Horn, Gamecocks ready to head overseas

The USC basketball team departs Wednesday for a trip to Europe where new men's basketball coach Darrin Horn will get ample opportunity to see his team in action. The trip will take the Gamecocks to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria where they will face four European teams over the next week. This is Horn's first chance since arriving at Carolina to see the players he inherited in action.

The first year coach is excited about the oppoirtunity for many of his players to leave the country for the first time. He hopes to make it an enjoyable experience.

"It's a great education experience. For most of them, it's their first time overseas. The basketball will be basketball, and the other part will be fun. We think experiences and the education (opportunities) of being in another country is important. Obviously, you can't do that if you're waking up at 4:00 every morning and working these guys."

NCAA rules allow a team taking an overseas trip 10 days of practice to prepare before leaving. The extra practice time is invaluable for Coach Horn in his first season at the helm in Columbia.

The Gamecocks will face four teams of various skill levels. Coach Horn met with the media and spoke a little about his team's opponents.

"We'll have four games. We'll probably have one team we can't compete with, one we match up evenly and one that's not very good. That's just how they go."

He hopes to get a better look at his team and is not concerning himself with how many minutes each individual will have to play. Expect to see many different lineups as the coaching staff begins their search for the right pieces in this season's puzzle. Horn, who is known for his up tempo style, isn't concerning himself with his playbook. He will work on certain aspects of the game he coaches, but really wants to see how his players react. The staff plans to slowly implement pieces of their coaching philosophy as the team progresses.

One player on this year's club is from Europe and has been to all three countries the Gamecocks are slated to visit. Evaldas Baniulus, the 6-7 forward from Lithuania, says he hasn't really spoken with his teammates about what they should expect in each country. Assisant Video Coordinator Kris DeBlasio will be providing fact packets to each player on the three countries they will visit.

Baniulus feels this trip is more about unifying the team saying, "This trip is all about bonding and getting to know each other and the coaches. It's good to see (how we play), but it's more to find out who's who because the season is so far away. We're already like a family. This trip is to bring the coaches into the family."

The new three-point line rules takes effect this season, and this is a great opportunity for the Gamecocks to get accustomed to a longer shot from behind the arc. Horn says he expects the percentages to go up this season because he expects less players to take three point shots.

The Gamecocks have several strong outside shooters with Zam Fredrick, Devan Downey, Evka Baniulus, and Brandis Raley-Ross. Dominique Archie has also shown an ability to knock it down, but should be able to find more space underneath as defenses will be forced to extend themselves to defend the long range shot.

This will also give big men Mike Holmes and Sam Muldrow, along with Archie, several days to work on their post game against someone other than their teammates. Redshirt freshman Austin Steed should also benefit from the trip as he looks to earn some playing time. He got an opportunity to meet with the media before the trip and spoke a little about Darrin Horn's coaching style.

"It's very intense. Practices this year are going to be very intense. He wants us to talk, yell and get in the face of the defender. He just wants us to be more intense."

This will be the team's first trip overseas since 2004. The women's team has also made two trips, one in 2001 and the other in 2005. The team departs Wednesday morning and is scheduled to return on August 14th.

A couple notes of interest: Former Gamecock player Marijonas Petravicius will represent his home country of Lithuania in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and Tarence Kinsey was recently picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers after a brief stint in Europe. Kinsey played for the Memphis Grizzlies back in 2006-07.

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