July 28, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina men's basketball wrapped up its second year of "8K in 8 Days" on Friday, and enjoyed another year of going out into the community and visiting with fans young and old. From July 17-24, the team went around the Midlands with the goal of connecting with 8,000 fans as the group prepares for an exciting 2015-16 campaign.
"I think this was another successful year, with Coach (Frank) Martin and the team's support, we were able to touch the lives of over 8,000 people from every walk of life," said Josh Waters, South Carolina's Assistant AD/Marketing. "The team ended up doing over 150 hours of community service during this week, which is just amazing."
Waters was especially impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the newest members to the team.
"We have so many new faces this year and this was huge for them. I was so impressed with our freshman, and I think it starts with our upperclassmen being there and showing them how important this is," he said. "We even had a few freshmen who got out of class early and came and volunteered for events that they weren't scheduled for. I think that shows you just how much our team loves being out in the community, and how much they take to heart what Coach Martin preaches to them."
Martin was equally pleased with year two of the outreach campaign, believing that the experience will help create well-rounded men.
"I'm extremely proud of our guys for their commitment to impacting people in our community," Martin said. "I'm thankful to everyone who helped organize the events and for our media who covered the events as our guys continue to reach out to our existing fans as we also create new fans. Our responsibility is greater than just winning and losing games."
Below is a day-by-day breakdown of the "8K In 8 Days" campaign:
Moving and Learning with Gamecock Basketball
Many players from the team took part in the community outreach initiative, including sophomore guard Marcus Stroman. Stroman, who grew up two streets away from Greenview Park, relished the opportunity to give something back to the youth members in the area.
"Today was really fun because I know what it was like to be a young kid and have basketball players come and visit you," Stroman said. "We appreciate all the support we've received from the community, and it was great to see how excited the kids were when we arrived."
Following player introductions, the Gamecocks took part in layup drills as the kids watched from the sidelines. Youth members were then invited on the floor to do a series of stretching exercises with the team.
Later in the afternoon, the team divided the group of over 180 kids into five sections to take part in shooting and dribbling activities. The event continued with a group photo and a player questionnaire, and the afternoon ended following an autograph session.
Richland County Sheriff Department's Character Camp
Several players, including guards Marcus Stroman and TeMarcus Blanton, took time teaching youth members the fundamentals of basketball. The group of kids had the opportunity to do layup and free throw drills with each of the Gamecocks in stations set up throughout the gym.
Following the drills, youth members gathered around for a question-and-answer with the Gamecocks. The South Carolina players answered a variety of questions and gave insight to the kids about their favorite sports and sports teams. Men's basketball coach Frank Martin was also in attendance at the event.
"What matters is that we are able to put our players in places where they can interact with youth members," Martin said. "That's what we're trying to do with this, and the response we have received has been phenomenal."
Dorn VA Medical Center
"I think it means a great deal to the veterans and the employees to see the University of South Carolina basketball team come out and celebrate our veterans," said Timothy McMurry, the center's director.
Junior Duane Notice and freshmen P.J. Dozier, Raymond Doby, Chris Silva and John Ragin took part in the afternoon's events, which included a tour of the community center and one-on-one visits with veterans in the Warrior's Walk hospice wing.
"It was a team-bonding experience and a very humbling experience," Notice said. "Basketball takes us to very different places in life and I feel like it took us here to appreciate the veterans. I'm very adamant about my support for these men and women, and I had a great experience here today."
Epworth Children's Home
The children at the event ranged in ages from four to 12 years old. Some were shy at first when the student-athletes invited them on to the floor to play basketball, but it didn't take long for smiles to emerge and laughter to be heard throughout the arena after some quality one-on-one time with the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks later signed autographs and fielded questions from the youngsters, ranging from their favorite type of pizza, their favorite flavor of cupcake, their favorite subject in school, and what inspired them to play basketball. While the children certainly enjoyed their time with the Gamecocks, the student-athletes also gained some perspective.
"We're pretty lucky with what we have," Junior Sindarius Thornwell said. "Some of us may have grown up in tough situations like some of these kids, so we can connect with them. We understand that they may not have everything that a lot of other kids have, so we just want to bond with them and make them smile. We definitely feel like we are role models for these kids."
Operation Hoops for Troops' Kids at Camp McCrady
The Gamecocks ran through warm-ups and drills with the children, then broke in to groups to play games. It was a special opportunity for the players to reach out to youth who live in a unique environment.
"It's really special to me, my grandfather was in the military as a West Point graduate and my dad grew up on base for most of his life, so I'm really familiar with bases and these kids just live a different life," senior guard Brian Steele said. "We feel for them and we want to support them as much as we can.
"I just remember being a kid too, and it was really special any time I got to meet someone playing college basketball or someone who was living their dream," he added. "We're all living our dream, so we want to give back to these kids to let them know that anything is possible."
A Day at Greenview Park with My Brother's Keeper
The Gamecocks got their competitive juices flowing with "Minute to Win It" style games, pairing with kids from the crowd to square off against one another. The day's events included a ping pong ball toss, keeping a handful of balloons afloat and one-handed sorting races, among others. To cap it all off, freshman guard P.J. Dozier answered the challenge to a dance-off (and lost) and the team signed autographs for the kids
It helped to teach important teamwork lessons to not just the students from area elementary schools, but for the Gamecocks as well.
"It's fun for me to come out here with the kids and play," said junior guard Sindarius Thornwell, a native of Lancaster. "I feel like everybody has been enjoying the week being out here in the community. Even though it's new to the freshmen, they always come back talking to me about it and how much they've had fun. That's what it's all about, reaching out to the kids and the community and having fun."
After the team arrived, the group heard from former Gamecock Carey Rich as well as Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
"These young men recognize the responsibility of leadership that they have, to come and share their time with our young people," Mayor Benjamin said after addressing the crowd. "These kids are so excited by it. It does your heart good and it helps you realize that these young people are so well rounded, they have gifts and they're willing to share them. It makes our community a better place."
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