Shortly before Christmas, in a gym over 1,000 miles away from Colonial Life Arena, Wildens Leveque grabbed 20 rebounds to help Maine’s Gould Academy against Lee Academy. A few days later, eight South Carolina players not named Chris Silva totaled 24 boards in a loss to Clemson.
Gould, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound power forward, is signed as part of USC’s 2019 recruiting class. Perhaps he can step in right away and fix a likely issue facing the Gamecocks next season. Perhaps it takes him a while.
Frank Martin can’t predict the future. The USC coach only knows what he sees now — a team that relies way too much on a senior to collect missed shots.
“If anything kind of picks at my nerves a little bit on a consistent basis,” Martin said, “it’s that.”
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Silva is eight rebounds shy of becoming the seventh Gamecock in program history with 800 career boards. Such a feat could be achieved Wednesday when Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC) faces No. 1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0) in Knoxville.
But what will Maik Kotsar do on the glass against the Volunteers? Felipe Haase? Alanzo Frink?
Martin was asked Monday which Gamecock he trusts most to get a rebound, Silva aside.
His immediate response: “It’s potluck. ... Pretty much close my eyes and point. Whoever I point at has the same chance of anyone else on the team at getting the next rebound.”
Later, he added: “Here I’ll surprise you, A.J. Lawson. He probably rebounds on the defensive end better than anybody but Chris.”
Kotsar, a three-year starter next to Silva in the frontcourt, is 6-11, 264 pounds. Yet the junior has fewer defensive rebounds in SEC play than guards Lawson and Hassani Gravett. Haase, a 6-9, 253-pounder, has six fewer than Kotsar.
Related: The Gamecocks are No. 301 nationally in defensive rebound percentage, according to KenPom.com. That’s the worst of the Martin era.
“That’s been disappointing to me,” Martin said. “Because that’s a desire thing, that’s a pride thing. Rebounding is a desire, it’s a pride thing.
“You can coach it all you want. I can teach technique until I’m blue in the face. Some of the best rebounders I’ve ever coached couldn’t care less about technique. They figured out a way to go get the ball. And when they didn’t, you said, ‘Hey man, you gonna rebound?’ If they didn’t get it, somebody was being grabbed by the neck and being thrown to the ground because they took pride in rebounding.
“That’s been the one thing that continues to tickle me in a negative way day-in and day-out.”
South Carolina has been out-rebounded in four of its past six SEC games. The Gamecocks were minus-23 on the glass at Kentucky last Tuesday and minus-20 at LSU on Jan. 19.
Putting himself aside, Silva referenced a different freshmen guard when asked for the Carolina player he trusts most to get a board.
“I believe Maik can get a rebound, but I believe in Key,” Silva said of the 6-6 Bryant. “Key’s very aggressive regarding rebounds. ... How athletic he is, he always tries to put it back or come up with a defensive rebound.”
Tennessee had 21 points off 13 offensive rebounds in its win over USC on Jan. 29.
“We better rebound on Wednesday, I’ll tell you that,” Martin said. “We’re gonna have a long night in Knoxville if we don’t engage on the glass.”
Who: South Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC) at No. 1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0)
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena
TV: SEC Network