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Gamecock Roundball: Coach Martin lands his first 2014 prospect - "That kid is real!"

Following up on the commitment of Southern Miss transfer 2G LaShay Page last week, USC head basketball coach Frank Martin has now landed his first pledge for the 2014-2015 season in 6'1" point guard Marcus Stroman of Columbia. Currently a rising junior at Keenan High School, Marcus (also called Quintin) led the Raiders to a 2A state championship in his freshman year (2010-2011) and a respectable 23-4 record last season - scoring 396 points and averaging 15.2 points-per-game, 8.8 rebounds-per-game, 7.3 steals and 3.9 assists per game as a sophomore.

Marcus currrently holds a 3 star rating from Rivals. Since he is an underclassman, Scout, ESPN and 247 have not ranked him yet; however, over at The Big Spur, William Gunter says Stroman "will likely be rated a four star prospect by 247Sports when 2014 rankings are released." Although Marcus is still a bit on the short side (at 6'1" or 6'2"), he likely will continue to grow. By all accounts he is an on-court leader and "floor general" type player with a quick move to the basket and strong defensive skills.

Stroman received a lot of notice at the Chik-Fil-A classic hosted by Richland Northeast H.S. this past December in Columbia, where the Raiders gave nationally-prominent Oak Hill Academy all it could handle in a narrow, 1 point semifinals loss - with Stroman pouring in 23 points and 7 assists against perennial-power Oak Hill. The tourney's official web site had this to say:

The defensive intensity and offensive efficiency with which the Keenan squad played was nothing short of spectacular. It was an absolute clinic in what a local program has to do to compete with such a highly touted nationally recognized program. None of it would have been possible without the aforementioned Stroman. Stroman is a very good athlete in a Chris Paul kind of way and his performance was extraordinary. He orchestrated the sort of game that just screamed, "Guys, I'm here and I'm not intimidated because I'm the best guy on the floor!" Stroman worked Oak Hills' top 50 ranked North Carolina State University commit Tyler Lewis like a part time job he could afford to lose. He simply had his way with a kid that is supposed to step in and play major minutes next year in the ACC. Stroman played all thirty-two minutes and knocked out a stat line of 23 points on 7-15 shooting, 2-7 from three, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. Simply put, he was the only guy on the floor that did what he wanted when he wanted. He had a part in almost every big play of the game because he has NBA range on his J and the speed and quickness that won't allow more experienced players to stay in front of him. Tyler Lewis, nor D'vauntes Smith-Rivera, ever wants to try and guard him again. They may have originally thought he was some random small town talent. They left Columbia saying, "That kid is real!"

Stroman is a tremendous pick-up for Frank Martin.

First, Stroman is a top-flight, in-state product who almost certainly would have landed offers from Clemson and Georgia had he continued his recruitment - not to mention other top regional/national programs - but chose to play at home. While all the reports credit the fact that proximity to his family played a major role in Stroman's decision to stay in Columbia, in interviews with both The Big Spur and Gamecock Central, Stroman credited the way Coach Martin sold him on Carolina's new offensive philosophy as a key component in commitment, Not to speak ill of the departed, but I don't see that Coach Horn could have landed Stroman (although to be fair there were reports that Horn was in good shape with Stroman before his departure). If Frank Martin can defend top Palmetto State players from out-of-state poachers, then it speaks very well for the future of Gamecock hoops. In fact, Stroman's pledge may cause other elite SC prospects to give the Garnet and Black a more in-depth look - particularly all-everybody 2G Sindarius Thornwell of Lancaster (now playing for the aforementioned Oak Hill for 2012-2013).

Second, Coach Martin now has his "point guard of the future" as described by Adam Garrett, who can be expected to contribute his freshman season. This means Martin can focus on other recruiting needs for the next two years with Stroman firmly in our camp. With 2012 recruiting class back-court signees like Tarik Phillip and Thaddeus Hall, we will have some real depth at guard by the time Stroman matriculates in '14 (assuming Brenton Williams and Damien Leonard stay with the team, and Bruce Ellington returns from the gridiron - though I don't know where this will leave Brian Richardson and Eric Smith except way-down on the end of the bench).

So where does this leave in terms of roster space? Since Stroman has two more prep seasons to play, we don't have to worry about numbers at this point; right now, twelve of the thirteen available scholarships are spoken for, and we're holding the last slot for 6'11" Jordan Dickerson of Alexandria, Virginia who has not committed (and we're in a battle with Auburn, Providence and Villanova for his services).

All in all, this is a great day for Carolina hoops. After having languished for several years in the proverbial dark tunnel (and looking forward to a challenging 2012-2013 season where we might continue to struggle), guys like Marcus Stroman provide evidence that things will be getting better at the Colonial Life Arena in the future. And that is a great feeling.