South Carolina’s roster was nearly halved before beginning the NIT.
Coach Frank Martin announced the indefinite suspensions of TeMarcus Blanton, Marcus Stroman, Chris Silva, Jamall Gregory and Eric Cobb because of a “conduct issue” in a release 90 minutes before the Gamecocks’ 88-66 win over High Point Tuesday. Martin didn’t elaborate afterward.
“I’m not going to get into any details. That’s why we have releases, because there’s certain things that we don’t speak about. And if anyone in here is a parent, I think you would understand that no one needs to be speaking about other people’s children publically,” Martin said. “Now with all that, I will say this – every single person in our locker room, when they get admitted to the University of South Carolina, not everybody gets admitted here. They have to understand that this is a special place. And there’s certain things that we have to accept when we decide to play, coach, work, whatever, here.
“And if you’re one of the 13 that accept scholarships to play basketball, you have to realize that basketball’s a privilege, it’s not a right. No one has the right to play basketball, it’s a privilege. And this is an educational process, and it’s all about teaching and educating and that’s what our jobs are.”
Asked if the five would be part of the team going forward, as in USC’s second-round NIT game Monday, or next season, Martin replied, “I have no idea. No idea.”
Although senior forward Michael Carrera returned after missing two games with a hip injury, USC only dressed nine players. Freshman guard John Ragin has missed 10 games in a row because of illness.
The suspension took away USC’s backup point guard (Stroman) and a paint presence (Silva, who averaged 13.3 minutes per game and was second on the team with 28 blocks). Cobb averaged 6.1 minutes and hadn’t played in six of USC’s last 10, Gregory had averaged around seven minutes over USC’s past 11 games and Blanton had only played in two of USC’s past 23.
Silva, Gregory and Cobb are freshmen while Blanton’s a redshirt freshman and Stroman’s a sophomore.
Martin and the Gamecocks are used to finishing the season with a short bench. Last year, Demetrius Henry and Shamiek Sheppard were suspended for the final nine games of the season and left the team shortly after.
“All the games that we played this year, all the guys that played 30-plus minutes are still here and still playing,” guard Sindarius Thornwell said. “For the most part, I think we’ll be all right.”