B-ball team set for first exhibition game

Gamecock fans will get their first glimpse of the 2008-2009 men's basketball team tonight at the Colonial Life Arena. New coach Darrin Horn's squad will take on Division II Kentucky Wesleyan in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. However, the Gamecocks will be without one projected starter and a key backup for the game.

"The lineup will be Devan Downey, Zam Fredrick, Brandis Raley-Ross, Evka [Baniulis], and Dominique [Archie]," Horn said of his starting lineup. "Mike Holmes will be sitting out one game due to a violation of team rules that goes back to the summer. Sam Muldrow is working through some academic issues and will return when those are resolved."

Horn refused to offer any more details about Muldrow's situation. He said there is no time frame for when Muldrow could return. Asked later if Muldrow is being held out because the sophomore is ineligible or because he is in danger of becoming ineligible, Horn simply repeated himself.

"Sam is working through some academic issues and will play when they are resolved."

The Gamecocks have already held a scrimmage against another team, but due to NCAA rules, Horn is not allowed to comment on that activity. That means he will have exactly one week of practice after the game tonight to get ready for the season opener against Jacksonville State. Horn's early optimism over how the players have picked up his system has given way to concern.

"It's hard to believe that it has come this fast," Horn said. "The first time we did an intersquad type situation, everything we worked on just completely went out the window. That's not a good thing."

Although the Panthers play in Division II, they could be a formidable opponent for the Gamecocks. Kentucky Wesleyan is ranked 22nd in the preseason Division II rankings and picked to win their conference. They have a pair of Division I transfers in Trey Harris (UC-Irvine) and Desmond Stephens (Utah State).

"They might be even a little bit better test than we wanted for the first one," said Horn. "But that's also one of the reasons we scheduled them."

All that being said, tonight's game is still an exhibition, and neither fans nor coaches care much about the opponent. All eyes will be on the Gamecocks and which players show they can contribute once the real games start.

"We just want to learn something about our team," said Horn. "We're not anywhere close to [having the system installed]. There are important areas of the game that we have not spent a lot of time on. We're not going to look at the whole as much as the things that we have focused on and we want to do well with."

Horn's system is very different from the philosophy employed by former coach Dave Odom. The players have had to relearn almost everything about their responsibilities. The players think they are coming along well, but Horn is less enthusiastic. Asked whether he was more concerned with how South Carolina looks on offense or defense, Horn took option C.

"I'm more interested in the effort and the focus they play with," he said. "We'll be evaluating things different then a lot of [the media] will and maybe the fans. I really want to see how hard we're going to play and can we stay focused on the things we've talked about."

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