Tuesday, November 27, 2012

South Carolina Scouting Report


Frank Martin makes first trip to New York as South Carolina coach this week, as Gamecocks travel to Carnesecca Arena for Thursday night meeting with St. John's.  (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

At 4-2 on the young season, St. John's has all the right pieces in place for a resurgence from last season's 13-19 record accomplished with a six-man rotation.  Led by sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison's five 20-point games and the breakout play of fellow second-year backcourt star Phil Greene, as well as freshman forwards JaKarr Sampson and shot blocking sensation Chris Obekpa, Steve Lavin's Red Storm gets one of their bigger tests in the nonconference season this Thursday at Carnesecca Arena when South Carolina and head coach Frank Martin make the trip to Queens to square off against the Johnnies in the SEC/Big East Challenge.  St. John's will be donning their alternate black jerseys to commemorate the annual "blackout" game at their on-campus venue, and will be looking for just their second win wearing that color.  To shed further light on what the Gamecocks bring to the table, our friend Gary Moore of The College Hardwood has volunteered to provide us with a detailed scouting report of Martin's bunch just as he did two weeks ago for College of Charleston prior to the Johnnies' meeting with the Cougars in the Charleston Classic.  Gary has also enclosed three links in his preview, two of which are game recaps from his College Hardwood site, and the other a Basketball Prospectus piece on Martin's defensive prowess in his prior position as head coach at Kansas State.

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Greetings again, this is Gary Moore from the College Hardwood with a preview of the South Carolina Gamecocks, St John's next opponent on Thursday night.  With my move down to Columbia, South Carolina, I have had a chance to see the Gamecocks in person twice this season.  Here's a scouting report of South Carolina.

Game Reviews

Frank Martin's Gamecocks are 5-1 on the season, with their only loss at home to Elon.  They have home wins over Wisconsin Milwaukee, Morgan State and Rider.  They also have neutral site wins over Missouri State and Arkansas Little Rock, winning the Hoops for Home Classic Championship in Puerto Vallarta.

I was at Colonial Life Arena for the wins over Wisconsin Milwaukee and Rider.  In the win over the Panthers, the Gamecocks rallied from a seventeen point halftime deficit to force overtime.  In overtime, guard Brenton Williams scored twelve of his fourteen points, including a perfect eight for eight from the foul line as South Carolina won 82-75.

The Gamecocks had an easier time with Rider, though they struggled with the Broncs as well. South Carolina used a 13-2 second half run to pull away for an 88-76 win.  Again, Williams was the hero with twenty two points to lead the Gamecocks.

Starting Guards

Bruce Ellington would normally be the starting point guard, but currently he is playing running back/wide receiver for the Gamecocks football team.  He won't be available until the football season ends in January.  Ellington averaged ten points and three assists as a sophomore last season.

Eric Smith handles the point guard duties while Ellington gives Steve Spurrier his all. The junior Smith, who came off the bench the past two seasons, is playing twenty eight minutes a game, averaging nearly eight points and three assists per game.

Senior LaShay Page leads the Gamecocks in scoring, averaging fifteen and a half points per game.  He is also their long range bomber, averaging thirty six percent from beyond the arc. Page was extremely effective in the two wins in Puerto Vallarta. In the wins over Missouri State and Arkansas Little Rock, he scored thirty eight total points, hitting three three pointers in each of the wins. 

Starting Forwards

Senior Lakeem Jackson is the team's horse, averaging thirty five minutes per game. Jackson scores eleven points and pulls down eight rebounds a game.  He is also shooting sixty seven percent from the field on the season (that's not a misprint).

Michael Carrera is one of Frank Martin's three foreign freshman finds.  The six foot five Venezulan is averaging twelve points and seven rebounds per game.  He is also shooting fifty seven percent from the field.  He is the South American answer to Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton. Plays taller than six foot five, really works hard and is experienced beyond his years.

