A few hours after South Carolina’s comeback bid came up short against Tennessee on Saturday evening, one member of the program took ownership for the result.
“I’m responsible for all losses this year,” Rakym Felder tweeted. “Hurts to see that I can’t battle with my brothers right now. This situation only makes me strong with them and in life in general. Can’t take opportunities for granted. #Sorry4TheWait #GamecockNation Love my guys.”
Felder, as has been well-documented, is a non-playing member of USC this season. The sophomore point guard re-enrolled in the school this month after missing the fall semester due to legal troubles.
While Frank Martin has admitted he could use someone of Felder’s abilities, the Gamecocks coach has remained firm in his stance not to put the Brooklyn, N.Y., native on the floor this year.
So Felder practices with the team, but doesn’t travel to away games. He watches home games from the end of Carolina’s bench, including the 70-63 loss to the 21st-ranked Volunteers.
“That’s the way you’re supposed to feel,” Martin said Monday when a reporter brought Felder’s tweet to his attention. “I’m not picking on Rah. It’s the same thing for some of the guys that made mistakes during the course of the game that didn’t allow us to close out the game.
“It’s how I feel every time I don’t do my job the right way. I let people down. When you’re more consumed with pleasing people that are not around you than you are with the people that are with you, you’re phony. When you’re consumed with not letting the people down that depend on you, you’re real.”
Felder, who averaged 5.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists as P.J. Dozier’s backup last season, was arrested in July and charged with third-degree assault and battery in connection to a Five Points bar fight. Those charges have since been dropped.
Felder was arrested in October 2016 after knocking one victim unconscious and assaulting a Columbia police officer after being tased, according to an incident report from the Columbia Police Department. That led to Felder’s first suspension.
“I think you guys know this,” Martin said Monday, “but the first time he got in trouble he wasn’t in the middle of the whole thing, he was sticking up for P.J. You know why he was sticking up for P.J.? Because since the day he set foot on campus, P.J. Dozier grabbed him and said, ‘I’m gonna help you.’ P.J. helped him how to act, how to speak, how to go to class, what not to do. So he’s sticking up for P.J., trying to help P.J. out because some guy thought that P.J. would be a good target. That’s who he is.
“I’m not saying that’s good (the fighting) – you following me? – but that’s the sense of teammate he is. That’s who he is. When people care about him and they help him, he’s genuinely committed to you. He wants to do everything in his power to not so much please you, but reinforce your belief in him. That’s why he’s a good teammate. That’s why our guys love him.”
USC (12-7, 3-4 SEC) next travels to No. 20 Florida (14-5, 6-1) on Wednesday. After the Gamecocks upset Kentucky last week, senior guard Frank Booker credited Felder, among others, for game prep.
“They came into practice and they made practice fun and tough like it should be,” Booker said. “They made practice harder than the game, so that when we get to the game, the game is just muscle memory.”
Kory Holden update
Junior guard Kory Holden has now missed eight games with a strained hamstring. Expect that number to grow to at least 10, Martin said.
The Delaware transfer, who was injured in the second half at Clemson on Dec. 19, likely won’t be available against the Gators or when No. 14 Texas Tech comes to Colonial Life Arena on Saturday.
“He’s starting to feel good, he really is,” Martin said of Holden. “I still don’t think you’ll see him on the court in the next week, 10 days. That’s just a guess on my part. I’ll put it to you this way: I’ll be surprised if he’s on the court before the next week or 10 days.”
USC hosts Mississippi State on Jan. 31 and travels to Texas A&M on Feb. 3.
Holden is averaging 3.3 points for the Gamecocks this season. He finished with eight points in 15 minutes at Clemson.
‘Broke my heart’
Martin didn’t learn of Donte Grantham’s injury until Monday morning. That led to the South Carolina coach calling Brad Brownell, his Clemson counterpart.
“Broke my heart,” Martin said of Grantham being done for the season with a torn ACL. “I’ve seen (Grantham) since high school. And Brad’s a friend.”