In the past few seasons, college basketball has entered a new era. The transfer era is upon us, and it affects everyone. From graduate transfers to underclassmen transferring, roster turnover is becoming an issue for more and more programs. The South Carolina Gamecocks have been hit particularly hard by this issue in the past couple of years. Each of the last two seasons has seen Coach Frank Martin retool and replace up to half the roster. Multitudes of new faces arrive on campus each off-season, causing the production of veteran players to become even more important. South Carolina has only five players who played significant minutes a season ago returning this year. In order for Coach Martin’s squad to have its fifth consecutive winning season and return to the postseason, the Gamecocks’ veterans will need to step up.
South Carolina Gamecock Veterans Need to Step Up
Choppy Start for Gamecocks’ Veterans
South Carolina is 3-2 early this season. Their two losses are a direct result of lackluster performances from their most experienced players. Senior Chris Silva is still fighting game by game with foul trouble. He sat for long stretches in the second half in losses to Stony Brook and Providence. The Gamecocks struggled with their All-SEC big man on the bench and faltered late in both contests. After a poor, foul-riddled game against Providence, Silva responded with a double-double in a blowout of George Washington. He seems to be off his game on the offensive end early in the year. Getting him back to a high level of production is a must.
Sophomore Maik Kotsar has had his own struggles to begin the season. The big man is averaging just 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game so far. The Gamecocks need more from him. Throughout his career, he has had issues finishing in the paint. Coach Martin has often lamented this fact. He has often shown the ability to get himself in position for easy baskets, but his finishing has not been good enough. If he can just hit half of the shots he gets in the paint, Kotsar could be a reliable double-digit scorer for South Carolina. With the youth of their back-court, the experienced big men need to produce every night.
Finding His Shot
One of the Gamecocks’ veterans has had a good start to this season. Senior Hassani Gravett has finally found his shot. The versatile guard is shooting 40% from three and has two double-digit scoring outputs off the bench so far. Gravett struggled a season ago while having to try and play point guard for Coach Martin’s squad. This season he has moved off the ball again and seems much more comfortable. For the first time during his career in Columbia, the jump shots are falling for Gravett. His on-ball defense has also been a bright spot, the pressure on the opposing ball handler is crucial in Coach Martin’s defensive scheme. The Georgia native could play a big role for this team if he can continue pressuring the ball and providing a scoring punch off the bench.
While they may not be any upperclassman, sophomores Justin Minaya and Felipe Haase are considered among the Gamecocks’ veterans. Both played significant minutes a season ago and will be counted on heavily this season. Minaya started 30 games as a freshman and has started all five games this year. He is a versatile player whose impact isn’t always felt in the score sheet. The Gamecocks will need him to become more of a consistent offensive threat as the season goes on. He is only hitting 13% from beyond the arc after making 37% as a freshman. He has a solid combination of skills, size, and acumen to be a solid player, but he needs to be more consistent on both ends of the floor.
Hasse is the first big man off the bench for Coach Martin. He has the skills to be a stretch four but has yet to put it all together. The native of Chile has a nice shooting touch and good passing skills but sometimes seems a bit slow in his reactions and decision making. His defense has improved from a season ago, but the 6’9 forward needs to be more physical. He definitely needs to be more of a force on the boards.
Veterans Must Lead The Way
South Carolina has three freshmen and a graduate transfer in their rotation right now. With so many new players being integrated into the team, the Gamecocks’ veterans have to be consistent in their production. Silva is this team’s best player, and they need him on the floor. If he is playing less than 20 minutes and not giving them double figures in scoring, they will struggle. After a slow start to his senior year, hopefully, his double-double this past weekend will get him going. Silva’s pension for foul trouble means Kotsar and Hasse will also need to be productive each night.
South Carolina needs to find a way to win games even if Silva is not a major factor. Gravett’s scoring punch and Minaya’s versatility will also play a big role in this team’s chances to compete in a deep SEC. Once again Coach Martin is having to retool a large portion of his roster. The Gamecocks’ veterans will need to be at the top of their game while this team’s newcomers continue to learn and grow.
COLUMBIA, SC – FEBRUARY 21: South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin reacts to a call during the second half between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Georgia Bulldogs on February 21, 2018 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)