Gamecocks Basketball: Seriously… Why is Keyshawn Bryant Not Starting?
Gamecocks Basketball has its fair share of problems but the number 24 in garnet and black has been so great on the court on both sides. Anytime you see “Bryant” on the back of a #24 jersey and excitement ensues. When Kobe Bryant donned the number, he inspired an entire generation of basketball players, bringing so much energy to the court. Likewise, Keyshawn Bryant’s playing career at South Carolina has been a raw and continuous highlight reel.
Yet, despite being arguably the most watchable part of Gamecock basketball in 2021, Bryant still has not been able to crack the starting lineup in Columbia this season.
The 6’6’’ Junior Forward from Winter Haven, Florida is no doubt a star athlete. This season, however, his progression as a basketball player is evident. Bryant has improved in practically every statistical category year over year and currently averages just over 20 points per game in conference play. In fact, Bryant is quietly having one of the most efficient seasons in Carolina history, as he currently ranks 6th on the all-time list for single-season player efficiency rating. Not to mention, Bryant’s averaging 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes played.
AJ Lawson provides the lineup’s only offensive firepower, but outside of him and your choice of big man, most would argue the rest of the lineup could afford to come off the bench in Bryant’s stead.
Justin Minaya in particular seems to get regular starts over Bryant and lately it’s hard to understand why. Though Minaya was handpicked by Martin and missed most of last season, he has been underwhelming this year on both ends of the court.
Jermaine Cousinard was Freshman All-SEC in 2020 but is no doubt struggling to build on that success to this point this season, and really has relied on spot shooting thus far.
Seventh Woods, Mr.Underwhelming, has been inconsistent…to be kind. While others rave about his leadership, he really struggles with turning the ball over and his shooting has left much to be desired. In all fairness, he did have an impressive showing Wednesday night at Florida. However, in the aggregate, he seems to be better served in a bench role.
It’s hard to say whether Bryant will crack the starting five for good this season, but given the spark he has provided the Gamecocks off the bench, it will be hard for Martin to keep him out much longer.
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