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2009-2010 Gamecocks Hoops in the Rearview Mirror: What to Look for from Rising Sophomores in 2010-11

In our last installment of our Court 'Cocks post-season wrap, we looked at rising seniors and what they need to do to get better next year. Since we actually don't have any rising juniors, this time we'll look at rising sophomores, of which we have three: Ramon Galloway, Lakeem Jackson, and Stephen Spinella. Let's get started.

Ramon Galloway

A lot is riding on Ramon Galloway next year. With the departure of high-scoring guards Devan Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross, Galloway is almost guaranteed to see a significant increase to his 21.5 mpg. Moreover, whereas this past season Darrin Horn looked to Galloway mostly to provide an offensive spark off the bench, this coming year Galloway will be counted on to play both guard spots. (Incoming freshman Bruce Ellington will likely start at the point, but--unless relatively unheralded recruit Eric Smith is ready to go--Galloway may rotate to point in some lineups while Ellington isn't on the floor. This will work kind of like what you saw this year with Downey and Raley-Ross, with one being on the floor at all times.)

All of this means that Galloway needs to step up his game in a number of respects. We know that he can shoot the ball, and he held his own defensively most of the time. However, his ballhandling and ability to beat traps were a little suspect. This isn't such a big deal when he's playing two guard, but if he's going to play some minutes at the point, he will really need to elevate this level of his game.

Galloway could use some improvement in other areas, as well. One offensive skill that he could work on is his ability to create his own shot. Part of the problem here is that he has an awkward shooting motion, and that may be difficult to fix. If he's ever going to maximize his potential as a scorer, though, he'll need to figure out a way to be more than a spot-up shooter. Another thing Galloway needs to do is bulk up a bit. He is currently really thin, and that causes problems when he's defending bigger guards. The final thing I'd really like to see Galloway work on is not committing cheap fouls. Admittedly, some of the more infamous Galloway fouls--such as the one on a Kenny Boynton 3FGA in Gainesville that hurt us so badly--were bad calls, but sometimes you have to play smart if you want to avoid those.

Keep reading after the jump.

Lakeem Jackson

A lot of Carolina fans seemed disappointed that Lakeem Jackson, Horn's first big recruit, didn't turn out to exactly be a gamebreaker. I, though, was very happy with what we got from him, and I got happier as the year went on. First of all, it's important to recognize that Horn didn't recruit Jackson to score 20 a night. The concerns about Jackson's jump shot were there from the beginning. What Horn--and many other schools--recruited Jackson for was his versatility, athleticism, and defensive ability, and we saw all of those very often In fact, we saw more of them than we probably wanted to, as the losses of Mikes Holmes and Dominique Archie forced Horn to play Jackson in the post more than Horn probably ever wanted to. Jackson did an admirable job in the multiple roles he played; in fact, because of our lack of talented big men, I seriously doubt we would have done anywhere near as well as we did this year if not for Jackson's versatility.

All of that said, Jackson has a lot of work to do over the summer, and it should focus on one thing: shooting. Jackson is undoubtedly one of the worst shooters in the league, and very likely THE worst free-throw shooter. It's really a minor miracle that a player without any semblance of shooting ability scored as many points as he did. If I were Coach Horn, I would have Jackson shooting a few hundred jumps shots and free throws each day, as well as finding a shooting coach to help him work on his mechanics. Jackson may never stroke it like Devan Downey, but there's no reason that he shouldn't be able to make an open 10-foot jumper and at least 60% of his free throws. And if he can do those things, it will make a major difference. In all other respects of his game, he has All-SEC written all over him.

Stephen Spinella

Horn probably didn't intend for Stephen Spinella to get many minutes this year. However, like Johndre Jefferson, Spinella surprisingly found himself in the lineup quite frequently by year's end, after the losses of Holmes, Archie, and Evaldas Baniulus's ineffective play forced Horn to throw him into the fray. All in all, Spinella did OK, playing decent defense and getting the occasional hustle score. He likely wasn't playing the caliber ball that you want from an SEC player, but he played hard and made the most of his opportunities. It's hard to ask for much more than that when you are in the situation we were in.

The main thing Spinella needs to do if he wants to make himself a more permanent fixture is figure out a way to score more. Based on the buzz after his recruitment, I was under the impression that Spinella was a sharpshooter, but--as with other supposed shooters on our team--he never came around to putting his shots through the hoop on a regular basis. If he can start doing that, then he can eventually be a better version of what Baniulus was last year, in the sense that he will provide a shooter off the bench and is already a decidedly better defender than Evka ever was. If he can't, then I think you'll eventually see him lose his playing time to someone who is a more complete player.