Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
Frank Martin has praised USC for its commitment to success on and off the field.

Frank Martin praises USC, state for commitment to hard work and on-field success

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

With Clemson taking home the national title on the gridiron, a disappointing series loss to the Tigers in baseball and the wheels (appearing to) fall off on the basketball team’s hot start, many South Carolina fans were questioning the athletic department’s leadership earlier in 2017.

How quickly things change.

Fast-forward to the present and things are looking a little less dire around Columbia. The Gamecocks are in their first-ever Final Four, the Lady Gamecocks are in their second Final Four in three years and the baseball team has won 11 of its last 12 games.

South Carolina-South Carolina women's basketball-Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley’s Lady Gamecocks are a big part of the recent run of success from USC Athletics. (Courtesy of South Carolina Athletics)

Head basketball coach Frank Martin has a unique perspective on the Gamecocks and their athletic programs — having come to Columbia a relative outsider, never having coached in the SEC and unfamiliar with the Palmetto State rivalry.

RELATED: Frank Martin credits people in South Carolina for state’s athletic success 

Because of this vantage point, Martin has been able to fully appreciate the unmatched commitment to success, not just from the people at USC but from the state of South Carolina in general …

“After five years here, I’ve learned the values of the people of South Carolina,” Martin said. “I’m not surprised that you’ve had leadership at different universities put people in place and they are so excited for representing what this state is about that this kind of success is taking place.”

As fans stop comparing the Gamecocks’ accolades to those of the team in the Upstate, it’s clear that USC’s leadership is dedicated to building winning programs.

Figgs moving on?

According to several reports, South Carolina assistant Matt Figger is likely to become the next head coach at Austin Peay.

RELATED: South Carolina assistant Matt Figger in ‘advanced talks’ with Austin Peay

Figger becomes the second former Gamecocks assistant to earn his first head coaching gig this month — with ex-player and assistant Mike Boynton taking over the Oklahoma State program just last week.

Cone comes to home

Former Gamecocks OF Gene Cone is headed back to Soda City. Cone is set to join Tim Tebow with the Columbia Fireflies to open the 2017 campaign.

RELATED: Former Gamecocks OF Gene Cone assigned to minor leagues in Columbia

The Columbia native is coming off a solid first season in the minors — hitting .227 with 1 home run, 17 RBI and 35 runs scored.

‘A dream come true’

Gamecock Jesus-Final Four-South Carolina
Carlton Thompson (right), known as Gamecock Jesus, is a South Carolina superfan. (Photo courtesy of Carlton Thompson)

On the heels of a successful GoFundMe campaign sending him to Arizona, superfan Carlton Thompson, aka Gamecock Jesus, is beyond gracious for the chance to support his beloved Gamecocks in person.

RELATED: ‘Gamecock Jesus’ eager for Final Four trip after GoFundMe campaign

“My signature shirt says ‘Believe’ on the front,” Thompson told SEC Country. “That has always been my big thing, to believe. You’ve got to believe. The team has got to believe. Everybody has got to believe.”

Forever fast

Though I’ve never watched the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, I may have to tune into the race on Saturday …

RELATED: South Carolina basketball to be featured during NASCAR truck event 

South Carolina basketball

According to a press release from USC, the No. 66 Bolen Motorsports truck will be sporting a special Gamecocks paint job on Saturday afternoon in support of the school’s basketball teams.

In case you missed it

Carolina kayfabe

The lights go out. Smoke fills the arena. The familiar thumping of Sandstorm hangs in the background … muted, distorted. Sindarius Thornwell (Bray Wyatt) steps to the camera.

“We’re here.”

The Gamecocks have arrived in Phoenix.