There are two key qualities needed in today’s college basketball in order to be a success: Wrap up the top recruits in the nation, and have upperclass leadership that actually contributes to games.
Currently, head coach Frank Martin has gotten one of two down. Kind of.
As the head coach of South Carolina, Martin has had a trend in recruiting. That is, get a four-to-five-star player that hails locally and can make an immediate impact, then grab players that will need some development and won’t play much in their first couple of years.
Look at 2013. Sindarius Thornwell, from Lancaster, South Carolina, committed to the program as a high four-star along with Florida native Demetrius Henry, and his fellow recruits were ranked three stars or under. In 2014, TeMarcus Blanton was a four-star from outside of Atlanta, and everyone around him in that recruiting class was three-star. In 2015, Columbia native and five-star P.J. Dozier decided to stay home, and guess what? The four other recruits that joined him at South Carolina were three-starred.
This tactic might work if everything went flawlessly. But at South Carolina, the basketball program has been anything but perfect.
In 2016, coach Martin’s recruiting style went awry. Seventh Woods was supposed to be that highly recruited, local player for coach Martin and staff. At one point, 247sports.com, who is renowned for their accurate recruiting, predicted Woods would commit to the Gamecocks with 80 percent confidence. Everything looked in place, especially since coach Martin and staff reeled in a four-star forward Sedee Keita, but Woods pulled a fast one and committed to UNC.
That’s not the only thing that has gone wrong, though.
The end of last season and into the summer saw the departure of many of hose three-star players who would have taken some development. Freshmen Eric Cobb and Jamall Gregory were dismissed from the team after a run-in with the law, and Marcus Stroman and Raymond Doby both announced they were transferring out of the program. All of these guys were young talents who, given a couple of years and some guidance, might have budded into solid players. We will never know.
Last year wasn’t the only time when bench players have left the program. The year before, Demetrius Henry, Reggie Theus and Shamiek Sheppard all departed after having a promising 2014-2015 season.
Now the program is left with less talented underclassmen — those who needed some coaching and a few years to become a sufficient basketball player — to man the front court and the bench, causing fans to be concerned about this upcoming season. Sure, incoming forward Sedee Keita was expected to play big minutes from day one, but instead of competing in practice and playing next to the likes of senior Demetrius Henry and second-year Eric Cobb, he will be learning the ropes with sophomore Chris Silva (who was already an extremely raw talent) and freshmen Khadim Gueye and Maik-Kalev Kotsar.
Coach Martin’s got some talented guards to anchor his team. Sindarius Thornwell is now a senior, and it’s his team. P.J. Dozier had all offseason to iron out some wrinkles in his play, and it’s now or never for junior TeMarcus Blanton, who has been nagged by an injury. Past those players, though, there’s really not that much star potential on this team.
We need more highly recruited talent in the program. Better players will help others in practice compete and learn, which will allow South Carolina rise up in the SEC ranks and get back into the NCAA Tournament. It’s that simple. However, I’m not sure if coach Martin can recruit that well outside of South Carolina on a national scale. Frank Martin is a fan favorite in terms of his person, but coach Martin might not be the caliber of coach we need to head our program at South Carolina.