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Underwood Discusses Joining Frank Martin's Staff at Carolina

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Written by student assistant Rebecca Duensing

6116220.jpegOn Monday night's "Inside the Roost" radio show host Derek Scott and Athletics Director Eric Hyman were joined by the new Men's Basketball Associate Head Coach Brad Underwood to discuss the new staff and their transition, recruiting, and Head Coach Frank Martin (pictured left).

Underwood discussed the rest of the staff joining Coach Martin here at South Carolina including Andy Assaley, the Director of Basketball Operations, who runs the day-to-day operations of the program and Assistant Coach Lamont Evans. Evans started with Martin as a manager, continued as a graduate assistant, and became full-time when a position opened last year. Evans played overseas for eight years and Underwood says his time overseas has given him a "wealth of experience and knowledge." Also joining the staff as Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator is Matt Figger, who has known Martin for a long time. Prior to his time at Kansas State, he had a brief stint at Arkansas and worked at South Alabama under John Pelphrey from 2003-07.

The last and, according to Underwood, the "unsung hero" of the staff is Strength & Conditioning Coach Scott Greenawalt. Underwood says his position is "vital because he gets to spend so much time with the students...strength and conditioning is a big part of [the] program." In terms of which coach will work with which players, Underwood's main responsibility will be the "big guys- the power forwards and centers," while Figger and Evans will focus on the guards.

Martin has stressed the importance of the continuity of a program's staff and Underwood agrees. He says even though this staff is from all different parts of the country, they "all gel together" and he attributes their friendships as one of the reasons they've had success. He echoed Martin's statements that the team would always play hard.

"We're about championships, we don't strive for anything else, and that's why we're here," said Underwood. "Winning games is hard and at this level there is no guarantee, but the one thing I can guarantee is that we're going to play hard every single night out and we'll be an exciting team to watch."
When asked if it was difficult for him to leave Kansas State after spending so much time in the area (Underwood is a Kansas State grad), Underwood said it was a "no brainer...I believe in Frank, I believe in the program, and this is a great institution."

Coming into a new school can make for some tough transitions, but Underwood says the staff has two top priorities: the players and recruiting. He says their number one goal is trying to build relationships with the players who are already here.

Underwood notes the staff is "very big in terms of communication; we don't want them to feel like we don't want them." In fact, he says, they've "tried really hard to embrace them and make them feel comfortable."

Their second focus is recruiting. The staff wants to do everything they can to keep local talent coming to South Carolina; they know how important it is to keep up relationships with high school coaches. According to Underwood, "building relationship is what this business is all about."  He knows there are some needs that have to be filled now but they also need to get recruits lined up for the future. Right now they're in the middle of a recruiting period and all the coaches are out actively recruiting.

When singling in on Frank Martin, Eric Hyman wasn't sure how well the hire would be received. He said he knew "the national media would recognize Coach Martin, but [he] wasn't sure if the local media would understand the significance of someone like him, and [he] wasn't sure our fans would either."

When the hire was announced, Twitter blew up with mentions and hashtags. At one point "Frank Martin" was a national trending topic, which has given Hyman reason to be excited about fan response.

"There's a tremendous buzz in the area about Frank," Hyman noted.

Not only is Martin held in high regard for his ability to build winning programs, he's also well known for his courtside persona. The legend of his fierce look grew to simply be entitled, "The Stare", but those who know him confirm that it's not his real personality.

"Everybody sees 'The Stare'," said Underwood, "but when people get to know him and they see him away from the court and not during a game, he's one of the funniest, most likable people you'll ever know. He's as loyal as the day is long, he's got a great personality and he's great to work for."

"There's no question that the people of Columbia are going to grow to love Frank Martin," said Underwood.

Be sure to catch "Inside the Roost" every Monday night from 7:00-8:00 p.m. on 107.5 The Game for weekly insight into Gamecock Athletics with Derek Scott and AD Eric Hyman along with special guests.

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