COLUMBIA – New coach Frank Martin’s already significant rebuilding job with South Carolina’s men’s basketball program could become even more challenging.
USC announced Monday that it has given sophomore center Damontre Harris permission to seek a transfer. The school has already done the same for freshman power forward Anthony Gill. Martin acknowledged shortly after taking the job that both players were thinking about transferring, which often happens during coaching transitions.
While USC’s announcement regarding Gill specified that the school was not restricting the other schools Gill could speak with about transferring, the Harris announcement did not mention if the permission was unrestricted.
Gill’s former AAU coach, Rick Lewis, wrote on his Twitter account Sunday that he expects Gill to transfer to Virginia or Ohio State.
Wherever Gill and/or Harris go, if they do transfer, the impact on USC will be the same, in that it would leave the Gamecocks with no proven post players.
Both Gill and Harris started last season, and with the graduation of wing player and leading scorer Malik Cooke, their departures would leave the Gamecocks with only rising junior point guard Bruce Ellington and sophomore shooting guard Damien Leonard returning as starters.
But Ellington is playing football in 2012 for the second straight year and won’t rejoin the basketball team until after the Nov. 24 regular season finale at Clemson.
Harris last season led USC with 5.5 rebounds per game and ranked fourth with 6.8 points per game. He led the team with 71 blocks. Gill was tied for second in rebounding (4.7) and ranked third in points (7.6). Among post players, if Gill and Harris transfer, USC would retain only RJ Slawson (6-8, 207 pounds) and Carlton Geathers (6-10, 250).
Slawson, a Fort Dorchester High graduate, played 17.8 minutes per game last season as a sophomore and started five games. He averaged 4.5 points (seventh on the team) and four rebounds (fourth). Geathers was a redshirt freshman last season and played 7.8 minutes per game, fewest among USC’s scholarship players.
The only recruit who has signed with USC for next season is Tyrone Haughton, who is 6-9 and 205 pounds, compared to 6-8 and 235 for Gill and 6-9 and 226 for Harris. It seems likely that Martin will spend the spring signing period – which began last Wednesday and runs through May 16 – trying to land a big-bodied post player or two.
The departures of Gill and Harris would leave Martin with five scholarships available to fill for next season.