COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As South Carolina prepares to take on LSU this weekend, Frank Martin will face a familiar foe here in Columbia.
For the second time in nine months, the Gamecocks head men’s basketball coach has tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to receiving the positive result, team officials announced Thursday that Martin, along with two other members of the coaching staff, will not make the trip to Baton Rouge on Saturday to coach his team.
“Unfortunate that I’ve gone through this whole episode again,” Martin said while speaking to reporters on Friday. “At the same time, [I’m] excited for Bruce [Shingler] and our players and our staff. They get the opportunity to go play. I’ll be disappointed that I’m not there with the guys but at the same time, I’m extremely confident in our players and the leadership of Bruce and Will [Bailey].”
Shingler, an assistant coach with the Gamecocks, will fill in for the team as the acting head coach against the Tigers. He’ll be joined on the bench by Bailey and former Gamecocks guard Bryan Steele, who now serves as the team’s director of video services.
Martin said he feels better now but struggled after experiencing symptoms again.
“I’m feeling good now, but this thing kicked my tail this time around,” Martin admitted. “I’m still congested, but physically, I feel fine right now. Just waiting to get out of isolation and then do all the medical tests and all the stuff that comes with the after-effects. Just really, really frustrated but, at the same time, happy that I’m sitting here talking to you right now.”
Shingler said he found out late Wednesday night that he would fill in for Martin to lead the Gamecocks into Saturday’s game. For him, it’s a great opportunity for him but he’s more excited for the players to get another chance to compete.
“I’m excited for our players,” Shingler said. “We’ve had a tough season going through the adversities amid the pandemic that’s going on right now. I’m excited for our guys. It’s an unbelievable opportunity. Anytime we get a chance to play a basketball game, especially an SEC basketball game given the circumstances of the situation that have plagued our season, it’s total excitement for the group.”
Carolina has had seven games either canceled or postponed this season due to COVID-19. In fact, the team has paused all team activities twice, which kept the Gamecocks sidelined for about a month near the beginning of the season.
“Long as our players want to play, it’s my responsibility to help guide them to the finish line,” Martin said. “The reason that we did this to start with is because the players wanted to play. I don’t speak for other universities. I’m speaking for us. I’m not even speaking about other teams on our campus. I’m speaking about Frank Martin, his crew, and his players.
“Our guys want to play and they have sacrificed tremendously to figure out a way to play. As long as they want to play, it’s our duty to keep a sane mind and keep peace and faith in the right place and help them line up and play in as many games as possible.”
The players will get the chance to do what they love when they face LSU on Saturday. The challenge that lays before them is stopping a squad that has won their last three games and boasts the conference’s leading scorer in freshman Cameron Thomas, who averages 21.8 points per game.
“That’s the beauty of playing in the SEC,” Shingler said. “That’s what our guys signed up for when they chose South Carolina -- to play against good players, good teams, well-coached teams, every single night. It happens to be LSU. They’re very talented, but our guys are prepared because of our mindset, the way we train, the way we go as a program, it’s just the next team up.”
Carolina will face LSU at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.