College Sports

Why Frank Martin feels South Carolina is coming off its best summer of his tenure

Scott Greenawalt has been connected to Frank Martin for close to two decades. He’s worked on strength staffs at Cincinnati, Kansas State and South Carolina. He’s also a former college linebacker who still looks like he could make 10 tackles any given Saturday.

Greenawalt’s mix of experience and presence makes him perhaps Martin’s most trusted source inside the USC basketball offices. The head coach listens when his strength coach speaks because he knows it’s coming at him straight.

Recent conversations have revolved around the current Gamecocks team.

“Scott Greenawalt, we’ve been together 15 years,” Martin said Thursday at a tailgate event for Colonial Life. “He doesn’t run around handing praise like on a daily basis. And he said it’s been the best summer that he’s had with a whole team — top to bottom.”

Add the above to a growing list of things that are helping build momentum toward the 2019-20 season. USC is coming off a fourth place finish in the SEC, A.J. Lawson is back after passing on the NBA Draft, newcomers shined in the SC Pro-Am, Andy Katz lists the Gamecocks as a bubble NCAA Tournament team and, now, it’s known the Gamecocks crushed it in the weight room.

“I thought we had the best summer we’ve had,” Martin said, “all the way around. Our academic people raved about what we did over the summer. ... On the court, I was extremely pleased. Our team’s been intact since the first day of summer school. (Micaiah) Henry, obviously, wasn’t on campus because he was trying to graduate. But he was already committed. So we knew who our team was going to be. The last two years, I’ve been scrambling into July trying to complete our roster.

“So I couldn’t ask for the guys to be any better than they’ve been the whole summer.”

Henry, the graduate transfer forward from Tennessee Tech who pledged to the Gamecocks in May, didn’t arrive on USC’s campus until a couple weeks ago. The delay was due to him completing all academic requirements at his previous school.

While Henry’s still getting acclimated — “It mattered the first day of conditioning. Everyone else was in a certain place and he was hanging out next to the garbage can,” Martin said — the rest of the team has been jelling for a while. This includes a five-man freshman class.

“They’ve been great,” Martin said of the rookies. “They learn. A big thing for me is kids learn, these kids learn. ... They’re engaged with coaching. That means you don’t have to call their name for them to listen.

“They’ve been fun, but here pretty soon it’s a different atmosphere. How do they manage that and how will they handle what will be thrown at them?”

Martin said he’s been surprised with Trey Anderson, specifically. The 6-foot-5 freshman guard/forward from California — via prep school in Connecticut — committed to Carolina as a big shooter, but Martin’s seen more to his game.

“Physically,” Martin said. “he’s a lot more prepared than I thought he was going to be. I knew he could shoot it, I knew he could move. We recruited him, it’s not like I saw a picture and I said, ‘He looks good. Send him the scholarship papers.’ But I didn’t realize that physicality. He’s competitive … and (he has) the work ethic to attack the weight room, attack drills.

“You learn more about kids when you start to coach them. There’s a lot of guys that you guys read about on scouting reports that when they get on the court, they don’t progress as fast as they need to. He’s actually progressed extremely fast.”

The Gamecocks begin the season by hosting North Alabama on Nov. 6.

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Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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