South Carolina Gamecocks basketball coach Frank Martin didn’t fashion a 117-54 record over five years at Kansas State after spending 16 years as a high school coach and seven as a college assistant by making excuses. He wears his work ethic on the sideline and that type of workmanship is part of the culture he is trying to create in his first year at South Carolina.
This is why Martin was taken aback Saturday afternoon in the post game of the Gamecocks’ 58-51 loss to Vanderbilt when he learned from a writer that freshman Michael Carrera noted that the Gamecocks were “still tired from the LSU game (on Wednesday) because it was a physical game.”
Ironically, Carrera is usually one of the players who brings the energy and intensity to the floor, but on Saturday as he score eight points and grabbed nine boards in 27 minutes, he made a major turnover by alluding to what be perceived as a tiredness in the basketball team. South Carolina shot only 23.7% for the game and after Martin discussed the lackadaisical practice on Friday, he seemed consequently surprised by Carrera’s assertion.
“If he said that to you, then he and I aren’t gonna get along tomorrow,” Martin said, “I’m just telling you, I don’t want to hear that. That’s why you don’t depend on freshmen.”
Everything that could go wrong for the Gamecocks did as they were at one point 6-of-34 from the floor early in the second half, but they were still able to maintain striking distance against a Vanderbilt team that has had it’s own scoring issues. The Commodores scored 33 points twice this season for a game versus Marist and Arkansas.
“We had three break away layups and shot airballs on all three,” explained a distraught Martin, ”I am not surprised we were so bad making shots. That is all about being prepared for the game. That is about understanding how to crack the defense with what you are doing. You’ve gotta make the play. My biggest disappointment is our inability to score the ball from close.
Martin referenced Lakeem Jackson’s dunk off a steal and a Brian Ellington drive for a lay up late in the game as South Carolina cut Vandy’s lead to 51-49 with 2:56 to play. These were the only two scores he could recall from close to the basket as South Carolina had numerous misses in the paint.
As the post-game new session went forward, it was clear that Carrera’s comment had upset the coach which was almost piling on top of his woes after such a tough day at the office.
“Kevin doesn’t get the credit he deserves for how good they are defensively,” Martin said, “They are young and physical. Ask Michael Carrera the next time you interview him if Vanderbilt had a day off when they played the other day. Ask him that question. They have got freshmen that play too.”
The coach noted that part of this situation is still a learning experience as well. He alluded the fact that he would study the non-verbal communication of his players even more closely, going forward.
“I have got to understand how to manage things better so we don’t have a player who thinks were too tired to play,” he said, “That’s my job to read that before we get to the moment , so I can manage it better so that is not the mentality of our players. I have to learn from this too.”
Saturday’s post-game gaff by Carrera was just an example of the growing pains of a program where you have a coach in Martin who is a proven winner and will demand excellence while striving to find the variables, physically or mentally, to see the Gamecocks basketball program make marked improvement.
- Ken Cross
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