Sunday, November 29, 2009

Horn's Plan, Replace By Committee, A Team Concept

All week, Head Coach Darrin Horn told anyone asking that you don't just replace a player as valuable and versatile as Dominique Archie, who injured his right knee in the only USC (4-1) loss, in this early season  last Sunday to Miami in the finals of the Charleston Classic.  He required the team to respond by stepping up and each player contributing to the level of his best at this point in the season.  The first sense of confidence in knowing your team and specifically knowing your players, became evident in the game against the Jacksonville Dolphins which found the 6'7" Archie, replaced by 6'2" Brandis Raley-Ross, who finished with 18, on 60% shooting.  The starting lineup was a very good adjustment, the rotation and minutes distribution was just as tailored as the custom threads worn by the young basketball engineer.  If you haven't noticed under the shadow of Steve Spurrier and the Gridiron Division, is the developing of a very competitive basketball program by Athletic Director Eric Hyman's visionary hire that is defying all who chose to question, criticize or complain.  This writer falls in that category initially, but gained early appreciation for the autocratic Head Coach.

Horn made firm size, speed and teaching match ups that allowed him to place continuous and extended pressure on the feisty Dolphins of northern Florida.  The Gamecocks received a very balanced performance throughout the ballgame allowing the young shooting freshman, Stephen Spinella, to acquire more competitive minutes to assist in his early development.  This new minutes distribution allowed Sam Muldrow to assert himself with outside to inside movement; Raley-Ross exploited his inside and outside value in the same game, while Mike Holmes, Lakeem Jackson and Austin Steed pounded the glass, challenged shots, came up with loose balls and finished inside.  Ramon Galloway filled his roll, solidly relieving Devan Downey, taking and making good shots, while protecting the ball.  Galloway's utilization allowed Downey the late game energy to take over just inside the 6 minute mark and score 17 or his game high 34 points and establish the scoring space to hold off a well prepared and competitive unit coached by Cliff Warren.  At times Downey appeared unstoppable and the basket must have appeared larger and larger with each possession to the 5'9" superstar.

Horn formed his replacement committee with eight players playing 11 minutes or more, and two others playing 7 minutes.  The second half use of Galloway allowed Downey rest minutes on and off the court.  This was a win through strategic coaching and player aggressiveness.  These are the team victories coaches talk about.

Game Positives; four players in double figures scoring, 57.4% shooting percentage, 50% from 3-point range, 6 blocks, 9 steals and 21 defensive turnovers, to go with the 97-93 win.

Game Negatives; allowed 4 players to score in double figures, allowed 50% shooting, 53.8% from 3, allowed 11 offensive rebounds, including being out rebounded 30-35, committed 17 turnovers and only 5 total assists.

This is a hard working, scrappy, energetic and talented team, but there are some areas that cannot be replaced by committee.  What was accomplished took 4 player contributions and a superstar finish.  If this attitude and philosophy holds up, the return of Archie could reward volumes with players having realized their contribution capabilities against quality opponents.  Next up Western Kentucky, the former employer of Horn's leadership services.

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