The Gamecocks continued their stretch of preseason exhibition games Sunday, facing Virginia Tech in the "Hoops 4 Hurricane Relief" event that raised funds for those impacted by recent storms.
The South Carolina offense struggled throughout the entire exhibition to hit shots, shooting only 34 percent from the field and 21 percent from deep for the game. Conversely, Virginia Tech flipped things around in the second half and began to knock down its open looks, hitting more than 50 percent from both the field and 3-point range. The Hokies took over in the second half, outscoring South Carolina 50-37 in the period and went on to win the contest, 86-67.
But the biggest takeaway from the matchup for either team wasn’t anything that happened on the court.
It was the reason behind the scrimmage in the first place.
“It’s something that our players, they've never done anything like this, they don't know,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said postgame in the joint press conference held with South Carolina head coach Frank Martin.
“To be able to do community service together, and they get play and they get to scrimmage and they shared meals together. I just think that maybe that’s what life is supposed to be," Williams said.
Martin and Williams are great friends and both come from areas directly and severely affected by the trio of hurricanes that rampaged through parts of the United States. This offered an opportunity for two friends to be able to put on an event that not only helped their teams get better, but serviced communities in need.
It ultimately taught their players that the game of life is more important than the game of basketball.
“Our world seems to go so fast,” Williams said. “Maybe to pause every now and then and go, 'we’re going to do this and we will always remember it,' and that it was for someone else other than ourselves, I’ll always remember it."
Martin also saw numerous benefits in holding the exhibition and was on board from the start.
“[Something] I try to share with my players all the time is we better understand each other, so we can better help one another,” Martin said. “The only way you can understand one another is by communicating. Communicating is not just flowing, it's listening. And when you take kids, and you make them understand what we did yesterday … that’s real, that’s powerful."
Williams said he wants more proactive actions, like this exhibition game, to take place in support of the causes society rallies for.
“I think our problem [as a country] is that we have a lot of voices on what they’re against, and we have very few voices on what are you for,” Williams said when asked about how to use platforms for good causes.
“I think that the best thing for me, that I spend time talking to our team about ... I wish there was more about what we were for ... This is what we’re for."
Martin expressed his gratitude to South Carolina and Virginia Tech fans for making this event as big of a success as it was, knowing that without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.
“There’s three things that we as coaches are always asking people for. Their time, their passion and their money,” Martin said. “Those are the three most valuable things that we have in life ... For people to step up and support our thought of basketball to help others, that means that they gave up their time to show up, they gave their passion because they cheered ... and then they obviously gave money. That’s powerful when people do that stuff.”
For both head coaches, the exhibition proved to be a valuable teaching moment for their players that went beyond the scope of basketball.
“In the real scope of things, we’re just two average guys that are trying to help our young guys understand, if you do right and you respect people, good things will happen for you,” Martin said. “That’s kind of my vision."