Carrera takes on leadership role with lack of upperclassmen
It is no secret that the majority of the South Carolina men’s basketball team is made up of players who are fresh out of high school. But despite the team’s youthful nucleus, head coach Frank Martin is embracing the growing process of his younger players as he attempts to combat the learning curve.
With a handful of talented recruits in the Gamecocks’ system this year, Martin has made it a point to lure his freshmen away from an individual mindset.
“The hardest thing to teach young kids is that there’s four other talented guys on the floor with you,” Martin said. “You have to play offensively through your talent within the structure that’s in place.”
While senior Bruce Ellington continues to play with the football team, guard Brenton Williams is the only senior currently practicing with the team. The scarcity of upperclassmen has forced Martin to place significant responsibility on sophomores such as forward Michael Carrera, who said he is thankful to have the support of his teammates as he looks to take on a leadership role.
“That feels great, having players next to me helping me through,” Carrera said. “It’s a great feeling and I just want to help the team and win more games and make it to the tourney.”
Martin has been trying out multiple players at the point guard position to see who can fill the role of junior transfer guard Tyrone Johnson, as he is likely going to have to sit out until mid-December. Freshman Sindarius Thornwell has played well in practice thus far, according to Martin. He mentioned that Thornwell has “the mentality, toughness and inner strength that great defenders have.”
In addition to Thornwell, fellow freshmen Duane Notice and Jaylen Shaw have a good chance of seeing time at point guard early on in the season. Martin prefers to use Williams off the ball, meaning he will likely only play point guard if the team is in a bind.
When Johnson does return, he, along with Carrera, should serve as a respectable 1-2 punch that goes back to before their time at South Carolina. The two played together at Montrose Christian School in Maryland where they won the ESPN RISE National High School Invitation.
For the time being, the team continues to work towards improving its play on both sides of the ball. Even in the fourth week of practice, Martin remains consistently instilling an offensive structure for his team. Defensively, there is much the team still needs to do.
“We’d probably give up 150 [points] if we played [right now]” Martin said.
Overall, Martin has been pleased with the effort the team has put forth day-in and day-out in the past three-and-a-half weeks.
“They get along. They respect each other,” Martin said. “They’re trying their rear ends off to play through the structure that we’re trying to put in place. We’re not scared of the physical moment.”
The team will get to showcase its hard work Saturday when Colonial Life Arena hosts the “Tip-Off Tailgate Party With Gamecock Basketball” at 6 p.m. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will scrimmage at the event. The festivities will also feature a 3-point shootout contest, comments from both Martin and women’s coach Dawn Staley and a half court shot for $10,000, with the day culminating in a viewing of Saturday’s football game at Missouri.