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USC Head Basketball Coach Dave Odom met with the media on Thurs., Oct. 12 to discuss the pre-season. Below are his comments followed by a question/answer period with the media. In addition to Coach Odom’s comments five Gamecock players comments follow below.

With the college basketball season set to tip-off with practice the next day, the South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball teams will host HARDWOOD HOOPLA 2006 as part of Spend an Evening with the Gamecocks on Fri., Oct. 13 — TONIGHT — in the USC Basketball Practice Facility/Volleyball Competition Facility (see for more details).

Coach Odom opened the Thursday press conference with some of the following statements:

“I would remiss if I didn’t begin with where last season ended. We began with our team on April 1st and we were facing some rather large issues, not the least was missing a lot of class, with a lot of travel through the SEC Tournament and the NIT. We had some very serious academic issues we had to address and work through in the summer. It’s an important time for the men’s team, the summer. It was a really hard summer for us, but the good news is we came out of it. The players met the challenges in the classroom and they are in good shape now. It was a huge undertaking.

“We lost a player in Renaldo Balkman unexpectedly. Everybody said he wouldn’t get drafted and not only did he get drafted, he got drafted in the first round. Not only did he get drafted in the first round, but he is also doing very well. I always felt if you had three really high level starters coming back you had a chance to be really, really good. We had three, but we lost one of them with Tre’ Kelley and Brandon Wallace coming back. So we had to re-group.

“As we stand before you today, it was a very hard summer, but as I told my team yesterday sometimes you accomplish things in spite of what is going on, not because of. You do it in spite of and you find a way to get the thing done. We got to where we are today in spite of what happened and it was a great learning experience for all of us. Without everybody, university, fans, everybody – they all helped us get through it.

“What does our season look like? What does our tam look like? What are things like with our team right now? Years ago Oct. 15 was the magical start date. Now the rules are favorable to the student-athlete without being over-bearing. We do know more about them say 5-6-7 years ago when Oct. 15 was the automatic starting date.

“Every team is different and needs to find it’s own niche. We have to get through all that. In Tre’ Kelley we have one of the most dominant guards in the country. He knows how to play the game. I am so proud of him I don’t know what to do. He came in averaging 30 ppg in high school and over the course of three years we have worked to get him in the point guard role and as a basketball player he has all the tangibles and intangibles to be one of the great ones in this league. He knows how to play the game.

“Brandon Wallace will be an improved outside shooter. He will pick up some of the things Renaldo use to do. He will pick up some of the leadership role in his own way. He has gained strength, but not a lot of weight. He will be more a physical player.

“What do you have beyond that? One of my coaches talked to me about the pre-season magazines, but I think basically they don’t know what I know. They don’t know. The people that write the articles, that talk the talk – they don’t know. They don’t see what I see everyday. They don’t know Dominique Archie and what kind of player, person he is – how tough he is. He won’t be as good as Renaldo was when he walked out the door, but he is a tough crusty individual and will give us a lot of personality. He has had a year of redshirt with no experience and I am not afraid of it at all and I don’t think he is. He’s an excellent inside scorer.

“Bryce Sheldon comes off the bench for us. He’s quicker and I have pushed him to do more than just is a shooter. I want him to be able to play the game and I think he is a potential starter for us. He will be in the mix and part of that will be his ability to play defense.

“Dwayne Day has been under my skin for two years. He came out of high school and I thought so much of him. He had so much potentional. Last year we gave him a chance to be a starter and he basically handed that role back to us. We had a couple meetings this summer where I said let’s get it done or else. Sometimes things turn out different, but that young man has dedicated himself to being an excellent player and everything that he has done in practice attests to the fact that he can be an excellent basketball player. He’s turned the corner. It reminds me of Tarence Kinsey when he was younger. He truly is a good kid.

“Ousmane lost 25lbs. and has had a really good fall. He gets up and down the court really well and hopefully he will have a really good year.

“Who is the back-up point guard going to be? I thought it would be Brandis, but right now I think it will be Dwyane Day. He will give us the minutes when Tre’ has to come out, if I can every confidence him to do that to give Tre’ some rest.

“Our three freshmen are all capable of helping us this year. I thought Brandis would be a little further along. I still think he will be ready to play.

“On the schedule. I would admit we did about 80 percent with thoughts that we would have Renaldo. We are going to play the games as schedule, in spite of. I enjoy playing national opponents. The SEC is going to be very tough – Florida has everybody back and should be preseason No. 1. Aside form that I think Alabama and LSU will be really good on the West. Georgia will be the most improved team on the East. Vanderbilt will be good. So will Tennessee.

“One of the thing that has been missing at USC is the national flavor that it takes to be a national power. If you don’t play them, then you can’t be thought of that way. Kansas is going to be very very good. We are going to play two out in California. We play at Baylor. We host Princeton, a very good Ivy League team. We have our annual game with Clemson. We are also playing College of Charleston. People here love Bobby Cremins. It will be great for the state and I am excited about that.

