The University of South Carolina Men’s Basketball Coach Darrin Horn knows that this upcoming 2010-2011 season will be exciting due to the fact of the changes the season brings and the unknowns with the team with new potential on the sidelines.
Gone is the heart, soul and superstar of the team – Devan Downey. After a number of years wearing the garnet and black, he had to graduate. Along with Downey (22.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.7 spg) , the other starter lost is the off guard Brandis Raley-Ross who averaged 10.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 apg. Right there you notice two starters gone from last year and about 32 points per game having to be accounted for.
Other players gone from last year: Dominique Archie, who lost his medical redshirt plea after only playing in five games in 2009 due to an injury (14.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg), forward Evaldas Baniulis (2.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg) and another forward Austin Steed (2.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg) but he transferred out of the program.
Last season, the Gamecocks finished 15-16 overall and 6-10 in SEC (5th in East). The big win was knocking off then number one Kentucky at home. Yet the team was very competitive.
This season marks the beginning of a new team and one that has been rebuilt. As noted above, the Gamecocks lost two key starters and some key support players. Many of those same players were part of the 2008-2009 team that won the SEC East divisional crown. Enter in the new era, one filled with youth and eagerness.
Two key starters remain in senior forward/center Sam Muldrow (6-9) who has 10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.1 bpg last season and sophomore forward Lakeem Jackson (6-5) who average 7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.9 apg and 1.5 spg. These two men have loads of talent and it has to be on display this upcoming season as their roles underneath the basket will be crucial to team success in 2010-2011.
The Gamecocks are loaded with youth as earlier pointed out, when looking at how the roster breaks down there is only two seniors, one junior, three sophomores and six freshmen.
Other key returning players are:
Ramon Galloway (So., 6-2, F): 7.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.2 apg
Johndre Jefferson (Sr., 6-9, F): 2.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg
Stephen Spinella (So., 6-4, G): 1.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg
Malik Cooke (R-Jr., 6-6, F): Transfer (sat out 2009-10 season)
Here is a breakdown of the new faces in the program:
Brian Richardson (Fr., 6-4, G)
Eric Smith (Fr., 5-11, G)
Bruce Ellington (Fr., 5-9, G)
Damontre Harris (Fr., 6-9, F)
RJ Slawson (Fr., 6-8, F)
Carlton Geathers (Fr., 6-10, F)
Some of these newbies above will be called upon to contribute right away as their services are needed with the departure of Downey, Ross and Archie. Look to Ellington, Slawson and Harris to be immediate factors. Ellington, the heir to Downey’s point guard spot, is expected to contribute from day one especially with Galloway out four to six weeks with a broken foot. Another player that will be a factor in how quickly this team progresses into a contender in the SEC East is Malik Cooke who transferred in from Nevada. He could quickly see playing time and surely will make the most of it.
Coach Horn knows this year will be fun as the team has talent to win games but also he gets to really coach this team. Gone are the days of looking to Devan Downey to bear the burden of scoring; now it is truly five guys that have to contribute.
The schedule is tough but it is going to be exciting as Coach Horn is a great motivator and surely this team will make some noise in the SEC. Goals should be the NCAA tourney as they have not been there since 2004 but if not then at least the NIT should be a place to finish the season.
Expectations have to be watered down a bit as a team with so many new faces but one thing is for certain the team has talent. How will they mesh together in season one is the question.
South Carolina opens play on Nov. 12 at home against Elon, and four days later faces Michigan State in East Lansing.