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Get to Know Your Freshmen Gamecocks
Men's Basketball  . 

Get to Know Your Freshmen Gamecocks

Jan. 4, 2018


The stats in the box score don’t tell the story about the young men inside the jersey. South Carolina’s five freshmen hail from three different states and two other countries. What brings David Beatty, Jason Cudd, Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia, Felipe Haase, and Justin Minaya together is the desire to better themselves, on and off the court, and they have bought in to learning from head coach Frank Martin.

“I know Frank Martin has the best intentions for me,” Beatty said. “He wants to see me grow as a man first and as a basketball player. He understands what I’ve been through. He’s been through that, too. He made it out and turned into a great man that takes care of his family. I want him to teach me to do the same. He’s a passionate guy, and I love that about him.”

“I believed in the coaching staff from the beginning,” Minaya said. “Frank was very real with me. He’s passionate, but you know that he’s got your back.”

“He really has a passion for the game,” Cudd said. “I listen to everything he says.”

“Here they have a good business program, and I always wanted to [study] international business,” Doumbia said. “The second reason is Coach Frank. I like how tough he is. I need somebody to push me to get better, and I felt like he was the right guy. I feel like he is very fair. I’m getting better, and I’m happy.”

“How coach talked to me when he was recruiting me, and the things he wanted me to do, were all the things I was looking for,” Haase added. “He is a man of his word. Everything he says, he means it.”

Jason Cudd had the shortest route to the Columbia campus, hailing from Myrtle Beach. While he had a standout career at Socastee High School, he knew he’d have to work harder to excel at the next level.

“It was really tough at first because before I got here, I had never been asked to play any [defense] like that,” Cudd said. “I was always the biggest one by far, so I would just stand behind them and keep my arms up so they couldn’t shoot over me. Now that I’m in better shape, I’m able to get to the ball fast and defend like he wants us to.”

Cudd played many sports growing up, but now with a 7’1″ frame, basketball became a priority. Being big also has other advantages.

“I can see all the dust on top of everything that hasn’t been cleaned,” Cudd quipped. “Throughout high school I just grew a few inches every year. As I got older, I knew I was going to be a post because I was always way bigger than everybody else.”

Like every young player, Justin Minaya wanted to make a name for himself with the Gamecocks, but the Harrington Park, N.J., native also wants to be known for his basketball talents and not only as the son of Major League Baseball executive Omar Minaya.

“In my mind, I was going to be in Major League Baseball until I was around 12 or 13,” Minaya said. “My sophomore year in high school is when I started taking [basketball] kind of seriously. My recruiting process started a little late. I got a call from Frank during my senior year, and he seemed to really trust me, so I knew this was the right place for me.”

That’s not to say that Minaya didn’t enjoy growing up around professional baseball, especially when it meant tagging along in Florida for spring training with his father.

“My dad would have a golf cart to drive around while he was down there, so I would always take it around,” Minaya said. “I ended up breaking a couple of chairs. I used to drive all over the field, and the grounds people would get all mad. I was about 10 years old.”

Although he has been starter all season for the Gamecocks, Minaya is humble about his game.

“The biggest transition for me is the speed and the strength of the game right now,” Minaya said. “I’m still trying to get adjusted to everything.”

Everywhere we go here, people know who we are. Here, it’s love.

David Beatty

For David Beatty, basketball was a way out of the tough neighborhoods in north Philadelphia, Pa., where he said he grew up poor, but he has remained motivated to make his mother and four sisters proud.

“I’ve had friends pass away that I grew up with,” Beatty said. “It makes you turn into a man pretty early. I have four sisters and a mother. I have to take care of them. It forces you to grow up quick.

“I try to take care of all of my sisters. I love them. They’re my blood. I want them to be positive. I always want them to feel good about themselves because I know how easy it is to get down when you’re going through something. For me to graduate, my mom will probably lose it. It will mean the world to her. When that day comes, I can’t wait to see the look on her face and know that I’ve made her proud.”

Beatty was also excited to speak with fellow Philly native, Dawn Staley, who guided the Gamecock women’s basketball team to its first National Championship last season.

“That’s my lady,” Beatty beamed. “She’s from a couple of blocks down from where I’m from. Everyone looks up to Dawn. She’s a legend. On my visit here, she talked to me about being humble, remembering where I came from, and to know how blessed I am to be here.”

Like his fellow newcomers, Beatty is adjusting to college life.

“Being the main focus of the city is a big adjustment,” Beatty said. “Everywhere we go here, people know who we are. Here, it’s love. You have to keep trying to be a great person and being a role model for the kids.”

Most people can’t point out Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia‘s native Bamako, Mali, on the map, but after matriculating at Miami Country Day in Florida, “Ibby” noted that his goal is to improve his basketball IQ.

“When I played in high school, I was the most athletic,” Doumbia said. “In college, you have to know how to play. So here I am, learning how to play team basketball.”

His off the court IQ is pretty high as well as Doumbia can speak four languages, including English, French, Bambara, and Malinké.

“Languages are easy for me,” Doumbia said. “I came to America, and I didn’t know how to speak English. I had to learn.”

He is focused on his studies and basketball, and when he’s not doing that he said he prays. The thing he misses the most about home is his family, and with 13 younger siblings, he is often seen as a role model.

“They call me every weekend,” Doumbia said. “They look up to me. When I come to help them, they do what I tell them to do. I’m the big brother, so it’s cool. Some of them will have a chance to come [to the U.S.] because they play sports; if they study. That’s what I tell them; education is the key.”

Felipe Haase played a lot of soccer as a youngster in Osorno, Chile, but his now 6’9″ frame made him better suited for basketball, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to be at South Carolina.

“What I love about playing basketball is that you have to play offense and defense all the time,” Haase said. “You all have to be connected to make it all work. The athleticism and the speed in college basketball is way different than high school and back home. My body has changed already since the summer.”

Being far from home, there are times when Haase misses his family and the culture of his native Chile. In addition to southern cooking and sweet tea, Haase is learning to make other adjustments off the court as well.

“The trains,” Haase laughed. “We don’t have this many trains in Chile.”

Haase has only been speaking English for two years, and even though he has a good understanding of the language, sometimes it’s tougher to decipher a southern accent.

“I thought I knew English, but when I got to the United States, I realized I really didn’t know English so well,” Haase said. “It took me about five months before I felt really good about speaking it.”

The five South Carolina freshmen are excited to be part of the team in Columbia, while not forgetting about where they came from.