COLUMBIA, S.C. – On the eve of South Carolina-Clemson, hardwood edition, coaches Frank Martin and Brad Brownell sat next to each other in a packed high school gym.
The two head coaches shared a conversation, some laughs and pretty serious high-five while recruits they’re battling to sign played in front of them.
The day before, Martin called himself a “big, big fan” of Brownell, whose Tigers enter Wednesday night’s game at Colonial Life Arena with a 6-2 record.
It wasn’t just coach-speak.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Brad,” Martin said. “Brad does things the right way. His teams don’t beat themselves. They play the game the right way. They defend. They fight you tooth and nail and that’s kind of the same things I try to preach and do with our guys, so it’s interesting to have to compete against somebody that you respect how they do their business.
“I know this: we’re going to be a much better basketball team after this game. Their talent level is good.”
Brownell told reporters this week the Gamecocks (9-1) “tear the numbers off your jersey and guard the heck out of you.”
“They’re so disruptive. They’re not going to let you make passes. They do everything in their power to take you out of your offensive flow,” Brownell said. “As a result, most teams, you just can’t run your normal stuff against them. You have to make other types of adjustments. You tweak some things you have, then it becomes more of a player’s game. Players have to go make plays.”
Most of Martin’s best players are veterans, though senior Sindarius Thornwell isn’t expected to play on Wednesday night. Senior guards Duane Notice and Justin McKie, along with sophomore point guard P.J. Dozier, will continue to do the heavy lifting in Thornwell’s absence.
Clemson is led by All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame, who starts alongside seniors Avry Holmes and Sidy Djitte. Their point guard, Vanderbilt transfer Shelton Mitchell, is also a sophomore.
“They’ve been through it together. They understand what (Brownell) wants,” Martin said. “It’s kinda what we have here. You’ve got guys that have been through it. They’ve lived it. They fight for it. They know how to manage their business. They know what Brad wants and it’s easy to see when you watch them play.”
Brownell offered a similar assessment of Martin’s Gamecocks, the No. 20-ranked team in the country.
“It’s not just how you play or coaching guys to play that way. To be really good at it, you’ve got to recruit to it,” Brownell said. “You’ve got to sell all the things that go with it. … (Martin) has done that extremely well.”
The Gamecocks and Tigers tipoff at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.