Gamecocks hold open scrimmage for students

Darrin Horn and the Gamecocks went through an hour-long practice Monday evening at the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center. The session was open to students and media as a sneak preview of this year's team. The real preview comes Friday against Kentucky Wesleyan in an exhibition at the Colonial Life Arena. After practice, Horn and several players spoke about the ongoing preparations.

"I thought it was great for the first time we've done it," said Horn. "[The students] got into it and did a good job with it."

About 200 students turned out to watch the practice, which featured a layup line that quickly turned into a dunk contest, some full court trapping drills, and a half-court shooting contest.

"We're not holding a special practice for season ticket holders, we're not doing it for anybody else," Horn told the students in attendance. "This is the group that is going to drive the energy in the Colonial Life Arena. We need you there out in force, and we need you there loud, and we need you there together."

Horn went on to give some coaching to those in attendance. He wants specific cheers for specific plays, and was not afraid to get on the fans when the cheering was not up to his standards. After he instructed the cheer for a three point shot and free throw attempt, he chastised a student who laughed after Devan Downey missed a free throw.

"We don't yell ‘brick' at our own team," Horn complained.

Even though it was a modest crowd compared to what the team normally plays in front of, there was an extra hop in their step as they worked out in front of spectators for the first time this fall. The hope is that the initial excitement will continue into the season, unlike past years when the Gamecocks played to frequently silent crowds at home.

"Just feeding off the energy, you're able to do things you normally can't do when the adrenaline kicks in," said Zam Fredrick. "[The crowd is] giving us the energy, jumping around, and putting the fear in opponents. [Tonight] was a laid back, All-Star type of thing, just putting on a show for the students."

Austin Steed, who was seldom-used during his freshman season, showed improvement heading into his second year. At 6'8" and 225 pounds, Steed has the size to play inside, but has the skill and athleticism to be able to get out and run with Horn's up-tempo style. Steed is not yet sure how much playing time he will get, but he knows what to do when he steps on the court.

"I'm comfortable anywhere he puts me," he said. "I bring a lot of energy and that's what he needs. When I'm in practice or I'm in the game, I just bring a lot of energy to the court."

Practice observations:

Two players who seem to be benefiting the most from Horn's up-tempo system are Evka Baniulis and Sam Muldrow. Baniulis's ability to hit jump shots and handle the ball in the open court looks like he could be a perfect fit. Muldrow showed surprising ability in the open court and from three. "Sam can shoot the basketball," Horn said.

Mitchell Carter, who generally looked lost in his first two years at South Carolina, showed some ability during the practice. He is not going to push Mike Holmes for minutes, but he could be a contributor in more than just mop-up duty.

It was not the most exciting matchup of the day, but it was probably the cutest, when Horn and his son Walker played a little one-on-one during pre-practice shootaround.

The Gamecocks added a practice player, Shane Phillips, from West Virginia. Phillips had to take one for the team and play the opposing free throw shooter while Horn instructed the crowd on how to make noise during a free throw attempt. Phillips made both attempts, and Horn scolded the students, "That's your fault." There is no truth to the rumor that the diminutive Phillips was added solely so the 5'6" Downey has someone to look at eye-to-eye.

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