Horn excited about inaugural team at USC

In a press conference that was notable primarily for its brevity compared to his predecessor, new basketball coach Darrin Horn previewed the 2008-09 Gamecocks. It took him less than six minutes to address the media, and he can only hope his team, which returns all but one player from last season, is similarly efficient in adapting to Horn.

"The transition has been great," Horn said. "It's been more seamless then we had anticipated. I think the difference has been the people throughout not only our university… but the people in the community as a whole."

Horn shared the podium Wednesday with new women's coach Dawn Staley. Staley and Horn said many of the same things in regards to the challenges they face as new coaches, but Horn has a leg up on his counterpart. The men's team took a four game trip to Europe, which allowed them ten extra practice days they would not have otherwise had.

"I think the biggest part of it was not the games, or just the trip, which was nice, but the practice time," said Horn. "Getting ten practice days we had the opportunity to talk about our terminology and instill some of the things the way we want to play and then carry that out in games against other competition. Overseas, the best example of that was the third game, which was against the best team that we played who was a very good basketball team with some legitimate pros. We were down and could've folded and just continued to fight and won the game. I think that was one of the things that was a positive and will hopefully give us a head start."

Horn went on to say that the biggest challenge a new coach faces is getting players to understand the philosophy of the new staff in a fairly limited amount of time. Terminology, player roles, and general team interaction all take time to establish, and South Carolina got a head start on that in Europe. The trip also gave the coaches a chance to get to know the players and what each one brings to the table.

"I think as a whole they've done a really good job adjusting to the way we want to do things, and they work extremely hard," said Horn. "We've had a good fall and conditioning and workouts. We want our guys to be uncomfortable [as they learn what we expect]. We want them to push themselves and that part of it is challenging. So far along they've adjusted really well and they've showed some good signs that have gotten me really excited."

The Gamecocks will be led this season by the inside-out combination of Devan Downey and Mike Holmes. Downey was an All-SEC point guard last season, and Mike Holmes was named to the All SEC Freshman squad after struggling early in the season. Holmes struggled to adjust to the size and athleticism of college opponents, and struggled with his consistency. The light came on late in the season for Holmes, and he was dominant at times down the stretch. The goal for this season, according to Horn, is to take the phrase "at times" out of the equation.

"I think all in all, Mike has shown some real strides in maturity, showing that kind of consistency and focus you want to see," he said. "He's a really likable kid who plays extremely hard and can obviously do some things and has some ability. It's going to be a continued growth process for him. He's been really good so far, and in terms of consistency, one of our brighter spots in our games overseas."

Having Downey to run the offense and help spread the floor will be a big boost to Holmes, and to the rest of the Gamecocks. However, Downey's talents come with a catch. There were times last year when Carolina was lulled into watching Downey work his magic. Too often, the rest of the team became passive as Downey was called on to make every play. Horn is not trying to reign in Downey, but he does not want to watch any more episodes of the Devan Downey Show.

"Part of what we need to do as a team and a program is not look to just one to [lead], but get a collective mindset for how we want to do those things," Horn said. "What Devan does do is he does have a tremendous work ethic and he does play hard. When your most talented player is doing that, it helps."

Horn has already made strides on the recruiting front, the same front Odom was often criticized for not working at hard enough. Horn has already landed a pair of impressive prospects in point guard Ramon Galloway and forward Lakeem Jackson, but he cannot talk about recruits until they officially sign, so was not able to talk about recruiting specifics. He did say the biggest challenge faced by his staff is the late start they have gotten in recruiting, explaining why he was unable to bring in any new players for the upcoming season.

"For us trying to play catch up [with prospects] when people are spending two years and getting recruit commitments from juniors, we've had four months to do that same amount of work," he said.

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