Frank Martin has helped elevate the South Carolina basketball program to a place it hasn’t been in a long time. And Martin has made sure to thank the South Carolina fans for the support along the way.
The Gamecocks take on the No. 3 seed Baylor Bears on Friday night at Madison Square Garden (7:29 p.m. ET, TBS) for chance to advance to the Elite Eight And while Martin has been largely responsible for the talent improvements with the program, he’s also made sure to note the growth in fan support with the program.
In an article posted on The Players’ Tribune, Martin once again thanked the South Carolina fans for all that they have poured into the program.
“This season, in particular, South Carolina fans have given this program those three things — their time, money and passion — in a way that I’ve never really seen before,” Martin wrote. “And it’s important to me that you all know something: It hasn’t been lost on us. I can speak on behalf of the whole team when I tell you that we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”
Martin further went into all the doubt and skepticism he received from the coaching community when he first took the job in Columbia, S.C. Martin left Kansas State to inherit a program that hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973. But now in year 5, thanks to the fan support, he’s got the program going toe-to-toe and winning against some of the best college basketball programs in the country.
To get to the Sweet 16, the Gamecocks knocked off the Duke Blue Devils, who many considered the most talented team in the country. But the Gamecocks won, thanks in part to playing in front of a raucous crowd in Greenville, S.C.
Martin ended the letter by promising that this run was only the beginning of great things to come for the South Carolina program.
As I walked over to shake Coach K’s hand, I felt chills go up and down my body. It really hit me all at once that we were advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history. When we met at half court, the winningest coach in college basketball history told me something that I know I’m never going to forget: “Frank, you’ve got a great team. You’re building something special here.”
And when he said that, combined with all the other thoughts whirling around my head, it made me tear up right then and there.
Not only because I knew this was one of the biggest victories in this program’s history. But because I knew that this was only the beginning.
I’ll see you at Madison Square Garden, Gamecocks.
The winner of Friday’s game advances to play the winner of the Wisconsin-Florida game on Sunday.