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Oct. 11, 2011

October 11, 2011
Andy Demetra With Malik Cooke

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s basketball team held its annual media day for the 2011-12 season on Tuesday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena on campus in Columbia. The season begins on Nov. 3 with an exhibition contest vs. Kentucky Wesleyan. Videos, quotes and photos from the event are below.

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South Carolina Head Coach Darrin Horn
Opening Statement…
I feel like I say this every year, but it’s a great time of the year. It’s a time when literally you’re a few days away from where you can get out on the court and get to work and start the process with the new team. You get the chance to start getting questions answered. I think the offseason is a time you look back and evaluate. Also the offseason you look forward and start speculating, it’s exciting to be at a time where two weeks from now we’ll get in a room and talk about what we’re actually seeing on the floor. We had a challenging spring and took some hits and had some adversity. That’s part of the building process when you’re building a program. I don’t think there’s any question we’ve grown as a staff and players. Now we’re looking forward to moving forward and getting to this year’s team. We’ve been doing that for months, but now that the season is here and practice is starting it’s something that’s real for all of us. This is a team that if you look at our personnel, as a coach, I’m excited because we have some nice pieces. We have some great versatility. We have guys that play multiple positions or do multiple things. We have guys that can step out and do perimeter things. We have guys that can play near the basket. At this point, they’re showing an unbelievable work ethic, attitude and camaraderie among the guys. It’s a team that obviously isn’t the most experienced or the biggest, but it’s going to be a team of fighters and (one) I’ll have a lot of fun coaching and our fans will enjoy watching. We’ve got a challenging non-conference schedule. We haven’t watered the schedule down. We’ve got a preseason top-five team at home and a Big East team at home that will be on national TV. That’s going to be good for South Carolina basketball. It’s going to present some challenges but will prepare us for SEC play where we don’t have divisions anymore, but we can still play six games against top 10 teams.

On Bruce Ellington
I’m unbelievably proud of Bruce Ellington. I think the job he’s doing is outstanding. I don’t think anyone’s cheering harder for that kid than I am, other than his mom and brother, Ashly. I teased him with a text that it took him long enough to score, but we’re cheering for him and we’re pulling for him. We look forward to getting him back whenever that is.

On the lineup…
There may be times we throw our five best players out there regardless of position. There may be times we go really small with a terrific offensive lineup. There may be times when we go big. Who knows with Damontre Harris, Anthony Gill, RJ Slawson, Malik Cooke and Lakeem Jackson, that’s a huge athletic lineup. Will that ever happen? I don’t know, but those are the things that are exciting about this team.

On if he will tweak his system…
The big thing with the system, and I’ve said this from day one since I got here, our system really is most about how we want to play the game. Every year we run some different plays. Every year we tweak some things. Will we see some of that this year? Sure. We do that every year because that’s what you do. Ultimately we have to do what’s best with our personnel to put us in the best position to win the game.

On the difficulty in bringing Bruce Ellington back into the fold when football is over…
For me it’s not difficult at all. You coach the guys you have. That may be true if it’s an injury or whatever it may be. When he comes back we’ll just have to see how that goes. Hopefully it will be a seamless transition, he’ll flow into things and it will be great. I don’t think anyone knows that. It will be unfair of anybody to put that expectation on him.

On Damien Leonard and his reputation as a shooter…
One of the things about him that’s been so great is that maybe since that was the perception going in, is how is he going to adjust. He’s been terrific. His work ethic has been phenomenal. He’s an outstanding teammate. In terms of shot selection, it’s been very good. I don’t think that will be an issue. But green light is all relative to what you can do.