The memories of last March are still strong, as the South Carolina Gamecocks had their best season in school history. The year ended with a magical run all the way to the Final Four. The banner for that accomplishment has been raised at Colonial Life Arena. A new season with the Gamecocks’ new faces has begun. Coach Frank Martin has an interesting challenge, managing expectations after a memorable season, and figuring out how all the new parts fit together.
The Gamecocks have started 6-2 so far in this young season but still have plenty of room to improve. South Carolina lost SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell, versatile guard P.J. Dozier, and defensive stopper Duane Notice off of last year’s team. This season, the team is a mix of transfers, freshmen, and a few role players from the Final Four team who will have to grow into bigger roles. The process won’t be easy, but Coach Martin has proven his ability to develop talent and his teams usually improve throughout the year. Here is a breakdown of the roster and an introduction of the Gamecocks’ new players.
Chris Silva, Hassani Gravett, and Maik Kotsar were all parts of this program’s Final Four run last March. They served as the supporting cast to the three players mentioned above. Now, each of them will have a much greater role in South Carolina’s success. These three will need to lead the Gamecocks’ new faces as the team tries to figure out its new identity.
Chris Silva – Junior Forward
Silva is an immense talent who is still finding out just how good he can be. An incredible athlete, he has only been playing organized basketball for a handful of years. He was a reliable low-post presence the last two years, whenever he stayed out of foul trouble, and now will look to lead this team. Through the first eight games, Silva is averaging just under 13 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. In his time in Columbia, his game has expanded from a freak athlete, to a player developing his all-around game, to a focal point of the offense. His range and touch have improved greatly, and his ability to fight through contact and score in the post is one of his strengths. Foul trouble is still his main issue, as Silva cannot help lead this team if he is spending too much time on the bench.
Hassani Gravett – Junior Guard
Hassani Gravett came off the bench most of last season but is now stepping into the starting point guard role. Coach Martin has commented a few times this season that Hassani has a long way to go in his abilities to guard the ball. Ball pressure is the key to the Gamecocks’ aggressive defense, so Gravett will need to continue to make strides all year. Gravett has done a solid job moving to the point so far. He is averaging 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. The team runs better on offense when Gravett is on the floor, but Martin is a defense-first coach, so Gravett will need to continue to defend better.
Maik Kotsar – Sophomore Forward
The forward from Estonia has made a big jump from his freshman to sophomore seasons. His confidence is on another level in his second year, and it shows in his game. Rumor had it that Maik Kotsar had added the three-pointer to his offensive package, but that hasn’t been a big factor yet. His improvement has shown the most in his ball handling and his aggressive mindset. Kotsar has shown an increased ability to drive to the basket. Usually, the left-hander makes his move around the elbow and has shown craftiness in creating his own shot and finding teammates on his drives. He also leads the team with two steals per contest, and contributes 10.8 points, 4.8 boards, and two assists each night. He and Silva give the Gamecocks a solid one-two punch in the paint.
Gamecock’s New Faces – Transfers
Kory Holden – Junior Guard
Coming into the season, many saw Kory Holden as the most likely replacement for the scoring that South Carolina lost. That has not manifested thus far. Holden had knee surgery in the off-season and is still working his way back. His minutes have been limited through eight games, and he has only shown flashes of his scoring ability. Mobility and durability are Holden’s two current issues coming off of his injury, and that has kept his production down. He has also been prone to turnovers early in the season. Holden averaged 19 points per during his time at Delaware, and the hope is that as he recovers fully, he can provide a consistent backcourt scoring option.
Frank Booker – Senior Guard
The graduate transfer, by way of Oklahoma then FAU, has proven to be a solid pickup for Coach Martin. Frank Booker is a three-point threat, shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc so far. The Gamecocks were in need of reliable outside shooting, and Booker has shown the ability and willingness to do just that. He has averaged 10 points per contest through eight games but is still learning all of this team’s defensive concepts. His outside shooting will be big for the Gamecocks. This team needs him to stretch the defense to allow room for Silva and Kotsar to operate in the paint.
Wes Myers – Senior Guard
Wes Myers is another graduate transfer, as he moved in after playing at Maine last season. He averaged 16.9 points per game there, and just recently passed 1000 career points. Myers has also struggled with turnovers early in the season, and that has limited his minutes in a few games. He has also yet to find his outside shooting touch, hitting just 27 percent of his threes as a Gamecock. His offensive production and improvement learning the defensive concepts could make him a key contributor off the bench.
Gamecocks’ New Faces – Freshmen
Justin Minaya – Freshman Guard/Forward
Of all the Gamecocks’ new faces, Justin Minaya may be the biggest surprise. He was a late addition to the recruiting class but has made the biggest impact so far. The wing from New Jersey is averaging 10.5 points and a team-high 28.5 minutes per game. Coach Martin has spoken highly of this freshman, complimenting his work ethic and basketball IQ. His versatility and willingness to be coached have helped him earn a lot of early playing time. Minaya has scored in double figures in four out of eight games so far, with a high of 17 in last Saturday’s win over UMass. The freshman has also been tasked with the toughest defensive assignment most nights. His length, instincts, and effort have allowed him to pick up the defense quickly. Minaya has a bright future in Columbia.
Felipe Haase – Freshman Forward
The 6’9”, 240-pound forward from Chile is the epitome of this freshman class. His versatility stands out over any one skill. Felipe Haase is an excellent passer and has good touch on his outside shot as well. Defensively, he is still a bit behind the curve, but his offensive ability will keep him in the rotation. Like Minaya, he has a bright future ahead of him as he develops. Haase forms a solid and versatile trio in the post with Silva and Kotsar. His passing and shooting prowess can allow him to work from the high post area while his post partner works in the paint.
David Beatty – Freshman Guard
The 6’2” guard from Philly was the highest rated player in this year’s recruiting class. He has shown flashes of his athleticism and toughness but is still a bit behind Haase and Minaya. David Beatty is still learning the defense, which is a theme with players new to Frank Martin’s system. Martin stresses defense, and picking up how he wants the game to be played on that end of the court can determine a young player’s minutes. Beatty scored 13 points in 23 minutes in a 76-60 loss to Temple, but he has otherwise not seen many minutes in the last few games.
Looking Different in March
There should be some expected ups and downs for South Carolina this season. Finding the right balance between returning players, experienced transfers, and freshmen will be Coach Martin’s task all year. The Gamecocks’ new players will be forced to learn on the job. They will need to figure out their own roles, and the roles of their teammates. In his time in Columbia, Frank Martin has proven he can develop talent. That will be a big key this season. South Carolina has three home games wrapped around a trip to face rival Clemson before SEC play starts. There will certainly be bumps in the road. However, this team’s focus will need to be on becoming a better team in March than it is now.
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