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Martin Takes Over At Carolina; Ellington Back To Football & Hoops

Frank Martin to South Carolina.

Admit it.  You still can’t get used to South Carolina having a “name” basketball coach.  No up-and-comer.  No one on the downside of his career.  Nope.  A hot property who starred on CBS’ NCAA Tournament coverage just a week ago (where co-analyst Charles Barkley told him to take the Gamecock job).

Whether this one works out or doesn’t — and most Carolina basketball hires haven’t — you have to give AD Eric Hyman and the USC administration credit.  Gamecock fans should know — with the hires of Steve Spurrier and Dawn Staley and now Martin — that their school’s leaders want to have an upper-echelon SEC program and they’re willing to spend to get it.  Sure, that means fans will be paying more for tickets and parking and the like, but the effort of folks from president Harris Pastides on down should be appreciated. 

You can bet not all SEC fans feel their school is doing everything possible to bring in top-notch coaches and build first-class facilities.

As for Martin, his contract is a 6-year pact — the deals for new coaches are getting longer and longer these days — worth $1.9 million the first year, $2.0 million the second, and $2.1 million annually from the third year forward.

Describing himself as “the most positive human being that you’ll ever come across,” Martin met the media yesterday for the first time during his introductory presser.  He won that dog and pony show easily with comments like this:

“I don’t promise things.  The only think I promise is that our guys will be held accountable every day.  Our guys will be known as the hardest-working team in America.  There is no out on that on…

If you told me right now that I have to run a marathon and you told me where the finish line is at, it’s going to be hard for me to finish.  But if you show me where the next step is at, I’m willing to take that step.  This is not something that’s going to happen because I’m standing in front of you today, but it’s a process that’s going to happen.”

Part of that process could be made easier with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC.  Those programs are quality.  And the league will increase its in-conference slate of games from 16 to 18 per season.  But depending on the scheduling format chosen by the league’s athletic directors and approved by the SEC’s presidents this spring, Carolina might — emphasis might — avoid having to face Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt twice each season as is currently the case.  That would be a plus for USC.

One possible minus, however, is the loss of Bruce Ellington… at least for a while.  After announcing he would play basketball only prior to Darrin Horn’s ouster, the two-sport star began to have second thoughts about hanging up his football cleats.  Last night, Spurrier said the point guard will indeed play football in the fall. 

“He thought it over and thought he made a little too quick (of a) decision,” Spurrier told The Charleston Post & Courier.  “He was quick out here (at practice on Tuesday).  He was one of the fastest guys on the field today.” 

While Spurrier gains a return man and receiver, Martin loses a veteran point guard who can score for the early part of his first season.  That’s just the first hurdle of many that the new hoops coach will have to clear to build Carolina’s program.

But if Day One was any indication, he’s already off to a good start.


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