Ellington set to return to hardwood for game at Oklahoma State
The South Carolina men’s basketball team will travel to No. 9 Oklahoma State on Friday with a key addition to its roster, in the form of senior guard Bruce Ellington.
At Tuesday’s press conference, coach Frank Martin acknowledged Ellington had practiced with the team, and would be available come tip-off against the Cowboys. The Gamecocks are in need of a vocal presence like Ellington to come in and be a spark plug for the young players on this team.
“Bruce is off the charts,” Martin said. “Him practicing today made our team better, just because of his speed. He understands stuff.”
Martin consistently speaks highly of Ellington’s willingness to learn and desire to win. With such a young group — seven freshman and only two seniors — Ellington’s experience and knowledge will help the Gamecocks in the long run.
Senior guard Brenton Williams said that “Everyone on the team is excited to see him.” Also, transfer guard Tyrone Johnson said Ellington “Brings another aspect” and elevates everyone’s game around him.
The two-sport athlete’s experience will play a large role in Friday’s game with an Oklahoma State team led by sophomore guard Marcus Smart. It doesn’t necessarily have to be through his play, but his presence and voice on the bench could inspire some of the young players, something Martin expressed as one of his biggest concerns coming into the game.
“The sense of urgency to understand ‘I’ve got to guard the basketball and I can’t let my man go in the paint and I’ve got to do my job.’ That’s where it needs to grow,” Martin said. “It’s not where it needs to be at. This isn’t a 50-yard sprint, we’re running a double marathon here and it’s about keep going so we are strong at the finish line.”
A key factor when playing against such a strong opponent offensively and defensively is understanding the speed of the game. Martin said the team has been giving up too many offensive rebounds, and the “sense of urgency defensively has to be better.”
“Friday’s game is a great opportunity, because it’s the next game on the schedule, but the value of the game is the same as the game that we play after the Oklahoma State game,” Martin said. “It’s the next step and it’s the next opportunity. The next game on the schedule should always be the most important game you ever play. You should play like it’s the last one you’ll ever play, and that’s the mindset we try and create.”
Smart along with senior guard Markel Brown have shown early-on that Oklahoma State possesses one of the more dangerous backcourts in the country. Smart is currently averaging 20.5 points per contest, with five rebounds and 3.6 assists.
“They have a chance at being one of the special teams in the country,” Martin said. “They’ve got big time players and experience.”
For the Gamecocks, the matchup to look at will be Johnson defending Smart. Johnson has shown quickness on offense, but his defensive game still needs developing, according to his coach. Johnson said he is not intimidated by the opportunity to face one of the country’s best players.
“We’re treating this game like it’s the next game. We got a great game, and (a) great challenge coming up Friday,” Johnson said. “They have great players, but we also have great players as well. We’re not coming in scared, or going up against the hype.”