COLUMBIA, S.C. — Frank Martin was out of breath, out of emotion and couldn’t find the words in the wake of South Carolina basketball beating Duke on Sunday.
But what the Gamecocks coach did get out in the aftermath of his players soaking him with water and celebrating wildly was enough.
“Let’s go win this thing,” Martin said.
On Tuesday, Martin said the comment came from being too emotional to talk, but also wanting to instill deep believe in his players that they can achieve anything.
“I thought it would be a powerful moment to let them know,” Martin said. “Doesn’t mean we are going to win it, but I believe we can win it, and let them know that in a moment where they are happy with their accomplishment.”
The message that the Gamecocks can compete with anyone isn’t a new thing for Martin to tell his players. It has been a constant message as he has sought to build the South Carolina program in the past five years.
But now they are headed into a Sweet 16 clash with Baylor and USC knocking off No. 2-seeded Duke in an 88-81 win on Sunday night gave Martin the perfect moment to remind his players of what they can achieve.
“I wanted those kids to believe that you guys have earned the right to go the Sweet 16,” Martin said. “That means you are good enough to play anyone in the country, which has been my goal from Day 1. Let’s compete for an SEC championship. If we can put ourselves in a place to compete with Kentucky and whoever else is competing for a championship in a given year, then we are good enough to play against anyone in this country. Our kids have really, really bought into that.”
Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell said that was the lone moment when Martin brought up winning a national championship and it was out of character.
“I think it was just him talking emotional because coach never looks ahead,” Thornwell said. “I think it was the emotions going and him just feeling good. After the Duke game, he was sitting there, talking to us and crying and he was like, ‘Man, go win it.’
“That’s the only time he said something about it. He’s usually just one game at a time and one day at a time guy. That’s the only time he has mentioned going and winning it all.”
— Gamecock MBB (@GamecockMBB) March 20, 2017