October 22, 2007

Basketball Notebook: Holmes Impresses Early

It's been just over a week since South Carolina started basketball practice. But head coach Dave Odom has seen enough from Mike Holmes to believe the 6-foot-7 freshman forward from Bishopville, S.C. will make a significant impact this season.

Holmes, who led Lee Central High School to back-to-back state titles in his junior and senior years of high school, has been one of the most pleasant surprises for USC in the early sages of pre-season camp.

"He's extremely talented offensively," USC head coach Dave Odom said. "The thing I am really happy about is his defensive ability. He has a real presence defensively, one that we haven't had in the post in two or three years. But he is also good on the perimeter. He goes out there and he's big and he's wide and he really moves his feet. He's quick. I think I he can really be a good defensive player."

USC opens the 2007-2008 season Fri. Nov. 9 against S.C. State at the Colonial Center at 8 p.m.

If Lee sustains his level of play, he could very well be one of the five starters when USC takes on the Bulldogs.

"He's always had a nose for scoring the ball," Odom said. "What he is getting used to is 'when it is my turn,' so to speak. He's learning the offense. Not every pass is an opportunity to score for him. He's trying to pick his spots right now.

"He's giving our older guys a chance to trust him. He's probably our best post passer. They ought to throw the ball to him because it's going to make them better."

Holmes is part of a freshman class that Odom described as a "a little more skilled than we thought."

Lee was the MVP of the 2007 State Championship game over Southside High School, and was ranked among the top 150 players in the nation by Rivals.com.

"Our other guys are really reaching down and pulling those young guys along," Odom said. "We're going to go through a period of adjustment. The next week or so is very, very important. We're trying to get a lot of stuff in before our first closed scrimmage next weekend. I'm please where we are right now."

DOWNEY GLAD TO BE BACK: Point guard Devan Downey says his year away from being able to play basketball at the NCAA Division I level made him appreciate what he was missing.

"It made me respect the game of basketball," Downey said. "The fact I've had to sit for a year and not be able to play made me appreciate the game and made me work harder every game."

Downey is in his first season as an active player with the Gamecocks, but as the starting point guard he hasn't been afraid to take a leadership role.

"All I feel this team needs is a little bit of leadership, somebody to push them and hit them on the butt," Downey said. "I'm pleased with the progress of the team so far but we have to work so much harder and we have so far to go. Eight now I'm pleased but we have to keep working."

Downey sat out the 2006-2007 season after transferring from Cincinnati, where he was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team as a freshman. He was the Bearcats' third leading scorer (12.3 ppg) and the leader in assists (4.1 apg) and steals (2.0 spg)

He was Mr. Basketball in South Carolina and the Class AAA Player of the year in 2005 after averaging 36.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. He set a modern state record by scoring 67 points in one game.

Odom says Downey has grown into his role as a team leader in the first week of practices.

"Early on, he was a little more tentative leadership-wise than I thought," Odom said. "But in the last four or five practices he's begun to come on. I thought he was excellent today."

MISCELLANEOUS: Odom said he's been working with Dominique Archie to help him with the transition to the wing spot. . .Chad Gray is working inside, a move that will send Archie to the perimeter. . .USC's older players are adjusting well to the faster tempo, Odom said. . .He added the team is playing with a lot of energy. . .Odom said the Gamecocks could accurately be described as a 'run and press' team. . .USC worked on their trapping defense for the first time in Monday's workout. . .Sophomore forward Mitchell Carter has a bone bruise in his ankle and hasn't practiced for a couple of days. He's hoping to return to practice by the middle of this week.

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