Martin looking for more after Gamecocks' Final Four run

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) It took a trip to the pristine beaches of Grand Cayman nearly two weeks the Final Four for South Carolina coach Frank Martin to soak in the Gamecocks' accomplishment.

Now he's wants more. Martin is determined the Final Four appearance won't be a one-time thing. He faces an uphill challenge, losing his core leaders and starting point guard off that squad.

But the winning ''culture is in place in this locker room,'' Martin said Tuesday.

It has been a busy couple of months for Martin. The Gamecocks (26-11) pulled off several stunners in the NCAA Tournament, defeating No. 2 seeded Duke, No. 3 seeded Baylor and No. 4 seeded Florida in the East Regional to reach the their first Final Four.

When the team returned to Columbia, Martin helped counsel starting point guard P.J. Dozier on his decision to hire an agent and head to the NBA draft. He talked to top assistant Matt Figger about the ins and outs of his first head coaching job in college at Austin Peay.

It finally took Martin's wife, Anya, to ask if he planned to do anything non-basketball related with his family anytime soon.

Then he took a little time off to re-charge his engines.

So Martin booked a spring break trip to the Caribbean. While lying in the sun, staring at the crystal blue waters, Martin reviewed his team's season and final flourish in full.

''That's when it hit me what a special month March was,'' he said.

Martin was rewarded last week with an extra year on his contract, tying him to the school through 2022-23. The deal will pay him $3.3 million in its final year.

So, with everything - and then some - on last year's to do-list completed (Final Four run, coaches/players moving on, contract extension, vacation), Martin's got some work ahead.

Dozier is the 6-foot-6 McDonald's All-American whose game came to life in the NCAA Tournament. He was considered a first-round NBA draft prospect through much of the season and decided to move on. That means three starting guards in Dozier, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice and key reserve Justin McKie will not return. Thornwell, Notice and McKie were all seniors this season.

The most experienced guards currently on the roster are two reserves from last year's squad, freshmen Hassani Gravett and Rakym Felder. Gravett averaged nearly 17 minutes a game this past season while Felder was fourth on the team - behind Notice, Thornwell and Dozier - with 34 3-pointers.

Martin praised the fearlessness of both Gravett and Felder this season and believes that will serve them well going forward with the Gamecocks.

Martin joked how a friend came up to him and said, ''Wow, total rebuild.'' The coach started laughing.

''Character, courage, confidence, work ethic, camaraderie, teammates, that's what you fight to build,'' Martin said. ''Once you've got that in place, it's almost never, ever about rebuilding.''

The Gamecocks will have plenty of new faces in the backcourt next season. Delaware transfer Kory Holden, who averaged 17.7 points and 4.2 assists two seasons ago, comes online after sitting out this winter. David Beatty of Philadelphia, a 6-3 guard, signed with South Carolina after averaging 21 points as a high school junior.

Martin got a good sign about next season when Holden called him recently to ask for phone numbers for South Carolina's incoming players next year. Holden, Martin said, wanted to get to know them better and start developing chemistry for next winter.

Martin has plenty of motivation of his own after that Final Four trip. He said playing in the national semifinals (South Carolina lost to Gonzaga 77-73 ) made him hungry to coach in the national championship game - and willing to do what it takes to achieve that success.

He told the players, '''You guys thought I was crazy? You don't know what's coming.'''

''I got a new taste of something I've never tasted before,'' Martin said. ''As satisfied as I am with our team, our program, our players, where we're at, I've got a fire that's never burned inside of me before.''

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