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January 6, 2011

Richardson Re-Discovers His Confidence

Perhaps it just came too easily for him from the start.

Now it should be even easier.

Freshman guard Brian Richardson arrived at South Carolina and was a starter right away, his raw talent -- "He can just hoop," coach Darrin Horn said more than once -- and a preseason injury to Ramon Galloway pushing him into the lineup. Richardson proved he wasn't just a stopgap solution, either, scoring 32 points in his first three games.

With the great majority of his points on 3-pointers or free throws, Richardson quickly became the Gamecocks' best pure shooter. There would be an offensive set, usually among USC's first three, designed to get Richardson the ball in the corner and he would receive, rise and bottom the 3.

Then it disappeared.

Both of Richardson's 3 attempts against Wofford missed. No biggie -- the Gamecocks won pretty comfortably. He missed 4-of-6 at Ohio State, but USC needed a lot more than Richardson shooting 100 percent to stay with the Buckeyes.

He hit four against Furman, but missed five in the early going as the Gamecocks slipped well behind. Richardson scored 15 as the game plan got shucked in a panicky effort to get back in the ballgame, but USC lost. Then the bottom really fell out of his shot against Jacksonville State and Boston College, Richardson getting several open looks and launching 15 3s.

One fell.

"You just get back to the gym and keep working and kind of work your way out of it," Horn said after the BC loss. "He's a terrific shooter and is going to be for us, and for the first time maybe, his confidence has been shaken a little bit. You go from high school to college, nights it's not going in in high school, you just go and make a lot of other stuff happen. That's not as easy when you get on the college level, especially in a league like this.

"But he'll be fine."

Richardson never looked scared or frustrated -- his face remains the same even when he was enthusiastically hollering at his teammates at Furman, trying to exhort them to greater levels. His shot never changed, either.

It's shooter's strength -- the belief that the next one will go in. Zam Fredrick did it for two years before Richardson arrived, never tweaking his shot even if he'd missed the last 10.

So when Richardson entered Tuesday's game hosting S.C. State and bricked his first two 3-pointers, putting his streak at 1-of-17, he kept firing.

One went down. As did the next. And the next.

"Just getting my confidence back, just getting ready for league play," Richardson told GamecockCentral.com. "Been kind of down, try to keep plugging at it."

Richardson aced five of his final six 3-point attempts, finishing with a career-high 17 points. Horn was never worried initially, but to see his two-guard break out again was pleasant.

"I wasn't real worried about Brian," Horn told GamecockCentral.com. "Maybe he just needed one to go in."

As the Gamecocks prepare to begin SEC play -- Vanderbilt visits at 5 p.m. on Saturday -- USC is happy to see an offensive option develop beside leading scorer Bruce Ellington. USC's interior game has been up-and-down, putting a lot of dependence on the guards, and when one of them wasn't hitting, it became a concern of simply finding somebody to put the ball in the hole.

Richardson being productive allows the Gamecocks to keep bringing Galloway off the bench as an energetic, explosive scorer. And while Richardson has mostly been locked into the long-range shooter thus far, he did have a nifty drive to the bucket against S.C. State.

More options means more chances to pull some surprises in the crucial stretch of this year.

Richardson, at least, will surprise with the same steady approach.

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