florida Atlantic following two seasons with Oklahoma, where he averaged just over five points per game.

As for the starting five, Martin said "I got no idea who’s gonna start." He explained how there are certain aspects and adjustments that will not be known until his players are put into game situations. Martin did seem optimistic for the season.

“For a team that has so many new faces, they enjoy being around each other,” Martin said. “Last year’s success creates an unwritten positive peer pressure within our locker room.”

The addition of a practice facility has proven worthwhile for the Gamecocks according to Martin, who said players practice their shooting in their downtime instead of just hanging out.

While practice started this week and fans have a limited view of the team, they can expect heavy physical and mental preparation for the season to come, according to Martin.

“The great equalizer for athleticism is the mind,” Martin said.

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