Fredrick comfortable, confident in new system

College basketball has been a long and winding road for Zam Fredrick. It took five years, three coaches, and two schools, but Fredrick finally feels at home.

The senior from St. Matthews, SC began his career by committing to Georgia Tech and coach Paul Hewitt, but after two unsatisfying years in Atlanta, Fredrick transferred to Carolina. His first season in Columbia was his most productive from an individual standpoint, but the Gamecocks struggled to the worst overall record of any school in the SEC. Dave Odom stepped down following the season, and was replaced by Darrin Horn, who has Fredrick feeling like he is in high school again.

"It's fun basketball; it might look chaotic, but it's organized chaos," said Fredrick. "I feel more at home with the system we're playing in under Coach Horn. I played that same system in high school, and it just feels like I'm finding myself again."

Fredrick averaged 14.8 points per game last season, second highest on the team. However, he frequently found himself at odds with Odom, who did not like Fredrick's penchant for quick shots. In Horn, Fredrick seems to have found a kindred spirit, a coach who understands that you have to take shots to make shots.

"My role didn't change, I think it's the confidence coming from the head coach," he said. "You know that it's alright if you go out there and make a couple mistakes. It's just the air that you feel that you can go out and perform, even if you miss a shot, he won't be down on you. We saw that in Europe and we're just excited about the way that he coaches."

The four-game trip to Europe and the extra practice time it afforded the players and coaches gave the Gamecocks a head start on the season. That head start is invaluable for the coaches as they try to install a new system. Almost as import in speeding up the learning process is the fact that Carolina returns all but one player (Dwayne Day) from last year's team, and adds nobody.

"A lot of teams lost a lot of key players, but we return everybody except for Dwayne Day," Fredrick reminded the reporters who picked Carolina to finish fifth in the SEC East. "We were in every game but two last year. The ones that we did lose we lost in the last few minutes."

"We'll be in the nick of it," he added later.

The obvious counter is that Carolina returns all but one player from a 14-18 team. Normally, you hope for more turn over following a losing season, but the coaching change may be the entire turnover the Gamecocks need.

"We're quick and athletic," Fredrick said of his teammates. "I just feel like it's the right situation for all of us. I'm not criticizing any other coach that I played for, but now I feel like the old guy that I was coming out of high school."

Fredrick started all but one game as the off-guard last season, and is penciled in as the starter again this season. Horn has not decided on a starting lineup, but based on the lineup used in Europe, he will use a three guard lineup with 6'2" Brandis Raley-Ross alongside 6'0" Fredrick and 5'9" point guard Devan Downey. With 6'8" Dominique Archie and 6'7" Mike Holmes in the frontcourt, the Gamecocks will be undersized compared to most opponents, especially on defense.

What Carolina will give up in height, it hopes to make up with speed, athleticism, and conditioning. In the offseason, players went through what Fredrick called "boot camp," a workout regime designed to push them to their physical and mental limit.

"Ever since the first time we were introduced to him he said he was going to work us hard. He brought the fire and now we're returning the fire," said Fredrick. "We did [boot camp] for a month, and once I got through that I feel like I can get through anything. It was at least 40-45 minutes nonstop. It's like circuit training, everything from pushing sleds to sandbags, pushing, pressing, everything all together. You do it straight with no rest."

Fredrick appears to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the emphasis on conditioning. Horn wanted less body fat and more muscle mass, and Fredrick has accomplished just that. He is noticeably thicker in the upper body, but said he feels just as quick as before.

"We lift [weights] four times a week," he said. "We're just trying to get your body fat down so you can keep up with the pace we play. I lost body fat, but I put on muscle real quick so I probably picked up a few pounds."

Fredrick is somewhat reticent to talk about what he hopes to accomplish before the end of his college career. He talks about his senior season in vague terms and tries to turn the focus to the team, but it is clear that there is a bit of nostalgia creeping in the back of his mind as he enters his final campaign.

"You know it's your last time and you want to make everything count," he said. "Any time you step on the floor you want to make everything count, but it's do or die now. There's no time for excuses. We've got to get it done by any means necessary."

Like his father, Zam, Sr., who led the nation in scoring as a Gamecock in 1981, Fredrick has something of an inner showman. He learned up-tempo basketball from his father, so he has an idea what life under Horn will be like. He also admitted that there could be an adjustment period for the Gamecocks where they do not play as well as they can, but he added, "Even if you come to see us do bad, we're going to give you everything we have, and an exciting new type of basketball."

"Just come watch; it's going to be fun," Fredrick said. "I know the fans are sitting back on their hands waiting for something to happen that's new and exciting around here. We want the stands packed. Just come watch us play and we'll give you the show that you're looking for."

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