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South Carolina men's basketball 2015-16 player preview: Michael Carrera

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The 2015-16 South Carolina men's basketball season kicks-off this week so we have released our player previews. We're wrapping up the group of seniors with Michael Carrera.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

#24 Michael Carrera

Senior

6-5 / 214

Anzoátegui, Venezuela

College Career

Nobody represents the culture Frank Martin has sought to create like Michael Carrera. Martin enforces the importance of rebounding and defense on his teams. He hopes that each one of his players will defend, rebound and fight every single day. That is Carrera's game. He's not an offensively skilled player but he's going to put everything he has into each possession on both sides of the floor.

Carrera averaged the third most points on the team per game and finished as the team's leading rebounder after a superb freshman year in Columbia. A disappointing sophomore campaign followed as Carrera averaged just six points and 5.6 rebounds per game. As he entered his junior season, Martin's program had made significant strides in the recruiting department. The team's newly added depth would allow Carrera to play more small forward than he had during his tenure here.

The increased time on the wing brought Carrera's numbers up from where they fell as he finished with 7.1 points per game and a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game. He also shot better from the field, increasing his impact on the South Carolina offense. As a freshman, the Gamecocks were seven points better with Carrera on the court, according to Sports Reference. During his sophomore year, that number dropped to even, meaning Carrera had close to zero impact on the team's performance. His junior season? He was worth a 13-point differential to the Gamecocks when he was on the floor compared to when he was not.

Over the last eight games of the season, Carrera would average 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He scored in double-figures in four of the year's final five games, including back-to-back 14-point performances against Arkansas and Tennessee. In one of USC's best wins last season, Carrera had 16 points, six rebounds and three steals in a victory over Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament.

2015-16 Outlook

It's hard to believe Carrera is finally a senior. My time has come and gone in Columbia but I was student for his first two seasons and it's strange to see his time almost over. Anyone that has followed the Frank Martin era feels like they grew up with Carrera. He's driven us insane a few times but I think for the most part, everyone loves the way he plays this sport.

His crashing and slashing mentality presents a style we wish we saw in every player. That way can lead to injuries though, something Carrera has largely avoided besides a concussion that sidelined him for three games last season.

He has spent a large portion of his time at USC as an undersized power forward, always the weak spot in a mismatch on most nights. The Gamecocks add two big freshman in Eric Cobb and Chris Silva this season. With Laimonas Chatkevicius plus the new freshman, Carrera will spend even more time on the wing than he did last season. It's where he's comfortable and it is where Carrera has said he would like to play.

He'll still be challenged out on the wing as he'll now face quicker players who have the ability to put the ball on the floor. As college basketball referees enforce this year's points of emphasis, hand-checking will be watched closely and it could get Carrera in trouble as he spends more time on the perimeter. He fouled out after playing just eight minutes in Sunday's exhibition against Allen University.

That turnover prone freshman has grown but he's mainly kept his strengths strong while slightly improving on his weaknesses. Carrera believes this will be the best year in the Frank Martin era to date, and he could go out with a NCAA Tournament appearance if things break the right way.