South Carolina Seeking Scoring

South Carolina assistant coach Rick Duckett's bio in the media guide lists his duties as recruiting, scouting, perimeter players, overseeing academics and the summer offensive skills camp.

Senior forward Carlos Powell believes another title should be added.

"I think we're the only team in America (with) a defensive coordinator in basketball -- Rick Duckett," Powell said, chuckling heartily. "We stay in a defensive stance so long at practice, man, it's a shame. He focuses on defense a lot.

"We got a defensive coordinator in basketball."

Whatever Duckett is, it's working for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina has led the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense in two of the last three years since Duckett joined coach Dave Odom's staff.

The Gamecocks led the SEC last year allowing just 62.6 per game, but it was their offense that surprised Odom after a recent 3-0 exhibition tour in Canada.

Odom said South Carolina was just "OK" on defense even though the Gamecocks won all three games handily in Canada against a variety of national and university teams.

South Carolina was 23-11 last year, 8-8 in the SEC, and it was defense keeping it in many games to aid an often anemic offense that let down mightily in its 59-43 first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Memphis.

For South Carolina to continue to compete in the dog-tough Eastern Division, the leadership void left by point guard Michael Boynton must be filled.

Boynton led the Gamecocks in steals, assists and 3-pointers last year and was the undisputed heart and soul of the team on both ends of the floor.

Sophomore Tre' Kelly is the "heir apparent" at point guard, in Odom's words. Kelly was second in assists for the Gamecocks with 69 and averaged 5.1 points in 16 minutes per game.

Kelly will have a veteran backcourt mate in senior John Gonner, who was second on the team in scoring last year with 11.8 points per game.

The leadership, like the post play, will have to be done by committee.

Besides Boynton, USC also lost forwards Kerbrell Brown (7.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Rolando Howell (9.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg), but Odom believed before and after the Canada trip his team would be better offensively.

Powell, 6-7, 220, is the top returning scorer after averaging 12.2 to lead South Carolina last year.

Powell is a do-everything kind of player who roams the high post and creates matchup problems for slower players.

Renaldo Balkman, 6-8, 198, also returns after an injury plagued freshman season that included thumb surgery and a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team. He can play the small or power forward, averaging 6.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last year.

Odom said 6-9 sophomore Brandon Wallace isn't a true low post presence at 198 pounds, but he does get enough rebounds and blocks to support the cause.

Wallace played just 14 minutes per game but was second on the team in blocks with 36 as a freshman.

South Carolina's two biggest players are 6-10 senior John Chappell and 6-10 sophomore Paulius Joneliunas, who are each projects at best.

Antione Tisby is a 6-8, 228 pound junior college transfer at forward who will also have to do some dirty work.

South Carolina plays a tough schedule this year with nonconference dates against Clemson and Temple at home and road dates at Kansas and Pittsburgh.

All of it adds up to a team about as good as last year but one set to endure a tougher road.

"Our defense will be as good as it was last year, which was I thought as good as most teams in the league," Odom said. "Offensively, we should get better because we're more versatile. Does that mean we'll be a better team? I think we'll be as good a team with not as good a record.

"Record-wise, it's going to be difficult to match that."


SEC Division: Eastern

Coach: Dave Odom (57-42, 4th year)

Last Season: 23-11, 8-8

Projected Starters: PG Tre' Kelly (6-0, 193, So.) 5.1 ppg, 69 assists, SG John Gonner (6-3, 181, Sr.) 11.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, SF Carlos Powell (6-7, 220, Sr.) 12.2 ppg, 6.2, PF Renaldo Balkman (6-8, 198, So.) C Paulius Joneliunas (6-10, 243, So.) 4.4 min., 1.1 rpg

Vs. Arkansas Last Season: Lost 66-82 in Fayetteville

Vs. Arkansas This Season: Feb. 2 in Columbia

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