College Sports

What to watch in SC Pro-Am as Frank Martin’s ‘most talented team’ debuts

Frank Martin breaks down what he likes about newcomers, returnees

South Carolina men's basketball coach Frank Martin breaks down what he likes about his 2019-20 Gamecocks.
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South Carolina men's basketball coach Frank Martin breaks down what he likes about his 2019-20 Gamecocks.

Frank Martin’s bold statement of the offseason has now been repeated.

The South Carolina basketball coach told NCAA.com’s Andy Katz last week that his next Gamecocks bunch is “the most talented team we’ve had since I’ve been here.” It echoed what he told local media members during a June 19 news conference at Colonial Life Arena.

“I think we have a lot of talented pieces,” Martin said then. “I think top to bottom, one through 14, 15, if you include the walk-ons, it’s as talented a team as I’ve been a part of. As people, work ethic, talent level, experience, when you put it all together.”

Martin will officially begin his eighth season on the USC sideline in November, but believing the hype around his next team can start much sooner.

The eighth annual South Carolina Pro-Am will tip off with a Sunday triple-header — games are 2:30 p.m., 3:45 p.m., 5 p.m. — at Heathwood Hall. Admission is free, said event founder and former USC guard Carey Rich.

“I truly appreciate the successful and reputable businesses that have attached their names to our event in the form of sponsorships,” said Rich, who runs the Pro-Am with Adam McDowell. “Sponsorships are as high as they’ve been in the eighth year. Hopefully that speaks to the product that we’ve been able to put on the floor, but I think it also speaks to the level of excitement and interest that seems to be hovering over the Gamecocks for next year.

“Those young guys — A.J. Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant — have created so much excitement. And I think that excitement has kind of spilled over into the offseason when it comes to possible expectations.”

Twelve current Gamecocks are scheduled to play. Here are four things to watch:

The next stop in Lawson’s busy summer

Should A.J. Lawson participate in this event next season, there’s a good chance he’s no longer an amateur.

Lawson tested the NBA waters this spring before deciding to return to South Carolina for his sophomore season. Since that time, he’s only boosted his 2020 draft stock. The 6-foot-7 guard earlier this month averaged 16.7 points a game for Team Canada in the FIBA U19 World Cup. This weekend, he was one of 20 college guards nationwide to be invited to Chris Paul’s Elite Guard Camp in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Lawson is playing in the Pro-Am for Leevy’s. He’s teammates with incoming freshman wing Trey Anderson and former Gamecock Marcus Stroman. Lawson will miss Sunday’s game, but will be available for the rest of the event.

USC’s future backcourt?

Even if it’s an exhibition, seeing Seventh Woods back on a court in Columbia is a buzz-generator. The former Hammond star is with the Gamecocks now after transferring from North Carolina in June.

Woods will play in the Pro-Am, but won’t be eligible for USC until 2020-21. In the meantime, Jair Bolden is expected to take on point guard duties. The George Washington transfer will be a junior this season, meaning he and Woods will have one year to share backcourt reps.

This week can serve as a preview. Bolden and Woods are on the same Bernie’s Chicken team.

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A couple unknowns

T.J. Moss made headlines in the 2018 Pro-Am when he hit eight 3s en route to a 37-point performance. The freshman, however, didn’t have many chances to duplicate that performance when USC’s season started as he battled injuries, only appeared in seven games and took a medical redshirt.

Jermaine Couisnard wasn’t around for last year’s Pro Am and then sat the 2018-19 season due to an eligibility issue. The 6-4 guard, though, has drawn rave reviews about his play, from Martin to former high school teammate and now New York Knick, R.J. Barrett.

You can get a sneak peek at both mystery players this week. Moss is on Honda of Columbia with incoming freshman Jalyn McCreary, former UNC guard Jalek Felton and new Clemson wing Tevin Mack. Couisnard is on Chick-fil-A Two Notch Road with P.J. Dozier and Maik Kotsar.

Rookies and dunks

Keyshawn Bryant foreshadowed at the 2018 Pro-Am how he was going to play his freshman season at South Carolina. He dunked all over Heathwood Hall and then did the same in the SEC.

Who’s next?

All four scholarship freshmen will be participating, including a couple high-fliers in McCreary and Trae Hannibal (Hood Construction).

South Carolina Pro-Am schedule

SUNDAY - JULY 21

2:30 PM JETS VS. CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD

3:45 PM HONDA OF COLUMBIA VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION

5 PM LEEVY’S VS. BERNIE’S CHICKEN

TUESDAY - JULY 23

6 PM CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD VS. HONDA OF COLUMBIA

7:15 PM BERNIE’S CHICKEN VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION

8:30 PM LEEVY’S VS. JETS

THURSDAY - JULY 25

6 PM JETS VS. HONDA OF COLUMBIA

7:15 PM LEEVY’S VS. CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD

8:30 PM BERNIES CHICKEN VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION

SUNDAY - JULY 28

2 PM Championship

*All games to be played at Heathwood Hall.

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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