USC graduation ceremonies are history, the fall semester is complete and Chad Gray is now an eligible Gamecock basketball player, thanks to the reconsideration of the Admissions Department, in conjunction with Chad's loyalty to the program he dreamed of playing for. This story has brought a tremendous amount of exposure, controversy and skepticism about a lot of issues.
But today the only questions that loom are how will Gray, the 6'7" 210 pouund forward, fit with a team that has played 8 games and practiced together without him for over 9 weeks, and will he help? Granted, Chad has taken the time to attend at least 12-14 practice sessions as an observer. The floor movement by his teammates will be the first adjustment.
Chad has played a tremendous amount of off-season basketball over the last couple of years, which allows a player to adjust to various styles of play with a variety of players. Summer pick-up games with many of the Gamecocks will aid Gray in his comfort level with his now official teammates. Head Coach Dave Odom cautions everyone to patient, stating, "There is no doubt in my mind, given a proper amount of time, hard work and preparation, he will make a real contribution to our basketball team and to the University. Still, we must all keep in mind that he has much to learn. Starting practice at midyear makes it even more difficult, thus his development will truly be a work in progress as we move towards our conference play in January."
The toughest adjustment will be the coaches' specific expectations on the floor during gametime. Much of Dave Odom's offense requires constant movement and solid screen setting. The defensive schemes, often orchestrated by Assistant Coach Rick Duckett, will require active feet and good floor vision, especially at the forward position, to deny passing lanes, bump cuts and routes, while recognizing quick blockout situations, especially away from the ball. This oft-times aggressive defensive posture will require reads to double ball-handlers on the sidelines, corners, and even out front, if they turn their backs.
So, how does Chad fit in, and what does this mean? Chad is an athlete, who brings good verticality and tough physical play in the paint. His early scoring should come around the basket, and that is what the Cocks are looking for to help balance the scoring throughout its roster from perimeter to post. Chad brings length to a rotation that has had to rely on guard to forward substitutions, which have often made rebound and interior play a challenge for South Carolina against larger teams.
Chad will bring a sense of urgency, having been sidelined under the first semester admission controversy. The adrenaline created by this eagerness may produce early fouls, but it could stimulate aggressive rebounds, a stick back or two, maybe a block, and you can even look for a dunk. But whatever it is, you can bet Chad Gray is ready to play.
The experience of Coach Odom will bring Chad along slowly, but the competitiveness of the USC Head Coach will allow Chad to see if all the attributes are ready to mix with first game jitters against Princeton Wednesday night, and produce the physicality and/or the aerial athleticism that is missing in the paint to date.
If Odom can trust Chad long enough, and Tre Kelly creates opportunities for Gray early, while Brandon Wallace prepares his new post teammate for the speed and roughness of the game at this level, the addition of Chad Gray should prove to revive hope in fans of the possibility for this to be a special team, developing a foundation for a new era, while picking up a few more wins than expected along the way. These remaining five non-conference home games are a great warm-up for Chad's introduction to the SEC, with game 5 being the CBS nationally televised Kansas contest (Sunday January 7 at 4:30PM).
The short answer to the question, "How will he fit?" Very comfortably. The team wants him, and he will be a quick study. Will he help? Yes, within the first two games we should see a significant change in the balance of scoring and productivity on the glass from the post.
Chad Gray: What Will He Mean To USC?
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