The first SEC coaches teleconference of the season is under way, and we just finished up with South Carolina coach Frank Martin. His Gamecocks (10-3) visit Starkville on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. showdown; it’s the SEC opener for both squads.
We’ll hear from Rick Ray in a bit, but here’s Martin’s transcript.
Just excited for the opportunity to play. It’s proven over the years to be as good a league as any in the country. I grew up an SEC fan, I grew up watching University of Florida basketball, and I can’t tell you how excited I am and what an honor it is to be a part of this conference.
Availability of Michael Carrera (hip), Bruce Ellington’s status (just finished football season):
Bruce is playing. Bruce is practicing today. Bruce will be in uniform. Mike is getting to a workout at 3:00 this afternoon with our trainers, and then if he feels good after that he’ll be full go at practice tomorrow. If he does not, then obviously we’ve got to hold him out.
Non-SEC results surprising:
We act like the SEC’s the only league in the country that lost games in the non-conference slate. You look at every other league across the country, they’ve lost some games in the non-conference slate. It’s part of the whole scheduling process. Listen, college basketball, there’s become parity because of the one-and-done rule. A lot of the BCS schools lose kids early to the NBA. A lot of the lower and mid-major schools, they have kids that stay three, four, five years, so there’s a situation sometimes where in November you’ve got a team that’s full of freshmen playing a team full of seniors, and that’s a problem. Look at the University of Kansas, for example. Not only is Bill Self as good a coach as anyone out there, but they’ve got a team that’s got four seniors, three guys are fifth-year seniors, and a redshirt freshman who’s a McDonald’s guy. There’s a reason they’re so good, because of that experience that’s in place. I think that’s some of the issues. And then I was listening to coach (Billy) Donovan, and he hit the nail right on the head. If we’re going to start judging teams on who we are in November and December, I’m all for it. Let’s have the tournament Jan. 1. But if the tournament’s going to be in March and April, then you know what, then let the season play out, let teams, let coaches do their jobs, let those young kids become better, let those schools that got new coaches implement their system, and let the kids in their program grow. We’ll figure all that out in March. For us to be talking about this Jan. 7 or whatever it is, I think it’s a waste of time.
You have a nice record going into conference play, but what kind of growing pains have you gone through so far?
I think all first-year coaches and their programs, you have your ups and downs. You’ve got your days that you kind of see a little twinkle of a light somewhere that kind of give syou hope to keep pushing and you might get to the end of that tunnel. And then there’s days you look out there and it’s dark as heck and you can’t figure out a way to get your head above water. But the kids have fought, they’ve competed, they come in every day. They try to do what we’re asking them to do. They’ve embraced the things we’re trying to ask from them. There’s days we’re doing better than others, and that’s OK. As a coach, I don’t wrap up into records or all this other stuff. I get wrapped up – it’s just like raising a child. It’s just like teaching a math class. Did we do a better job today than we did yesterday? And if we did, we’re making progress. You keep your focus on that and trying to continue to get better and improve. You take the adversity that comes along with that as a positive and not a negative and get better with all those experiences. As long as you keep your focus there, everything will take care of itself.
Based on what you’ve seen out of Ellington, what kind of boost do you expect from him?
I can tell you this: Earlier in the year he was with us for 12 days or something like that. On the 12th day, he was completely different than he was on the first day as far as his timing, his conditioning. Basketball and football are two different sports. They’re played differently. I could tell after 12 practices that he’s got a chance to be real, real good. Now he’s been gone the last two weeks and now he’s back. I’m sure it will take him 10, 12, 14 days to start feeling comfortable again but I’m excited about what he looked like after 12 practices.