UPDATE: As expected, on May 3, guard Jaylen Shaw signed with South Carolina, completing a seven-man freshman class of 2014. The roster is now set for next season, when USC will have eight newcomers.
You knew this was coming, because the scholarship numbers had to work on, and they always do. South Carolina’s basketball team announced Friday that four members of last year’s team will not return next season: point guard Eric Smith, shooting guard Brian Richardson, shooting guard Damien Leonard and forward RJ Slawson.
Smith, Richardson and Slawson were going to be seniors next season, Leonard a junior. Out of these four, Smith was the biggest factor last season, but coach Frank Martin was already bringing in his own point guards. Smith played 27.7 minutes per game, started 27 of 32 contests and averaged 5.7 points. Richardson, Slawson and Leonard played 18.3, 15.8 and 14.8 minutes per game and averaged 7.5, 4.2 and four points.
USC lost one senior off last season’s team, wing player Lakeem Jackson, who started and averaged 7.5 points. Even with the exodus, the Gamecocks still return their three leading scorers from last season – senior shooting guard Brenton Williams (11 points per game), sophomore wing Michael Carrera (9.9) and senior point guard Bruce Ellington (9.9).
Martin’s second season will also include an influx of new players.
Point guard Tyrone Johnson, a transfer from Villanova, will be eligible after the first semester and have two years of eligibility remaining. USC signed three players in the fall: shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell, shooting guard Justin McKie and center Desmond Ringer. On Friday, USC announced the signing of three more players in the spring period: point guard Duane Notice, small forward Reggie Theus Jr., and power forward/center Demetrius Henry.
USC has also received a commitment from point guard Jaylen Shaw, and though the school did not announce his signing Friday, the departure of four players from last season’s team clears a spot for his scholarship. He is still expected to sign with the Gamecocks during the spring period.
Remember, Ellington doesn’t count as a basketball scholarship because he is on football scholarship. So USC was on track to have nine returning scholarship players. That number increased to 13 (the NCAA maximum) with the addition last season of Johnson, Thornwell, McKie and Ringer.
Martin bringing in Notice, Theus Jr., Henry and Shaw this spring meant four players had to leave with eligibility remaining, to free up scholarships. And that’s exactly what happened.
So it appears USC’s roster is set for next season, as long as Shaw follows through with his commitment and signs, as he is expected to. The spring signing period started April 17 and ends May 15, so he still has some time to sign.
The two big additions are Thornwell and Henry. Thornwell is rated the No. 43 overall recruit and No. 11 shooting guard by Rivals. Henry, who is 6-9 and 210 pounds, is rated No. 100 overall and No. 17 among centers. He picked USC on Wednesday.
“Demetrius Henry is a fifth-year senior,” Martin said in Friday’s announcement. “He’s older, mature and has had a chance to evolve as a player over the last five years. I’m excited about the toughness and the rebounding that he brings to our team. He brings much needed size to our front line.”
Martin talked frequently last season about how he didn’t put a lot of stock in size for the sake of size, but that USC needed more guys who are able to protect the front of the rim, to cover up when perimeter defensive mistakes happen.
USC didn’t have 6-10 Carlton Geathers, because he was out all season with a knee injury. And 6-11 freshman Laimonas Chatkevicius remained a project. Slawson, at 6-8, didn’t get the job done. So Carrera, who is 6-5 and plays much bigger, had to do a lot of dirty work in the post, and got beat up at times because of it. Ideally, Martin said, Carrera would develop a mid-range game and begin to play farther from the basket.
Expect Martin to give Henry a chance to contribute immediately. Ditto for Thornwell, who has a chance to be very good, as a bigger guard or even a wing.
“Sindarius Thornwell is an extremely talented guard, and he is a winner,” Martin said. “In today’s day and age, you have players that are highly ranked across the country that have a sense of entitlement, and he does not. Sindarius has a chance to be a special player in our program. He is another big guard, who can play the point guard position, as well as the two and three. He is the consummate winner. He defends, he rebounds and he is a great decision maker with the basketball.”
At this point, here is what Martin’s Year 2 roster will look like …
Sr. SG Brenton Williams (5-11, 175)
Sr. PG Bruce Ellington (5-9, 197)
Jr. PF Carlton Geathers (6-10, 255)
Jr. PG Tyrone Johnson (6-3, 202)
So. SF Mindaugas Kacinas (6-7, 210)
So. PF Laimonas Chatkevicius (6-11, 255)
So. SF Michael Carrera (6-5, 212)
Fr. SG Sindarius Thornwell (6-5, 180)
Fr. SG Justin McKie (6-4, 180)
Fr. PG Duane Notice (6-2, 200)
Fr. PG Jaylen Shaw (6-1, 175)
Fr. SF Reggie Theus Jr. (6-6, 190)
Fr. PF Desmond Ringer (6-9, 260)
Fr. PF Demetrius Henry (6-9, 210)
As you can see, out of those 14 players, eight will be newcomers, including seven freshmen, though Johnson joined USC at the midpoint of last season, so he’s not a true newcomer, but we’ll count him in that group anyway. And just six of the 14 players will be guys who have ever played a minute for USC, including Geathers, who has been on the team for three seasons, but has played a total of 219 minutes, all in 2011-12, and has scored 28 points in his career.
With Ellington and Carrera as the foundation of this team, it will be interesting to see where USC goes in Year 2 under Martin. There will certainly be no shortage of storylines.