July 12, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice know they've got work to do to help the South Carolina men's basketball team get ready for next season.

The Gamecocks seniors - and top two returning scorers - are prepping to break in another new group of teammates. South Carolina lost three senior starters off last season's record-tying 25-win team, then four other backups left after disciplinary issues.

''It was quite unfortunate that we lost some guys last year, but I think we've brought in some guys who bring some new elements to the team,'' Notice said. ''I like what I've seen so far.''

Thornwell (13.4 points a game last season) and Notice (10.8 a game as a reserve) have worked out with South Carolina's newcomers and believe the bonding process will be quick and seamless.

It starts later this summer as the team prepares for a trip to Costa Rica on Aug. 6-12, where it will take on that country's national team in two games along with hosting clinics for area basketball fans.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said he'll try and stay in the background during the NCAA-allowed 10 practice sessions and have his assistants and seniors - Thornwell, Notice and Justin McKie - lead the way.

''It's something we're ready for,'' said Notice, helping this week at a youth basketball clinic at Brookland Baptist Church. ''Sindarius and I are very competitive so practices are going to be very vocal and very instructive.''

Thornwell wants to lead South Carolina back to the NCAA Tournament where it has not played since 2004. The Gamecocks started 15-0, tied a program record with 25 wins and went 11-7 in the Southeastern Conference, yet were left out of the 68-team field on Selection Sunday.

Thornwell had thought the Gamecocks had done enough to get in, but understands it's up to the team to leave no doubt about where they belong next spring.

''We're just getting ready for the season, that's the biggest thing,'' Thornwell said. ''We're playing against each other every day.''

South Carolina has stability in its program in many others aspects besides the roster. Attendance finished at 22nd nationally at 11,995 per game, almost 3,400 more on average than Martin's first season in 2012-13. Martin signed a four-year contract extension through 2022.

Martin had a strong group of tall, talented freshman led by McDonald's All-American PJ Dozier. But three first-year players in Chris Silva, Eric Cobb and Jamall Gregory were involved in a property damage case after firing a BB gun near campus. Cobb and Gregory were dismissed.

Another first-year player, Raymond Doby, was ticketed for marijuana possession and chose to transfer.

Sophomore Marcus Stroman, suspended with Cobb, Gregory, Chris Silva and TeMarcus Blanton by Martin in March, also left.

Silva and Blanton are back with the Gamecocks. Martin added six players, although Delaware transfer Kory Holden will sit out this season. Tops of the group could be Sedee Keita, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Philadelphia who picked the Gamecocks over LSU, UNLV and Penn State among others.

All that means for Martin is another season of breaking in newcomers. He's confident in his guards experience to lead the Gamecocks this winter. The trip to Costa Rica will speed that process along, Martin said.

''We've got to handle this summer a little differently,'' he said.

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