Jermaine Couisnard downplayed any extra motivation. He sat for a full season, only appearing to South Carolina fans on gamedays as a street-clothed cheerleader on the end of the bench, but he claimed Sunday he wasn’t trying to make any big splash with his first chance to represent the Gamecocks on a public stage.
“I was just trying to get in the flow of the game,” Couisnard said after scoring 40 points in the South Carolina Pro-Am. “I wasn’t worried about the people.”
The quiet mentality made for an interesting storyline — until Keyshawn Bryant blew it up.
“He’s my roommate,” Bryant said. “So when he came out there he was like, ‘I’m ready to play.’ I was like, ‘Nobody’s seen you in a long time, so let’s see what you got.’ ”
No matter what drove him, Couisnard was a star in front of a crowded Heathwood Hall gymnasium. The 6-foot-4 guard dunked, shot, passed and defended his Chick-fil-A Two Notch Team to a win over Bryant (28 points) and the Jets.
The debut was 18 months in the making. Couisnard, a three-star prospect from outside Chicago, committed to USC in January 2018. An eligibility issue related to a test score held him out for the 2018-19 season. The likes of Carolina coach Frank Martin and Duke standout R.J. Barrett — “He wants to win so bad,” Barrett said of his former high school teammate — talked him up, but there was little footage to confirm Couisnard’s ability.
Sunday was a start.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said South Carolina redshirt sophomore Justin Minaya. “I’ve seen Jermaine do that in practice and pickup. Jermaine’s going to be a really good player, really good for us. You see right there how good he can shoot the ball. He can even defend really well. And he’s going to surprise people how good he can pass.”
Added Bryant: “Jermaine’s going to be huge. One thing I’ve always said, ‘A lot of people have never seen Jermaine play, but Jermaine’s got it. He’s going to be tough’.
“Having him on our team this year is going to be great.”
Last year wasn’t so great for Couisnard, but he managed thanks to teammate and staff support.
“They were just trying to keep my head up, that’s all,” Couisnard said. “I really wasn’t trying to focus on me. I was just trying to help my team win.”
Patience became a virtue.
“It’s a big word to me now,” Couisnard said. “You never know when your time will come, so just be patient.”
The waiting will continue after Sunday. The season 2019-20 season doesn’t begin until November, but Couisnard feels as ready as any first-year player in college basketball.
“Sitting out, it was like a plus,” he said. “Everybody that’s coming in, incoming freshmen, I can learn the college system way faster than they can. I got a whole year.”
South Carolina Pro-Am schedule
TUESDAY - JULY 23
6 PM CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD VS. HONDA OF COLUMBIA
7:15 PM BERNIE’S CHICKEN VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION
8:30 PM LEEVY’S VS. JETS
THURSDAY - JULY 25
6 PM JETS VS. HONDA OF COLUMBIA
7:15 PM LEEVY’S VS. CHICK-FIL-A TWO NOTCH RD
8:30 PM BERNIES CHICKEN VS. HOOD CONSTRUCTION
SUNDAY - JULY 28
2 PM Championship
*All games to be played at Heathwood Hall.