The South Carolina men’s basketball team is coming off unprecedented success.
After an exciting run to the Final Four in the 2016-2017 season, the Gamecocks are looking to build off that success in 2017-2018. The foundation for continued success was laid, and in order to help carry it on, head coach Frank Martin has brought in seven new players, along with Kory Holden, who will be eligible to play for the first time since becoming a Gamecock in 2016 after transferring from Delaware.
Here is a look at the eight players who will be eligible to play their first games for South Carolina this season.
Kory Holden spent his freshman and sophomore years at Delaware, where he put up some impressive stats. At Delaware, Holden averaged 15.1 points per game for his career, including 17.7 during his sophomore year. With the departures of scorers Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and PJ Dozier, look for Holden to help make up some of the lost scoring.
Another positive Holden will bring is outside shooting. South Carolina has always seemed to need more shooters, and Holden shot 38.4 percent from 3-point land at Delaware. He should bring a much-needed outside threat immediately. Whether or not Holden starts will probably be based on his defense. Although Holden has been recovering from a knee injury, Martin sees potential in the guard.
“Kory Holden is a real good player," Martin said.
Whether he starts or comes off of the bench, Holden should help the Gamecocks tremendously due to his 3-point shooting and all around scoring ability.
Another player with solid scoring ability, Wesley Myers is a graduate transfer from Maine, where he averaged 16.9 points per game. Although a solid shooter at 34.3 percent from 3-point range, Myers primarily scores inside the line. As an effective field goal shooter, Myers shot 47.1 percent from that range.
The biggest key for Myers to integrate himself quickly with the team will be to learn Martin’s defensive principles and give maximum effort on that end of the floor. Look for Myers to join Holden as one of the primary scorers this season.
A freshman from New Jersey, Justin Minaya averaged 19.5 points per game, 11.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game as a senior in high school, according to GamecocksOnline. His senior year highlights show the wing as an explosive athlete who still maintains control in his game. He has a smooth left-handed jumper and looks to be as comfortable shooting 3-pointers as he is exploding to the rim. Listed at 6-foot-5 on the Gamecocks roster, Minaya is marked as a forward, and will most likely play the three position this year for Carolina. In early October, Minaya garnered praise from Martin, who seemed excited about his potential.
With Minaya having put up 13 points and four rebounds on 6-for-9 shooting against Erskine in the first exhibition game of the year, he showed his offensive potential. Not only did he have a good game offensively, he held his own on the other end of the floor.
With Minaya getting praise for his defensive ability, he should be in line for playing time this year. Minaya is an exciting freshman, and should surprise and impress with his talent.
David Beatty is a highly regarded freshman from Philadelphia and was South Carolina’s highest-rated recruit in 2017. An excellent recruiting grab for the Gamecocks, Beatty is listed at 6-foot-2 on South Carolina’s roster, although recruiting sites list him as being taller. Beatty’s senior highlights show him to be a hardworking, crafty guard with good athleticism.
Beatty looks to be a versatile scorer with a nice jump shot and 3-point range. Like the other newcomers, the key for Beatty to get on the floor will be his defensive aptitude. Beatty projects to be a contributor as soon as his freshman year, especially given how many players from last year's squad are gone.
Felipe Haase is a 6-foot-9 forward, who is originally from Chile. During his senior year of high school in Miami, Haas averaged 19.3 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game and 6.3 assists per game, according to GamecocksOnline.
Haase does not have much high school film available, but he boasts a smooth, skillful game on the film he does have. Haase looks to be quick for his size, and his assist numbers suggest strong passing acumen. He boasts a soft touch around the basket and an excellent jump shot.
His 3-point and free throw shooting skills both look strong. Haase had solid offers coming out of high school, including offers from Purdue and Pittsburgh. If Martin can toughen Haase up and improve his defense, which is certainly a characteristic of Martin's teams and players, Haase should see the floor his freshman year. Whether his minutes are in close games or not, will depend on his ability to adjust to Martin’s style.
Born in Iceland, Frank Booker is another graduate transfer coming to the Gamecocks this season. South Carolina is his third college stop after playing two years at Oklahoma and one at Florida Atlantic University.
While he doesn't have gaudy statistics, Booker has been backed by Martin. A career 33.1 percent 3-point shooter, Booker has shown some potential as a spot up player on the wing for the Gamecocks.
"You know, Wes and Book are trying, they’re trying to play differently than they’ve ever been asked to play before in college," Martin said.
“Don’t underestimate the experiences of Frank Booker,” said Martin, who praised Booker’s shooting ability. Booker’s decent size at 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, along with his maturity could allow him to be a plus defender. Should Booker shoot and move well in the offense, he looks to become a key role player for South Carolina.
Jason Cudd of Socastee, South Carolina, joins the Gamecocks after averaging 18.7 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game during his senior year of high school. Cudd projects to be more a developmental player for South Carolina, similar to South Carolina’s fellow seven-footer, Khadim Gueye.
Cudd did not have many offers, but Martin’s track record has proven that he can develop and improve any player, especially raw, big men. Expect Cudd to have a similar freshman year to Gueye’s last year.
Ibrahim Doumbia is a freshman prospect brimming with potential for the Gamecocks. As a senior, Doumbia posted eyepopping statistics: 27 points per game, 19 rebounds per game and four blocks per game. The 6-foot-6 lanky forward should be able to swing between the four and the three positions, depending on how Martin decides to use him in certain situations.
Doumbia’s high school coach raved about him to 247Sports, praising his athleticism, size, shooting ability, motor and extreme versatility.
He even compared Doumbia to Rudy Gay and former Gamecock star Michael Carrera.
"I would say, and apologies to both of those gentlemen, but he's a freakier athlete than both of those gentlemen," said Coach Hugo De La Rosa of Miami Country Day.
Doumbia also has great shooting ability, and looks to play solid minutes during his freshman year for the Gamecocks. Martin praised Doumbia along with Justin Minaya.
“Him and Ibrahim are gonna be fun to watch here for the next four years," Martin said. "They’re big and they’re talented, and they’re competitive."
South Carolina will look to continue building the program after last year’s success, and the Gamecocks are hoping these new players help in that endeavor. With many newcomers looking in line for early playing time, they should be able to contribute and develop to help sustain the team’s success in the future.