South Carolina has placed a player on the SEC All-Freshman team in three of the past four seasons, Sindarius Thornwell last season, Michael Carrera the year before that, and Bruce Ellington in 2011. After James Thompson's legal trouble, TeMarcus Blanton's hip injury, and Shamiek Sheppard's ACL tear, Columbia's own Marcus Stroman is the lone Gamecock available for that honor this season.
Stroman was a decorated high school player after joining Keenan High School's varsity team as an 8th grader. The All-State PG was a member of Keenan's 2010 and 2011 state championship teams. During his season season Stroman averaged 16.8 points, 7.5 assists, and 4.6 rebounds while carrying his Keenan squad. ESPN.com ranked Stroman as a 3-star prospect but as the No. 2 recruit overall in the state of South Carolina.
Stroman choose to play for the Gamecocks because of his ties to the area but also because he felt a grand connection with Frank Martin. You can see the connection when Martin speaks about his freshman point guard. He has often gushed over Stroman and what he brings to the table, "Marcus Stroman is your consummate point guard," Martin said. "The biggest compliment that you can give to anybody is that he makes the other people better--that's what Marcus does. He is an absolute competitive warrior that knows how to make other players better around him."
Martin has several times referred to Stroman as a player who "is so good at making others look good." Martin is confident in the abilities Stroman brings to this roster but Stroman also exudes a confidence when discussing his own game. When asked how to describe his own play Stroman categorized himself as a "passer, because I love to get my teammates involved in the game; defender because I love playing defense; and lastly, a leader, because I'm a point guard and I have to be vocal on the court." The 6-2 183-pound freshman also wasn't scared to compare himself to some of the NBA's best guards, saying he models his leadership after Chris Paul, his crossover after Allen Iverson, and his defense after Rajon Rondo.
The only collegiate action we've seen out of Stroman has been the Gamecocks exhibition last month vs. Benedict College. Stroman played 20 minutes, the sixth most on the team, and contributed 5 points and 3 assists in South Carolina's win. A troubling aspect was Stroman's 7 turnovers in the contest. When reviewing the game, it seemed like Stroman was pressing, trying to make the big play when a simple action would do. It'll be curious to see how many minutes Stroman plays at the beginning of the season. Martin has said that the returning perimeter of Thornwell, Duane Notice, and Ty Johnson will allow him to be able to bring the freshman along slowly.
Thornwell admittedly struggled with understanding the game and running offensive plays at times during his freshman year. I don't expect that to be a problem with Stroman. Stroman's an intelligent player who can run an offense easily on his superb basketball IQ and passing instincts. Where Thornwell benefitted as a freshman, Stroman will be tested. At 183 pounds, it will be a struggle physically against other point guards during some nights in the SEC.
Thornwell, Carrera, and Ellington benefitted from massive amount of minutes on bad teams to help propel them to All-SEC Freshman teams. With the return of Thornwell, Notice, and Johnson, minutes in South Carolina's backcourt will be at a premium. However, Stroman is the only other true point guard on the roster outside of Johnson. I expect Martin to let Thornwell and Notice take over the point guard duties when Johnson is on the bench at first but to slowly incorporate Stroman as the alternative point guard as the season goes on. Stroman as the ability to continue South Carolina's impressive streak of freshman but will the minutes be there for him?