Grades In From West Coast Swing

After engaging in an early first semester test called "The West Coast Swing." The results are in: the USC Gamecocks have some interesting but non-flattering grades.

The best grade goes to true freshman Brandis Raley-Ross, who gets a "B+" for his aggressive play, improved shot-making, and most of all his rebounding from the guard position. Slowly gaining confidence, Ross is proving he may eventually be the player to fill the voids created with the graduation of Tarence Kinsey and Rocky Trice. Ross revealed flashes of the talent that made each of those aggressive rebounding guards special, players who were capable of making plays on both ends of the floor. As a freshman, Ross has displayed improvement in each game since the season opener. He is a natural "2" guard, who has the potential to carry the point at times when Tre Kelly needs to sit.

The next notable grade goes to Tre Kelly, a "B." For Tre the best is yet to come. His natural athleticism and his nifty penetration have created scoring opportunities for him and his teammates. As a senior floor general, he still has to get his teammates to match his energy and intensity in the transition game. He will not be able to carry the scoring for this club and generate wins; he will have to orchestrate balance for Head Coach Dave Odom with this inexperienced team.

Bryce Sheldon's performance in game three allowed him to edge out a "C+." Sheldon has a wonderful shooting stroke, but has been real tentative in pulling the trigger with any confidence until the game against Southern Cal. The California native came alive in the final night of his homecoming in the Golden State. Playing 39 minutes, the most in his Gamecock career, Bryce had a near perfect shooting night, putting on a clinic in the first half against the Trojans of Southern Cal. The success of this season for the Gamecocks could really rest on his ability to be a consistent threat from the perimeter. If he can make defenses play honest on his side of the floor, it could create more single isolation for Brandon Wallace and Dominique Archie to find success in the paint, something which has been lacking to date. Bryce seems to be returning to form as a scoring starter, something that made him an attraction coming out of junior college. His defense effort was also noted, as he has become an effective man defender.

Senior Brandon Wallace's "D" grade comes in through a lack of physicality and board aggressiveness. Brandon has the capability to be an All SEC player, but has not displayed the game-time performance that should reflect the amount of off-season work he has invested and the season-ending paint-pounding he revealed during the SEC Tournament and the NIT Championship run. The upside for Wallace is that he is extremely talented and capable, and has the potential to be the next USC player to play at the NBA level. But that dream will only be realized if he produces strongly enough to be a driving force to push the Gamecocks into the NCAA tournament. Outside of his shot blocking ability, Brandon can rebound, handle the basketball in transition and shoot effectively from the perimeter; he just has to make a decision to do it every night this season.

Dwayne Day is a solid basketball player who has displayed tremendous hustle and effort to the ball, but his offensive decisions and his non-committed shooting stroke have hurt the team on the offensive end of the floor. He has made up for some of the offensive disappointment on the defensive end, with help side rotation and drawing charges. These basketball defensive characteristics are wonderful, but Day was recruited as a scoring shooting guard who possessed a beautiful shooting touch coming out of high school two years ago. Day's performance per minutes played could only muster a "D."

Ousmane Konate gets a curved grade due to his late participation in the testing process, having only played in the Southern Cal game this season due to injury and an NCAA mandated sit-out for two games due to an academic credit situation. Ousmane's "C-" is based on a combination of fundamental needs and his physical upside. While scoring will be a challenge for Konate until he finds comfort in catching the ball in traffic, showing himself quickly on ball-side possessions and strongly posting up inside and squaring his shoulders when trying to create inside post moves. His physical presence on the floor makes a positive difference. His well-chiseled 6'10" 270lb frame is a challenge for any inside player if he chooses to use his body with balance to move people around and place pressure on the opposing defense, and crowding the post for enemy offenses. Konate's 13 minutes showed some promise, but Coach Odom has some work to do to find the method of using the physicality without losing offense and transition. If Ousmane can stays healthy, look for the coaching staff to have a late bloomer.

The remaining younger players can only build on the success, performance and efforts of the team leaders. The poise, effort and ultimate success in the Southern Cal game heading into a virtual warm-up game against Lipscomb should be a tremendous building block to let each player wearing the garnet and black realize the increased productivity that must be generated to make this a successfully competitive season that ends with more wins than losses and an NCAA Tournament Bid.

This team appears to have a very high basketball IQ; however they seem lacking in confidence, game-time commitment, and focus, along with veering away from the fundamentals that is the signature of the Odom, Duckett, Sanderson & Potosnak coaching philosophy. The overall team grade is a "C-." Report card comments show the team has plenty of upside, are 2-1, are getting better, have talented players and a good coaching staff. Just like any other student, they must apply themselves. Experienced leadership has to teach and lead by example, and younger players have to want to learn and succeed. Look for improved play every week. It is necessary to be ready for the advance course work in the SEC second semester.

Welcome home Gamecocks. All is not lost. This is a two-semester season and this was only the first test. You'll have plenty of tests to raise these scores and make the Dean's and President's List. You can get extra credit for Clemson and College of Charleston, along with exam-exemption with another regular season sweep of Florida.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories