Frank Martin Recruiting: Doing More With Less


When it comes to recruiting as it equates to winning, Frank Martin has earned the reputation of being a coach that is able to do more with less. Before coming to Columbia, Martin lead the Wildcats to five straight 21+ win seasons and five straight post-season tournament births, four of which were NCAA tournament trips. During his third season at KSU, the team went to the Elite Eight. Most people would say that Frank Martin would have to have had premier recruiting classes to have accomplished all that he has. However, basketball doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Mar 12, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks coach Frank Martin during the second half of the second round against the Mississippi Rebels in the SEC Conference Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. South Carolina won 60-58. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Simmons stated in The Book of Basketball, “The secret to basketball is that it’s not about basketball.” Confused yet? Let’s look at what Frank Martin says concerning how he runs and coaches his team. During his post-season conference on March 25, Martin said, “It takes time to get coaches to get their guys in there and to play the way they need them to play to believe in the values that the coaches are trying to instill in the players to fight for every day in your program. That doesn’t just show up. ‘Hey, I recruited you! You were a great player in high school. Come on!’ And from day one you understand what I want, and I understand what you want. That’s a relationship that has to evolve.”

In other words, basketball is more than just stats. It’s more than just being a good basketball player or being gifted athletically. It’s also about building relationships through sacrifice and selflessness. It’s about sacrificing your personal gains for your teammates. It’s about buying in to your role on the team. It’s about finding guys that fit the system. It’s about finding star power and surrounding it with good players that have bought into their roles.

In other words, basketball is more than just stats. It’s more than just being a good basketball player or being gifted athletically. It’s also about building relationships through sacrifice and selflessness.

While many of his peers (Calipari, Roy Williams, Coach K) are out on the recruiting trail loading up on cream of the crop talent, Frank does not have the luxury of selling a program with many years of success to attract a team full of top-rated talent. That doesn’t mean Frank can’t build a program, however. We saw him do it at Kansas State.

Using Rivals database, his recruiting can be broken down into groups based on star rankings. During Martin’s five year tenure, he recruited:

3 – 5-Star players

3 – 4-Star players

17 – 3-Star players

2 – 2-Star players

2 – Unranked players

I am not saying that 3 star rated players are not good, but they are not NBA ready lottery picks that Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, or UNC can attract. It simply does not look like the kind roster a coach would put together to be able to go 117-54 over a five year span.

This is why Martin was the perfect hire to turn around the Gamecocks struggling basketball program. USC has a great basketball venue. They have very nice facilities, including the newly renovated Carolina Coliseum. The fans are some of the best and most loyal in the nation. Martin can use these things to attract good players. This is part of the reason why fans can believe Martin will have things turned around this season.

Martin is also a winner which can clearly be seen by his years at Kansas State. He took a 10-21 Darrin Horn team that had virtually no players that fit his system and somehow managed to get 14 wins his first season. The next season Martin wanted a new team (except Brenton Williams). With an extremely inexperience team featuring 7 freshmen, 3 sophomores, and 1 transfer, he still managed to win the same amount of games as the previous season including a shocking upset of #17 Kentucky and two wins in the SEC tournament.

Mar 7, 2015; Knoxville, TN, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014-15 season consisted of a team that was primarily young (5 sophomores and 3 freshmen) and plagued by injuries. McKie had 2 concussions at different points during the season. Blanton had a season ending hip injury before the season began. Shamiek Sheppard tore his ACL before the season began, returned to play mid-season and then was suspended from the team with Demetrius Henry, who also missed games due to a concussion. Carrera had a concussion. Stroman had a throat infection and missed games. Notice had mono right before the season. Thornwell had severe tendinitis in both knees. Steele had a knee injury, also. Yet, Martin and the Gamecocks played through it. They also achieved something that hadn’t been achieved in 6 years.

They finished the season with a winning record.

That is why there is so much hope for the basketball team right now. The Gamecocks won despite all the obstacles. Frank has also added his most talented recruiting class to date featuring McDonald’s All-American, PJ Dozier. He’s added more height with SEC ready bodies with Eric Cobb and Raymond Doby. Martin has upgraded the athleticism on his team with Chris Silva and Jamall Gregory. And while Chris Silva and PJ Dozier are the highlights in terms of star-power, the other three fit the system.

Martin understands what he’s looking for to fit his system. It’s up to the player’s to buy in to their roles and build relationships with each other and the coaches. That’s what makes Martin so great. He gets his players to buy in. They take on his personality on the court. They fight, scratch, and claw for every loose ball and every rebound. They harass opponents on defense. They attack the rim. Martin simply coaches his players up. It’s not an overnight feat. It takes time, and now is the time.

The team will have 3 seniors and 3 juniors this season. Martin will finally have a team that has veteran leadership. That equals more maturity on and off the court. It means they have more of an understanding of what coach wants so they do things the right way, and they help the younger guys learn how to do things the right way – the Martin way.

That’s the secret to basketball. It’s not all star power and stats. It’s also building relationships and chemistry, and no one understands this better than Martin.

Next: South Carolina Men's Basketball: SEC Schedule Released

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