“Let me close with this. My team and I are committed to the best that Gamecock basketball can offer. Where that leads each year nobody knows, but I fully understand the importance of earning the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. I told our team yesterday that ship is sailing and they better get on it, but they can’t get there by themselves. It takes a cooperative effort and to critize or pick apart players would be foolish on my part right now.

“Our team has a chance to be a very good basketball team, one that is capable of making the national tournament. Make no mistake, it’s also capable of winning the SEC Championship. The world of sport is not a science. You can’t put an equitation up on the board and go by it. How you play that out and you play through obstacles and stretches of your schedule that seem impossible that when everybody else sits down you still stand. We had a chance to win a championship last year, we came up a shot or two short. We didn’t go out of there losers after the SEC Tournament final.

“I feel very very confident about what that team can do. It’s my job to push them with all my might that they can be the best team they can be. And that’s what we are going to do. Championships are important, but the most important thing is that you play with dignity and at end the end you look back and say `well done’. That’ what will lead you where you need to go. At this point I am totally comfortable with who my team is. I like my team and I don’t usually like them this time of year. We have a lot of work to do, but I like this team because it’s a team that responds. It has good internal leadership. The hardest thing we have to do with Renaldo Balkman is replace his personality. I like them and they got a chance to be champions and I am going to push them to that.

USC Men’s Basketball Player Quotes from Preseason Press Conference

Tre’ Kelley

“I don’t think it was a disappointing season because we won the NIT for the second year in a row. This year we have to make it our goal to get in the NCAAs and win a championship along the way.”

On Coach Odom saying he is a dominant player: “He’s helped me become a player like that. He’s teaching me and I’m learning from him everyday. I take that as a big statement, and I’m just trying to make that statement the truth.”

On the need to have a big year: “I think I have to run my team the best way I can. I’ve got to show that I can run the team a little bit better than I have the past couple of years. I’m a point guard who has the potential to lead his team to the NCAAs. If I’m here, I think we can make it.”

Brandon Wallace

How has Brandon improved his game in the off-season? “I have a more aggressive game. Just being more aggressive and blocking shots. All summer I`ve been working on my shooting and all-around game and continuing the things we worked on last year. I got the most improved player award two years in a row, so I guess that’s a good thing.”

On gaining weight “I’ve been able to put on seven pounds, but that’s it. I’ve made small gains. It’s more mental I think. Just planning what you have to do, and I’m more experienced, so I know how to handle myself.”

On goals: “I want to just be the best player I can be, no personal goals. I just want to play hard. I think we can compete at the same level and get into the NCAAs. It’s going to take a lot of experience. We’ve got a lot of young guys, but they’re young guys with talent.”

On greatest achievement/most thrilling moment with the team: “Winning the back to back NIT Championships. Bringing some championships to the program has been pretty cool.”

Dominique Archie On what he needs to do for the team to make the NCAAs: “I guess I have to play my role and not try to do so much because through the course of my career, I’ve had a knack for going outside of what I’m supposed to do. Everybody’s playing their role, and we have players going out of their way to do stuff they’re not accustomed to.”

On his improvement: “Right now they’re trying to get me to work on making better passes and making better decisions.”

How would you describe yourself? “I think of myself as a good person. I`m the kind of person that helps people when they want to be helped.”

On redshirting: “I learned a lot of things, mainly patience. When I came in, I wasn’t a very patient person with the ball. I wanted to get it and do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. But watching Tarence and Renaldo taught me a lot.”

Bryce Sheldon

“This year, they’re looking for me to do a little bit more. I’ve worked very hard during the summer with Tre’ and Brandon and a few others and just worked on ball-handling, decision making, getting to the rim more and free throws. I think I’m doing very well. I’m still shooting the basketball well, and I feel like I’m getting better. I’m more aggressive this year. I definitely think we’re better than a lot of people are giving us credit for.”

On losing Trice, Balkman and Kinsey:

“There’s definitely going to be pressure with losing those guys, but we’ve got guys that are going step right in, like Dominique, who are just as athletic.”

On playing games in California: “Getting to be able to go home and play some big school in front of hometown fans is great. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s only two games out of the season. But, the fans are great here. They support you no matter what.”

Dwayne Day

On the progress he’s made with Coach Odom over the summer:

“We came together and talked about a lot of things. Coach Odom is a really good guy. We’re coming together as a team and as individuals, and we’re working on everything together for me to be a better person. He told me he’s gonna need some offense, and he told me I could do that. He kinda gave up on me a couple of times, but now he’s built his confidence in me back up because I started showing it. So now what I have to do is come out and just play.

“Coach says things to motivate you. I know he didn’t really mean those things. In this case, it worked. I came out and practiced hard. I’ve played hard, and I’m trying to continue my progress. I realized that I needed to step it up a whole lot, as a person and as a ball player. Basically it boils down to getting in the gym and doing extra work.”

On Tre’ Kelley:

“He’s the man. I’d rate him top point guard in the nation right now. He’s been looking for me a whole lot in practice as far as offense goes, and he has a lot of confidence in me. We’ve developed a lot of chemistry over the summer.”