South Carolina men's head basketball coach Frank Martin wants his Gamecocks to be more like the USC Aiken men's basketball team. The success Vince Alexander and the Pacers have seen during Alexander's tenure is what Martin is hoping to duplicate in Columbia.
Martin took over the program at USC last season and is looking to build the Gamecocks into consistent contenders. He believes that can be done by mirroring the culture Alexander and his staff have built in Aiken.
“I love being around people that love the game of basketball, and Vince and his staff love the game and have done an incredible job here,” Martin said before the Pacers' Tip-Off Banquet, where he was the guest speaker. “They've created a culture of winning here at Aiken, which is something we're trying to build at Carolina.”
The relationship the two coaches have built in the two seasons Martin has been in Carolina, after he left Kansas State, has been beneficial for both sides. Alexander said the coach adopted the Pacer program as family, and he and Martin are like brothers. Alexander added that he has learned many things from Martin and being around the Gamecocks' practices. Martin went on to say that he likes the relationship between the programs because he's always got his ears open at all times to learn more.
Learning is something each coach does when in one another's presence, as Alexander could be seen taking notes at various points during Martin's speech.
The two will get a chance to square off this Sunday as the Pacers will take on South Carolina in an exhibition in Columbia. Alexander is looking forward to getting an opportunity to play against D-I competition. The matchup will be the second exhibition against an SEC opponent for the Pacers, who will also face Mississippi on Friday.
“I'm just looking forward to having our guys play against that competition,” Alexander said. “We have 10 seniors, and eight of them are D-I transfers so it's a good chance for our guys to see where they are.”
The Pacers are coming off a season in which they reached the Elite Eight and return many of the teams key players. The one player not back is Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Re'mon Nelson, who Alexander said has a good chance of being drafted in Friday's NBA Developmental League draft. Despite the loss of Nelson, Alexander and the Pacers are confident in the teams chances to find success again this year.
“We're focused on having more success and not going backwards,” Alexander said when he addressed the crowd at the banquet. “We have to have the attitude to match that as we go forward this season.”
The team features ten seniors including preseason All-American Paul Larsen, Defensive stalwart Jesse Seilern and sharp shooter Ron Zimmerman. Also returning to the team will be Alvin Brown, who regained eligibility and Rick Alderman after missing last season with injury. DeVontae Wright is another senior expected to be a big factor. Those players are why Alexander told the crowd Tuesday night that he considers himself the “most blessed coach in America.”
A fact Martin wouldn't dispute. He mentioned that not too many programs can say they have a culture of winning such as the Pacers. He also went on to admit that he got to wrapped up in the Gamecocks win-loss totals and needed to focus more on building his teams culture up and fighting for that culture. However, fighting to build that winning culture like the Pacers is what he plans to do in his second season at USC.
“For us it's about growth. I just want to make sure all our players are getting better, and they all understand and are prepared for what they need to do to find success,” Martin said of the Gamecocks' team before once again relating it to the Pacers. “The success they've had here is something we need to build. They really understand their identity here and we're working to get to that level.”
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.
Staff Photo by Eric Russell USC Aiken men’s head basketball coach Vince Alexander greets South Carolina’s head basketball coach Frank Martin during the Pacers tip off banquet.×
Staff Photo by Eric Russell South Carolina head men's basketball coach Frank Martin addresses the crowd during the USC Aiken men's basketball team tip-off banquet.×