Horn pleased with effort in first two games

Following a pair of confidence-building wins, the Gamecocks have the week off before they return to the court Saturday against USC Upstate. Coach Darrin Horn spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the team's progress and the changing roster.

South Carolina has been without center Sam Muldrow for the first two games. Muldrow is rumored to be ineligible for the remainder of the semester, but Horn has steadfastly refused to clarify Muldrow's situation. He only confirmed that Muldrow will be out Saturday. The Gamecocks have also played all but the first half of the season opener without starter Brandis Raley-Ross. Raley-Ross sprained his left knee late in the half against Jacksonville State and is out for 3-4 weeks while he rehabs his knee.

"There really is no update," Horn said of Raley-Ross. "He's progressing with rehab and hopefully he's going to go quicker than slower."

With Muldrow and Raley-Ross out, Carolina is down to nine players, including two former walk-ons, Branden Conrad and Robert Wilder. For Horn, the biggest challenge with the shrunken roster is finding the right substitution pattern.

"I think what has changed is our ability to substitute as freely, but if you look at our minutes, we really don't have anybody that's logging too many minutes," he said. "I think guys have responded well."

The response has been particularly encouraging. Conrad finds himself now a starter, and Wilder went from playing 14 minutes all of last season to 12 minutes against Winthrop. Wilder has yet to score a point this season, but that is not part of his job description. Horn said the expectations for Wilder are simple.

"Not to do anything wrong," he said. "We literally need him to go in and be solid and not hurt us. Everybody's got a role to play, and some guys' role is to not necessarily be a producer as much as be someone that doesn't bring us negatives. I thought other than the shot he took from 20 [feet] that went 23 [feet], I thought that he did a really good job with the minutes he got."

Having to get significant minutes out of Wilder and Conrad is not ideal, but Horn is not making any excuses for the team.

"We're going to do what we have to do with what we've got," he said. "We've been fortunate that the first couple of games we've been able to spread those minutes and have different guys step up. I think it's a credit to our guys and their work ethic, and their commitment to not get caught up in that stuff and worry about it and just go out and give their best effort."

Austin Steed is another player who has gone from hardly playing to being a significant contributor. He played just 29 minutes last season, but has tallied 32 minutes already this season. Unlike, Wilder or Conrad, Steed has not exactly come from nowhere. He was a notable recruit in Dave Odom's final class. Still, he has surprised many fans with his strong play early.

"Austin's had success because he's doing what he can do well: play hard, bring us energy, be effective around the basket, [and] be active defensively," said Horn.

For all the positives Horn can point to after two games, it is too early to start thinking about March. The college basketball season is long, and Carolina has barely scratched the surface of its non-conference schedule, let alone the challenging SEC schedule.

"I hope we're not too sky-high about anything," Horn said. "We're two games in. We've got to come back today and be better. We've got to focus on Wednesday's practice. That's the attitude we have to take now, tomorrow, next week, the month after that, and all the way through the season."

Wednesday marked the end of the fall signing period. After not signing anyone in his first class, Horn signed two players, Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway, in his second. He must now turn his attention to the spring signing period to fill out the class.

"We're going to continue to recruit," he said. "We don't want to sign guys just to sign them. We want to sign guys that can help us get better, that can fill needs that we have. We're going to continue to look for those guys."

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