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September 10, 2012
Frank Martin's first recruiting class at South Carolina is complete.
The six-man class that Martin signed, including three foreign-born players and a fifth-year senior transfer, is down to four after signees Thaddeus Hall and Tarik Phillip, as expected, did not qualify. Hall and Phillip can head to a prep school or junior college in hopes of bolstering their grades before the jump to a Division I school, but will not be a part of the Gamecocks' roster this season.
USC will have 11 scholarship players this season (point guard Bruce Ellington, on scholarship for football, does not count toward the basketball limit (13), but he will not be available until at least Nov. 25) and 14 players on the roster. Walk-ons Shane Phillips and Alex Irwin have re-joined the team for their final years of eligibility.
The four newcomers are: Senior LaShay Page, a transfer from Southern Miss who graduated from there and received a waiver from the SEC to play at USC this season, due to family hardship; freshman Laimonas Chatkevicius, listed as a 6-foot-11 center from Lithuania; freshman Mindaugas Kacinas, another Lithuanian native who played his prep school ball in Kansas as Martin was finishing his tenure at Kansas State; and freshman Michael Carrera, a forward who prepped in Maryland but was born in Venezuela.
They join the seven scholarship hold-overs from Darrin Horn's final team, led by senior forward Lakeem Jackson. The Gamecocks lost leading scorer Malik Cooke (a senior), will again be without Ellington for a month or so as he finishes the football season and lost Anthony Gill (Virginia) and Damontre Harris (Florida), the third- and fourth-leading scorers, to transfer.
USC is also without redshirt sophomore Carlton Geathers until at least January after he fractured his kneecap in July. Irwin and Phillips, while invaluable as practice players, have one game of experience between them. Phillips dressed for several games last season and played in one, but Irwin has yet to dress.
The leading returning scorer that will be on the court for USC's still-unannounced opening game is sophomore Damien Leonard, who averaged 6.8 points per game in 2011-12.
The four newcomers will bring an injection of height to USC. Page can also bring an immediate scoring boost (11.6 points per game last season).
The Gamecocks have two open scholarships and will gain two more after the season, when Page and Jackson are out of eligibility. Martin currently has no commitments for next season but has one for the following year with local star Marcus Stroman of Keenan High School.
Laimonas Chatkevicius (Fr. -- F - 6-11 -- 255 -- Klaipeda, Lithuania -- South Kent School (Conn.))
A three-star recruit according to Rivals.com. ... Played his senior season at South Kent School for coach Kelvin Jefferson. ... Came to the United States in the summer of 2009 to experience high school basketball before returning to his native country to play junior season. ... Team member for Lithuania in the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championships in Hamberg, Germany, where he posted two points and three rebounds vs. the United States. ... Helped Team Lithuania to a second-place finish in Group A behind Team USA. ... Also played for club team Klaipedos SM as a sophomore and junior in Lithuania, where he averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in four games in 2009-10 and 3.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in four games in 2010-11.
Martin on Chatkevicius
"Laimonas presents a young man with tremendous size and a very good skill set. He has an ability to pass and shoot the basketball with an understanding of how to play the game. He is someone, that as he continues to mature and learn how to rebound consistently, has a chance to become a special player in our program."
Mindaugas Kacinas (Fr. -- F - 6-7 -- 210 -- Klaipeda, Lithuania -- Word Of Life Fire Traditional School (Wichita, Kan.))
A three-star recruit according to Rivals.com. ... Averaged 23.6 points and 12.1 rebounds per game during senior season at Word of Life Fire Traditional School for coach Ryan Hujing. ... A member of the Klaipedos Club Team while in Lithuania.
Martin on Kacinas
"Mindaugas is a young man with size that possesses a skill set like most European players. He is a player who can eventually become a full-time perimeter player with great length. As his defensive abilities improve, it will allow him to become that perimeter player."
Michael Carrera (Fr. -- F - 6-5 -- 212 -- Rockville, Md. -- Montrose Christian School)
Played for coach Stu Vetter at Montrose Christian School. ... Averaged 13.2 points and 12.2 rebounds during senior season. ... Originally from Venezuela. ... Regarded as a high-energy player with great work ethic and hustle.
Martin on Carrera
"While only 6'5" in height, Michael is 7'2" in reach, which means he plays the game bigger than his listed height. He was coached by one of the great high school coaches in our country in Stu Vetter at Montrose Christian. Coach Vetter feels that Michael is as good a rebounder as he's ever coached, and that includes George Lynch and players of that caliber."
LaShay Page (Sr. -- G - 6-1 -- 195 - Dillon -- Dillon/Chipola (Fla.) JC/Southern Miss)
Spent the 2010-11 (sophomore) and 2011-12 (junior) seasons at Southern Miss for coach Larry Eustachy. ... As a sophomore, averaged 6.2 points and 2.1 rebounds, while recording seven double-figure scoring games. ... During junior season, helped lead Golden Eagles to the NCAA tournament, posting 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, with 32 starts on the year. ... Southern Miss squad suffered a 70-64 loss to Martin's Kansas State team in the NCAA tournament. ... Spent 2009-10 season at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, where he averaged 14.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists en route to earning Second-Team All-Panhandle Conference accolades. ... Played at Latta and Dillon High Schools, where he earned all-state honors all four years. ... Named All-State by the South Carolina High School Sports Report and was a four-time team MVP. ... Also was an all-conference selection in football.
Martin on Page
"LaShay comes to us as the best player on a very good Southern Mississippi team where he was coached by Larry Eustachy. He understands what it takes to win, and to win at a high level. He is a player who will add tremendous experience, personality and talent to our basketball team."
USC BASKETBALL 2012-13
F Lakeem Jackson, Sr.
G LaShay Page, Sr.
F Alex Irwin, Sr.
G Shane Phillips, Sr.
G Brian Richardson, Jr.
F R.J. Slawson, Jr.
G Eric Smith, Jr.
G Bruce Ellington, Jr. (will not play until at least late November due to football)
G Brenton Williams, Jr.
G Damien Leonard, So.
F Carlton Geathers, RSo. (out a minimum of six months after fracturing his kneecap in July)
F Laimonas Chatkevicius, Fr.
F Minda Kacinas, Fr.
F Michael Carrera, Fr.