USC moving on without two players dismissed from team

Head coach Frank Martin and South Carolina went 25-9 this past season. (AP Photo/Eric Schultz)

COLUMBIA — Frank Martin is staying at South Carolina, but two Gamecocks men’s basketball players aren’t.

Freshmen Eric Cobb and Jamall Gregory, two of five players who were suspended for the final two games of USC’s season, are no longer with the program, the Gamecocks’ head coach said Monday in his first media appearance since agreeing to a raise and four-year contract extension.

“Eric Cobb and Jamall Gregory are no longer with us. We’ve all agreed it’s best for them to move on,” Martin said. “They were great for us here this past year. They helped us tremendously. That decision’s been made.”

Gregory and Cobb each face misdemeanor property damage charges after being arrested by Columbia police in relation to incidents involving a BB gun. The three other players — freshman Chris Silva, redshirt freshman TeMarcus Blanton, and sophomore Marcus Stroman — remain suspended indefinitely.

“It’s my call right now,” Martin said. “I’m the one that’s being difficult. When the time comes, I’ll figure out what to do with them.”

Silva and Stroman were mainstays of USC’s rotation until the suspensions were enacted prior to the Gamecocks’ NIT opener against High Point. South Carolina won that game, but with just eight scholarship players proved little match for Georgia Tech in a second-round loss.

“Anytime you go through an unfortunate moment with a young person, everyone did their part to not do things as well as they needed to be done,” Martin said. “Going through moments like that, that’s my biggest struggle. It’s not losing. You lose a game, you let that go pretty quick. ... When young people make mistakes, that one sticks with you.”

The Gamecocks finished this past season 25-9, tying the school record for single-season victories and placing third in the SEC. Martin on Friday received a four-year escalating extension through 2021-22 that raises his total compensation from $2.1 million this past season, to $2.45 million next season, and to $2.7 million in the final year.

“I’m ecstatic because I’m going to be given the opportunity to finish what we came here to do,” he said. “We’re not there yet. We’ve done a lot of good, from where we were at to where we’re at now. There’s a lot to celebrate. But there’s still so much more to do. Were not near where we need to be.”

In four years Martin has taken a once-ramshackle program to the brink of the NCAA Tournament, although the Gamecocks were passed over this past season. Martin said he didn’t pursue any other openings — his wife Anya wouldn’t let him.

“In no shape or form was (she) going to allow me to leave this community,” he said. “We as a family love it here. She’s happy, my kids are happy, I’m happy. So it’s a perfect marriage.”