The Gamecocks played their final home game at Colonial Life Arena in a exciting game from start to finish.
That being said, Frank Martin’s boys have one more game until the end of the regular season before the SEC tournament starts.
With the Gamecocks looking to make their March Madness tournament bid stronger, they’ll have to play competitive basketball in an important couple of days.
This got me thinking, who was the most-valuable player for the Gamecocks this year? Who was the best role player off the bench?
So I’ve set out to answer those questions as we look at the Gamecocks Men’s Basketball Awards.
Most Valuable Player
I cannot think of a time where a player has grown on the hearts of fans as much as Maik Kotsar has.
This season was his senior season, his Colonial Life Arena farewell tour if you will.
Kotsar has been with the Gamecocks since the infamous Final Four venture and has progressed as a player every season since then.
Kotsar’s numbers are impressive, as he averages a little over 11 points-per-game, six rebounds, all while shooting over 50% from the field.
Kotsar is not leading the team in scoring. In fact, he’s third in scoring for the Gamecocks, but he has always been the most-valuable player on the court for South Carolina.
Kotsar’s mid-range game is phenomenal, as he is automatic from behind the key.
Kotsar has continuously been the most clutch player on the court, as he hits needed free-throws and plays good defensively down the stretch.
Kotsars “veteran” presence on the court has helped the Gamecocks in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
His pick and rolls are effective, his defensive positioning makes driving to the paint harder for defenders and he can switch around the opposing pick and roll to guard on the perimeter.
Kotsar was definitely the most VALUABLE player for the Gamecocks this season.
Freshman Of The Year
This is probably the easiest case to make for any single award.
Jermaine Couisnard is a red-shirt freshman who took the role he was given in the Gamecocks rotation and became one of the most explosive players on the roster.
When Couisnard stepped onto the court, he impacted the Gamecocks roster in so many ways.
He is the second leading scorer behind AJ Lawson, with 12 points and over three assists per game.
Despite his scoring ability, he is a very talented playmaker.
Couisnard is ranked 13th in the SEC in assists per game. He has logged several games with more than six assists, making Lawson’s life much easier.
Cousinard is more than likely going to make the All-Freshman team in the SEC at the end of the season and is a bright spot at the guard position for the future of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Sixth Man Of The Year
Bolden and Couisnard split in the season in terms of who “started” but since Couisnard grabbed a hold onto the starting position towards the end of the year, we’ll call him the starter.
Jair Bolden has been an absolute bucket this season and I cannot express how much I love it. Bolden is probably the best shooter we have on the roster.
Bolden logs about 20 minutes a game and racks up about nine points, a steal and an assist.
However, what really sets Bolden apart from the rest of the roster is his ability to shoot the three-ball.
He leads the team in three-point percentage (per at least five attempts), while shooting above 42% from downtown.
Bolden came in handy whenever South Carolina needed a great shooter.
Bolden was the leading scorer and force behind the top-ten upset of Virginia. Bolden had a total of 22 points with an astounding 67% from behind the arch in that game.
I expect Bolden’s effect off the bench to increase next season, as he can easily shoot the lights out of an arena (considering Frank Maring doesn’t experiment with a small-ball lineup involving Lawson, Couisnard and Bolden next season).
Defensive Player Of The Year
We’ve already talked about the value Kotsar brought to the Gamecocks this season, but his defensive prowess is unparalleled on this roster.
Per forty minutes, Kotsar averages two steals and nearly two blocks.
Kotsar ranked third in SEC defensive rating for this season, making this his third time ranking in the top ten of that metric.
He also ranks in the top ten in both block percentage and steal percentage in the SEC. Kotsar is ranked sixth in steals in all of the SEC for this season.
“Defensive win shares” is a metric used to estimate the total number of wins contributed by due to his defense…Kotsar is second in the SEC at this too!
Kotsars defensive presence will be missed next season because Kotsar was a defensive force to be reckoned with.
Most Improved Player
Jermaine “Koozie” Cousinard
Jermaine Couisnard has to take the ‘Most Improved’ award back home to Chicago.
Couisnard evolved his game in front of our very eyes, as he went from being a decent player to being one of the starters for the Gamecocks.
In the first half of the season, Couisnard averaged only 14 points per game, where the second half of the season he has averaged nearly 25 points per game.
The second half of the season, Couisnard has increased his points-per-game to 11.
This jump in scoring from the rookie unfolded after the upset of top-ten ranked Kentucky, where he scored the game-winning buzzer beater.
Couisnard showed drastic improvement this season and we will continue to monitor how he improves over the course of his Gamecock career.
By the way, I like the nickname “Koozie” for Cousinard going forward so let’s see if that continues any further.