- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Frank Martin’s makeover of South Carolina continues.

The Gamecock men’s basketball coach said Tuesday that Shamiek Sheppard and James Thompson had signed for next season while two members of last year’s super-sized class of newcomers, forward Desmond Ringer and guard Jaylen Shaw, won’t return.

“Unfortunately, Jaylen Shaw and Desmond Ringer will not be returning to our team next season; two fine young men, from two great families, who sacrificed for our team,” Martin said. “We will always be grateful for their contributions and efforts this past season.”

Ringer, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged about 10 minutes a game this past season in 28 games. He averaged two points and two rebounds a game. The freshman from McDonough, Georgia, has signed to continue his career at Mercer.

Shaw is a six-foot guard who averaged fewer than 10 minutes of action in 28 games this year. He scored three points a game and has decided to play at Coastal Carolina.

Sheppard and Thompson join fall signees TeMarcus Blanton and Marcus Stroman, meaning the bulk of Martin’s team will again be underclassmen. For Martin, the latest additions are the next step in bringing South Carolina to the top of the Southeastern Conference.

“I’m once again extremely excited about the job our staff has done in identifying the right people and the right kind of players as we continue to build our program,” he said.

The staff has done a lot of that since Martin left Kansas State for the Gamecocks after the 2011-12 season. There were seven freshman and Villanova transfer Tyrone Johnson on the roster, most of whom saw action in last year’s 14-20 campaign.

Freshman Sindarius Thornwell started every game and averaged 13.4 points, second on the team to departing senior Brenton Williams. Johnson started nine games, but saw his season cut short in January with a fractured foot. Johnson, who had surgery soon after, was off crutches by the end of the year and is expected to be ready for next fall.

Guard Duane Notice started 22 games his first season, averaging 8.2 points and finishing with 99 assists, second best on the team behind Thornwell’s 101.

While the Gamecocks struggled for much of the SEC season and ended 5-13 in the league, they went 6-5 to close the year including a victory over national runner-up Kentucky and a run to the SEC tournament quarterfinals where they fell to Tennessee.

Martin will look to his newest class to help build on that late-season momentum.

Sheppard is a 6-6 swingman from Brooklyn, New York, who played last season at Fishburne Military School in Virginia. He averaged 14 points and eight rebounds at South Shore High before upping those totals to 17 points and 11 rebounds a game at Fishburne Military.

Martin thinks Sheppard will add to his team’s depth, particularly when used in the backcourt. “He gives us a different dimension than we’ve had,” he said.

Thompson is a 6-9 forward from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks a game his senior year Parkview Baptist High. Thompson’s ability to swat shots is something the Gamecocks need, Martin said.

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