I watched the South Carolina basketball team again Saturday night, and for the first time this year I didnt really get angry at our team. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that this team, as I heard a football coach say once, is what it is.
Even though this season has been a disappointment, I come back to the question I keep asking myself every time I want to rail against Darren Horn and Co. what did you expect? You lose Devin Downey from a bad team (that had already lost Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes) and you expect a bunch of roll players and freshmen to take up the slack? The NIT is/was truly our best and only hope for this year.
The blogosphere-slash-boardosphere is pretty much split on Horn the give him more time crowd versus the cut bait and go after ____ crowd. I’m still on the fence in regards to Horn, and there is no doubt he will be back next year. But, unless we show significant improvement next year, we’ll be in the market for a new coach once again.
So, in light of the beautiful pre-spring weather we had on Sunday that put me in a good mood, I decided to think optimistically and look at what we had to do to reach that vague goal of significant improvement for Gamecock basketball in 2011-2012. Here are a few things I came up with:
- The maturation and health of Bruce Ellington many thought #23 was going to step in for Devan Downey and we wouldnt miss a beat. Early on he looked like he just might, but a slump combined with a lower leg injury have caused a precipitous drop in his production. We need him to be the man, and I truly believe he will be, because based on his body language and the fact he keeps jacking up shots, he doesnt lack in one thing many on our team do…
- CONFIDENCE – confidence is the most important intangible in basketball. It can make or break you at the D-1 level, and currently some of our players are completely devoid of it. The best example is Brian Richardson – the first part of the season had it and was knocking down threes, and when SEC play started he completely lost it. We need him to get it back, and that’s putting it mildly. On the flip side, R.J. Slawson and Damontre Harris started the season looking lost, but first Harris, and then Slawson, have come on strong in the last few weeks. They now know they can play at this level, and it shows. They will be key cogs in the middle next year, but will need help from some…
- Shooters – holy crap our shooting is bad. I love Lakeem Jackson and what he brings to the court, but he might be the worst shooter I have ever seen at this level. And Eric Smith has had his moments backing up Ellington, but he has to develop some semblance of a shot. Its hard to find even an average shooter on our team. We’re bad from long-range, medium-range, and have a terrible time . .
- Finishing around the basket – I’ve noticed this as much as anything this year, we have a terrible time finishing when we get in the lane. Granted, we have been spoiled the last few years Tre Kelly and Downey were both excellent at getting in the lane and finding any way to get the ball in the basket. Ellington has not shown that ability, but hopefully will develop it. If he doesn’t we need some of our post guys to . . .
- Hit the weight room – we have a recent history of finesse post players. And by finesse I mean skinny as a rail. Slawson and Harris need to get on a program, and quick, because Anthony Gill is the only post player coming in, and he may be the skinniest of all. Maybe another scholarship will open up through . .
- Attrition – I’m looking at you, Stephen Spinella. Let us have that scholly so we can go get a 6�9″ banger from the JUCO ranks. And speaking of newcomers . . .
- Damien Leonard – this guy could be the answer to our shooting woes. Lets hope he’s as good as advertised, because we don’t get to reload like Kentucky. Our freshmen and sophomores need to get a lot better, and our . . .
- Coaching needs to get a lot better (I think) – Here’s the deal: I love Horn’s style of defense. Yes, we give up a few easy baskets every game, but for the most part I’m in favor of the pressure style he brings, particularly in the second half of games. The offense is a totally different story. I have no idea what he’s trying to do in the half court set, and if anyone does please comment or email me. All I know is we wind up with way too many one-on-one situations late in the shot clock, after a series of predictable high screens.
The bottom line is we need some guys to grow up fast, and a lot, over the summer. But more importantly, we need Darren Horn to show he is the coach many of us thought he was when he was hired. Time is running out.