Junior RJ Slawson starts, but splits time with freshman Mindaugas Kacinas (in fact Kacinas gets more of the playing time).  He is not much of an offensive threat, averaging about four points and nearly five rebounds per game. 

Bench/Reserves

This is a real strength of the Gamecocks.  They have three players who average twenty three or minutes off the bench.  Those three reserves also combine for twenty nine points and eleven rebounds per game.

Williams, the second leading scorer on the team, is also their sixth man. The junior averages thirteen and a half points per game, while shooting fifty four percent from the field, including forty four percent from beyond the arc.  He is also an eighty eight and a half percent free throw shooter.

Kacinas, another of Martin's foreign freshman finds, plays over twenty seven minutes per game. He averages eight points and six rebounds per game, while shooting fifty nine percent from the field. 

Junior Brian Richardson averages twenty five minutes, seven and a half points, three rebounds and two assists per game. He also can hit the three, shooting forty two percent from beyond the arc.

Sophomore Damien Leonard averages ten minutes and three assists per game. He can also shoot the three as he hit two three pointers in each of his games vs. Rider and Elon.

Finally, six foot eleven Laimoas Chatkevicius, the third member of the Martin Foreign Freshman Finds, has missed the first six games due to NCAA violation (impermissible benefits by his host family in the U.S). Chatkevicius will be eligible to play vs. St John's.

Strengths

As you can probably tell, this team can shoot the ball. They are thirty second in the country in field goal percentage, shooting 48.6 percent from the field.  They are also very good from the free throw line, shooting over 77 percent.  They can also shoot the three, shooting 36.4 percent.  Offensively, they are a handful.

Weaknesses

The biggest weakness though so far for South Carolina has been turnovers. They are averaging twenty one turnovers per game. As a result of their tendency to turn the ball over, I saw a significant number of fast break transition points by Rider and Wisconsin Milwaukee in their games vs. South Carolina.

Also, during his time at Kansas State, Frank Martin's teams were statistically at the top as far as defensive teams.  So far this season, Martin's teams have struggled a little bit defensively.  Three times, Gamecocks' opponents have shot over forty five percent from the field (Rider and Morgan State shot over fifty percent in their games). South Carolina did a much better job though against Missouri State and Arkansas Little Rock in the Hoops for Hope classic, holding both teams to about forty percent from the field.

If there is anyone to foul on South Carolina, it's Jackson. He shoots a horrid 35.7 percent from the charity stripe.

Coaching

Frank Martin was a very successful coach in his five years at Kansas State. He coached his teams to four NCAA Tournaments, as well as a NIT appearance. In each year his team made the NCAA Tournament, his Wildcats won at least one game in the tournament. In 2009-10, his team made the Elite Eight.

Martin is trying to change the culture at South Carolina. He demands a lot of his team.  Case in point, in his post game press conference, Martin actually apologized to the South Carolina fans for the way his team played against Morgan State. The Gamecocks beat the Bears by sixteen points that night.

If you're a fan, you absolutely love watching Martin on the sidelines. He wears his heart on his sleeve, or in his case, his hand over his face when his team is not playing well. He will give his players a burning death stare if they play carelessly. Several times, I have seen him follow a player to the bench and to be kind, give that player a teaching lesson. Outside of Bruiser Flint, there is no more fun coach to watch than Martin.

Intangibles

The game against St John's will be South Carolina's first true road game of the season. They have played four home games and two neutral site games. Chatkevicius will give them much needed size, as they don't have any other player taller than six foot eight.  How much he plays remains to be seen for the Gamecocks.

Overall

South Carolina is a strong offensive team. They shoot the ball well from the field and from the free throw line.  They have a lot of depth and Chatkevicius now being available only adds to it.  However, they are careless with the ball.  If the Red Storm can pressure the Gamecocks' guards, there should be several fast break/transition opportunities for them.  Based on South Carolina's style early in the season, I expect a high scoring game.

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