SEC M5: Halloween EditionPosted by Brian Joyce on October 31st, 2012
- That, my friends, is the sound of basketball. The squeak of tennis shoes, the bounce of the ball, and the whistle of the referee suggests that exhibition games have officially begun, with the newest member of the SEC — the Missouri Tigers — up first. Former Auburn Tiger Earnest Ross made quite the impression on his new team and new coach in their blowout win over Northwest Missouri State on Monday.“He can shoot for a guy his size, and, with his physique, you wouldn’t know that he could have that kind of touch,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s worked really hard at it too.” Ross averaged 13.1 points and an impressive 6.6 rebounds per game for Auburn in 2010-11. He finished Mizzou’s exhibition with 22 points on six three-pointers. With guard Mike Dixon currently suspended by Haith, Ross will have a nice opportunity to showcase his skills.
- South Carolina is hobbling through the preseason with only a fraction of its full roster. Four members of the team miss its exhibition action against Kentucky Wesleyan last night because of injury. Sophomore forward Carlton Geathers (knee), sophomore guard Damien Leonard (broken nose), senior guard LaShay Page (hamstring), and freshman forward Mindaugas Kacinas (ankle) were on the sidelines last night, and it showed as the Gamecocks barely snuck past the D-II team, 68-67. Frank Martin will need a healthy team to run the gauntlet of SEC play, but a light non-conference schedule allows for USC to ease into this season with a new coach and new system. Page, a transfer from Southern Miss, scored 11.6 points per game last year for the Golden Eagles, and could be an impact player for Martin.
- Speaking of LaShay Page, Martin sees a lot of potential and leadership for the 6’2″ guard in his first year in a South Carolina uniform. “I can’t place the responsibility of leadership on someone who doesn’t want that job,” Martin said. “He’s kind of evolved into that himself.” Page is confident he can make the transition to the SEC and become a leader for Martin’s club. “It’s different players, a different staff, but the same me,” he said. “My leadership, leading the younger guys. I really look forward to that.” In addition to leadership, Martin and the Gamecocks need scoring. Leading scorer Malik Cooke departed from Columbia, taking over 12 points per game with him. Page will need to step into that role for South Carolina to be competitive.
- The love-fest for Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein continues. And what is Halloween without a little scare, so want to know a frightening thought? Cauley-Stein is the least hyped freshmen of all Cal’s newcomers. The part of his game that has coaches and critics raving is his hustle. After a 14-point, 12-rebound, and five-block performance in the Blue-White scrimmage, Cauley-Stein talked about his game and coach John Calipari’s philosophy on effort. “He preaches every day once he sees you take one play off you are coming out, because obviously you are tired and are not going hard enough,” he said. “He keeps saying at the game you will only be able to play three minutes and you are coming out. He says that to everybody because everybody will be tired. So once we get out of the grind of things and you get in your mind that you can go harder than a few minutes, that is when your game will escalate.” It is clear that Cauley-Stein has worked his way into the rotation for the early part of this season, and it is equally certain that effort and hustle on both ends of the floor will be the attribute that keeps him there.
- A lot of debate has gone into who will start in the backcourt for Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. And for that matter, there was a question of how many guards would start out on the floor. For now, Donovan has an answer, settling into a three-guard lineup with senior Mike Rosario joining point guard Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton. “Mike has done a good job,” Donovan said. “I think, as far as my trust level for him on the court, it’s growing and growing because he’s taking care of his responsibilities.” Rosario did not always make great decisions with a turnover rate of 16.7 percent in 2011-12, creating some of the trust issues that Donovan spoke about. The 6’3″ guard should also be charged with accounting for lost rebounding produced by NBA draft pick, Bradley Beal. Beal grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game last season from the wing spot.
Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.